Dropbox or …?

Types of Cloud Storage Services – 3 and 3 – Part 1

(In Part 2, I’ll return to talk about Drive, OneDrive and iCloud)

Box, Copy and Dropbox

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This group of cloud services is simpler than the group I will cover in this two-part series, “Types of Cloud Storage Services.” Box, Copy and Dropbox provide some ancillary services, but their focus is in providing cloud storage and sharing. All install a folder directly on your computer which you can drag files into and out of in order to upload or download those files from the cloud. Sharing with these tools is simple: You put the file in the folder, share the file with those other [whatever the service is] users and set those other users’ permissions accordingly. Once a file is shared, whenever anyone updates and then saves over the original, he or she is doing so for everyone (great for student projects). Additionally, each of these services allows public links to the files/folders to be created, so that even people without a Box, Copy or Dropbox account can still view and download the file for which you provide access.

copy_cloud_storage_logo_icon_psd_by_hakarune-d6h52dnThe distinctions between these first three apps come in the form of permissions, gradations of control over updates to files, and complexity. The spectrum runs from complex control, Box, to simple use, Dropbox, with Copy somewhere in between. Box targets corporate use, and so gives users a bunch of ways to control permissions over group and individual access to folders. For larger institutions tackling complex projects with separate groups who need hierarchically different levels of permissions, Box is real handy. For less complex uses, the granularity of control may be unnecessary or even onerous.

Most classroom uses are not complicated enough to merit the use of Box, but it deserves to be listed here anyway. It is a fantastic tool.

DropboxDropbox and Copy both give users an ample number of permissions settings, providing plenty granularity of control over how students/colleagues/staff can access or modify files you share with them, with the added benefit that they’re extremely easy/intuitive to use. There are distinctions between Dropbox and Copy, mostly to do with Copy’s “Fair Storage” model (which is pretty awesome, it should be said), but they are close enough that choosing one comes down to personal preference.

Finally, it should be noted that I have accounts with each of these services–choosing one doesn’t mean tossing the rest. However, I do end up using Box for certain tasks, Dropbox for others, and Copy…well, I’ve only just gotten into Copy. So consider how you will be using the cloud, and that will help you to decide what you use.

Classroom uses of the Cloud

  • Keeping track of all your materials–and student materials–no matter where you are or what computer your using
  • Student portfolio building
  • Student peer review of portfolios
  • Small group collaboration on complex projects comprising large numbers of files and a diverse set of file types (images, videos, documents, PDFs, etc.)
  • Resource gathering and sharing
  • Exchanging files too large to be emailed
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Interactive Stories

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We have already talked about writing. In online courses, writing is often the predominant activity. It’s not just styles, grammar, and perfect APA citations that matter, of course. There are lots of skills that students must demonstrate when writing academic papers.

What we don’t include as much is this dimension of interacting with writing (stories). Stories can lead you down different paths based on decisions (choices) made at certain crucial points in the narrative. Digital interactive stories have been around for a long time, as different technologies to support this sort of writing and user interface have been used – from a web of wikis to simple code to complex productions (like alternate endings in full-feature movies).

Another tool came across, Inklewriter. It may be considered as a more or less low learning curve tool, which allows you to create your own scenarios or have students (in groups or individually) do the same as a project (sample story). In fact, this can be used in Seminars – which due to their extended term can allow for a more complex story – as well as in a number of eight-week courses with longer projects. This can be both set up to have other students interact with the content, or have a predictive story when students will have weekly predictions as to how their case/experience might go from now, and then at the end of the next week reflect on how accurate their predictions were, or an entirely new choice needs to be included. It’s possible to create one story per course, with all students taking turns contributing to the same story over the term. It may make better sense to have them work in a group, and then share the group’s story in the final weeks of the course with the class. They can be personal and factual, or fictional, or futuristic. They may even be used for influencing policies as simulation models. In other words, you can totally choose your own story!