Common Sense Review
Updated May 2013

Dropbox

Not the best cloud storage and file sharing choice for classrooms
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Common Sense Rating 2
  • Dropbox appears in line with other Favorites on a Mac OS X.
  • Dropbox folders blend in with the others, identifiable by a green checkmark.
  • Dropbox has a simple online interface.
  • There’s an app for this.
  • In the online interface, folders display their purposes and properties.
Pros
Free file storage puts your stuff within reach on most any Internet-enabled device.
Cons
Most learning management systems have simpler solutions for file organization and sharing and connect to Google Drive, where students get more free storage.
Bottom Line
This robust tool for business and busy adults will likely cause more headaches than it's worth in the classroom.
Joe Dillon
Common Sense Reviewer
Technology coordinator
Common Sense Rating 2
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 2

You may regard Dropbox as a lifesaver, but for students it poses too many challenges and has functionality limitations. It's not a great choice as a classroom cloud-storage or file-sharing solution.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 2

Dropbox doesn't present many teachable opportunities. It wouldn't be a great choice for teaching online organization or collaboration.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 3

A quick video tutorial launches when you sign up and helps you get started. After that, the help center on the website answers most questions.

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

You can share files with students (or vice versa) by granting them access to a folder or sending them a hyperlink to folders or files. With the link enabled, documents and files will appear as a Web view for anyone to click and access. Would-be collaborators beware: Only one user can make changes at a time on a Dropbox file –- another logistical drawback.

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What's It Like?

Dropbox makes all your files accessible from your computers and phone and allows you to share your digital media online. You simply download Dropbox to your computer, and it shows up as a file in your operating system's file management. Saving changes to a file stored in Dropbox works the same as with any other file on your computer. The folders sync automatically, backing up your files to the cloud. As convenient as this sounds, better solutions exist for teachers who want to do away with thumb drives and teach students how to organize, maintain, and share files in the cloud. Dropbox holds promise for busy adults who need easy access to all their digital files, but it promises headaches for teachers aiming to facilitate a cloud solution with a classroom of kids.

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Is It Good For Learning?

Free file storage and sharing is a competitive arena these days, and Dropbox is a solution that doesn't stack up to some of the leaders. Since students need email addresses to create accounts, a teacher would likely need to provide those accounts first. One alternative, Google Apps, provides students with email, cloud storage, and file sharing with only one account. For educators who want file storage and sharing without the additional layer of email, Edmodo provides free unlimited file storage of files 100 MB or less.

You can interface with Dropbox through a Web browser on any machine, so you don't have to download it. When downloaded as a program, it looks and works like a regular folder; the only difference is that it syncs to the cloud. This makes it easy to learn. On the other hand, since it looks so much like other folders, misplacing files is a likely occurrence. Teachers looking to help students organize and share work in the cloud should consider other options carefully before trying Dropbox.

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See how teachers are using Dropbox

Lesson Plans