Tuesday, September 6, 2011

7 Ways to Avoid Inbox Overload When Collecting Assignments

Google Docs is my favorite tool for keeping my email inbox free of large file attachments from my students. In fact, after September 30 I don't accept written assignments from my students in any other format. But, I realize that there are some files that aren't perfectly suited to being viewed in Google Docs. For example, it a student has a Keynote file it won't be viewed the same way in Google Docs as it is in Keynote. I also realize that not all of my readers are Google Docs fanatics like me. For those reasons I've compiled this list of good ways to share large files without the need for sending email attachments.

Uploader Box is a free service for sharing large files with your friends and colleagues. To use the service just upload a file from your computer, enter your email address, and enter the email addresses of your intended recipients. Once your file is uploaded, Uploader Box will provide you with two urls. One of the urls is for sharing your file and the other is for deleting your file if you decide you no longer want to share it.

Go Pileus is a simple free service for quickly sharing files. To use Go Pileus just drag a file from your desktop to the Go Pileus page in your browser. Alternatively, you can select upload on Go Pileus to browse for files on your computer. Once your chosen file is uploaded Go Pileus will create a short url for your file. Share that url with the people you want to be able to view and save your file. You can use Go Pileus without creating an account, but your files expire after thirty minutes. Creating an account on Go Pileus will allow your files to be accessible longer.

Minus (Min.us) provides a simple way to share files with anyone. To use Minus just drag a file onto the blank Minus canvas. Once your file is on the canvas Minus will provide you with links to share your file with others. Minus will also generate a HTML code that you can use to embed your file into a blog or website. Those people with whom you share the url for your file can also download your file.

Let's Crate is very easy to use. To use Let's Crate just drag a file from your desktop to the Let's Crate page. Let's Crate then creates a unique url that you can send to others so that they can access your file. The unique url expires after 30 minutes unless you create a free Let's Crate account in which case you can keep files on Let's Crate as long as you need them.

File Dropper is a free and very easy way to share files up to 5GB. To use File Dropper simply upload your file and File Dropper assigns it a unique URL that you can then share with anyone. File Dropper is not nearly as feature-rich as some of the other file hosting and sharing services, but it is free and upload times are fast.

DROPitTOme is a free service that works with Drop Box to allow people to upload files to your Drop Box account without giving them access to the contents of your Drop Box account. For those not familiar with Drop Box it is a service that provides 2GB of free online file storage (by the way, that's way more than the 100mb Drop.io offered). You can access your Drop Box from any computer and most mobile devices. You can also sync it across multiple computers.  Learn more about Drop Box in the video below.

DROPitTOme works by synchronizing with your Drop Box account. After connecting the two services DROPitTOme provides a url that you can give to others to upload files to your Drop Box account. You must specify a password that has to be entered before an upload can take place. Give the url and password to those people you want to be able to upload files to your Drop Box account.

File Stork allows you to collect files in two ways. You can make an individual file request by sending an email to someone. The other way, and the more practical way for teachers, is to create a "stand alone" request which will allow you to post an upload link on your blog or website. Visitors can then use that link to upload a file to your Dropbox where you can view it and download it if you like. File Stork allows you to specify an upload password and allows you to specify which types of files you will allow to be uploaded to your Dropbox. People uploading files to your Dropbox through File Stork do not have access to any of the files in your account.

Interactive U.S. Constitution Games & Lessons

Constitution Day is less than two weeks away and by U.S. law every student is supposed to participate in a lesson about the U.S. Constitution. Through Larry Ferlazzo I recently learned about great site for elementary school lessons about the U.S. Constitution. Weekly Reader's The Law of the Land offers five interactive activities for learning about the founding of the United States.

The Law of the Land offers four interactive sections (Framers, Constitution, Timeline, and Bill of Rights) in which students can listen to and read about the creation of the U.S. government. Each section has a narrated introduction before students explore further information on their own. The fifth section is an interactive, Jeopardy-style game about the content in the previous four sections.

Applications for Education
In a 1:1 environment The Law of the Land could be a nice independent activity for elementary school students. The Constitutional Challenge game is well suited to use on a touch screen computer or interactive whiteboard.

Documentary Heaven - Watch Free Documentaries

Documentary Heaven is a free site that has organized more than 1600 documentary films found across the Internet. Through Documentary Heaven can find documentaries covering all kinds of topics in science, history, politics, business, and many more categories. The videos are sourced from a variety of services including, but not limited to, YouTube.

Applications for Education
I'm sure that you could find the videos on Documentary Heaven by searching the web yourself, but Documentary Heaven makes it easier to find good content. One word of caution though, Documentary Heaven does have some videos in the "lifestyle" category that might not be appropriate for K-12 use so you might not want to have students search the site on their own.

Import Local Standards to Your LearnBoost Gradebook

LearnBoost, providers of a free online gradebook service that can integrate with Google Apps for Education, recently announced a new feature that school administrators will like. Administrators of schools using LearnBoost can now import local standards into the gradebooks for their schools. Once the standards are imported all teachers within that school can select the standards that apply to the courses they teach. Click here to find directions for using the new standards importation feature.

If you're interested in learning how LearnBoost works with Google Apps for Education, watch the following video.

Adding LearnBoost in Google Apps Marketplace from LearnBoost on Vimeo.

Full Disclosure: LearnBoost is a paying advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers.