Wednesday, April 25, 2012

File Sharing: Simple As 1, 2, 3…

(Not to Mention 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
I have long been seeking solutions for being able to quickly share files with multiple students using assistive technology; there isn’t a one-step process, unfortunately. Dropbox comes close, but depending on how you intend to use it, you have to sacrifice either security or convenience, and some school computer networks will not allow users to install it anyways.

 However, I have come up with a reasonably decent solution using the web. There are many ways you could achieve the same results, but from all the ways I’ve tried, this is the easiest. It involves combining a couple of simple and free Web 2.0 tools and takes about 5-10 minutes to set up, but then only a few seconds to use each time you want to share a file, and you can upload and download files to and from any Internet-connected computer, not just at school. I’ve broken down the steps to be really simple, so it looks like a lot of work, but the steps are short; most take only a few seconds to execute.

Setup instructions
Step 1:
Start up Internet Explorer or other web browser and go to the website and click SIGN UP (top-right area of screen) for a free account. Where it asks for your full name, use the name that you want your students to see (E.g., Mr. Smith). Make sure you remember or record your password for later.

Step 2:
Click Upload files and upload a sample file.

Step 3:
You will be given an http:// web link with a randomly generated code. Click Copy link.

Optional Step 3.5:
Click on the pencil icon  (over to the left a bit, above the “Add files” button) and create a title for your sharing space: e.g., your name or your subject.

Step 4:
Now go to a different website:; this site takes any webpage address (URL) and lets you customize it, which is useful for sharing all kinds of web links, but especially complex ones that are hard to type or remember.

Step 5:
Paste your randomly-generated link from Step 3 into the field where it says “Long URL”. (Control-V is a handy shortcut for Paste in Windows.)

Step 6:
In the field just underneath that, where it says “[Save As],” enter something easy for your kids to remember and type (maybe your room number and/or your school’s initials) or something unique … whatever is accepted by the system, but the shorter and simpler the better.

Step 7:
Make sure you write down or copy and paste your customized web address. You and your students will use this to easily access your sharing space. (Note: the http:// part is optional from this point onwards, so that string of 7 characters doesn’t need to be recorded or typed by your students).

Step 8:
Have your students go to the customized notlong address you created in step 7 and add it to their Internet Favourites/Bookmarks or make it their home page.

Daily Use by You the Teacher:  (Uploading Files for Students)
Step A:
Go to your web address you recorded in Step 7 above.

Step B:
Click log in and enter your credentials as you did in Step 1 above.

Step C:
Click Add Files and select the file or files you want to upload.

You can delete old files by moving your mouse cursor over the unwanted file and clicking on the X that appears on the far right side.

Daily Use by Your Students: (Downloading Files)
Step A:
Students go to your customized address in their favourites/bookmarks (Steps 7 and 8 above)

Step B:
They locate the specific file they want and click the download button (down arrow) that appears on the far right when the mouse cursor moves over the filename.

If you want to have several teachers doing this at your school so the kids could download from any of them as they rotate from class to class, I would set it up differently. Sorry, I won’t go into all the step-by-step details here, but basically I would have each of the teachers do Steps 1-3 above and email me their links. I would then create a Webmix using to create a tile for each teacher’s link; however, I would have to remove the last two characters (?c) from the end of each link to make it work with Symbaloo.  Next I’d copy the Symbaloo Webmix sharing link, and then follow Steps 4-8 substituting that Symbaloo sharing link for my link.

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