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Tip of the Week: 5 Easy Dropbox Tips for Social Studies

I’m sure many of you have heard of Dropbox. The file-synchronization tool lets you access your digital files from anywhere – seriously anywhere. On your phone, tablet, laptop, desktop. Anywhere. It’s also perfect for easy cloud-based backup. And if you haven’t joined the Dropbox bandwagon, well . . . you need to. Because it’s free. Because it’s easy. Because it helps you solve 21st century problems.

But if you’re new to Dropbox, you may not be aware of some of the cool things Dropbox can do. And even if you’ve had an account for a while, I think we sometimes forget some of the tips and tricks. So . . . today? Five of my favorite ways to use it.

1. Share big files
If you’ve ever tried sending photos, videos, or a really big presentation file via email, you know it doesn’t always work so well. Dropbox makes sharing files a snap. (By the way, my directions and screenshots are from the web browser version of Dropbox. Realize that it will look a bit different if you try some of this stuff on your local Dropbox folder.)

Okay. So first go to, log in, and upload your file by clicking the Upload button. You’ll find it across the top of your screen. Once your file has finished uploading, run your cursor on top of that file and move it to the chain link symbol that appears to the right. Click it.

sharing file

You’ll get a popup window that lets you email the link right away or to simply copy the link’s URL. Copying the link lets you paste it into your web site. Recipients don’t even need a Dropbox account to use the links. There’s no quicker way to share files with students.

Think about using this feature to quickly move digital paperwork & assignments to your students. It’s a great way to share primary source documents that you’ve scanned in as PDFs, for example. And if you are pasting these links on your web site, it creates an online portfolio / archive of all the stuff your kids need for a course.

2. Share folders
Same idea as sharing individual files but instead you’re sharing folders of stuff. And when you click the correct button, you provide a way for those you invite to add, delete, and edit files in the folder, and the files will stay synced.

Once you create the folder you want to share, click on the folder to open it. Then across the top, click the icon that has a rainbow on a folder. (Yup. Look for the rainbow. Cause sharing with others is like living in a land of rainbows and unicorns.)

sharing folder

A popup will open allowing you to paste in the email addresses for the people who you want to share the folder with. These people do need to have their own Dropbox account to open and edit the folder. But it is a very easy way for you and your kids to create / share documents during group work.

3. Send to Dropbox
Not everybody is as Web savvy as you are. They’re not sure how to share stuff back to you. Or perhaps you want kids to turn in work in digital format and you don’t want the hassle of 120 emails.

The solution? Use a free service called SendtoDropbox. SendtoDropbox creates an email address linked to your Dropbox account that students can use to quickly send you stuff. All they have to do is paste your SendToDropbox email address into an email, attach their file, and click send. And it magically appears in your Dropbox. Sweet, right?

Of course, then you can move those files around, put them in folders, share them back with kids, however you want. Think field trip to a local battle field. Part of the assignment is to take photos with their cell phones. They can take their photos and, using their email app, be sending you photos before you get off the bus. And all without them needing a Dropbox account.

4. Find old versions or deleted versions of files
Ever mistakenly deleted an important file from your Dropbox folder, or pressed Save and immediately regretted it? Then you’ll be happy to know that Dropbox automatically keeps versions of your stuff for 30 days. This lets you swing back to an earlier version of a file or even restore a completely deleted file.

Restore a previous version by right-clicking the chain link icon to the right of the screen when you hover over a file name. Scroll down. Select Previous Versions. Select the version you want and click Restore.

previous version dropbox

To resurrect a deleted file, open the folder where the file used to live, and swing back to the top of the screen. Click the far right one that looks like a trash can. This will Show Deleted Files. They show up, grayed out. Click the file you want to breath live back into, select the version you want, and boom.

revive file

5. Get extra free space
Dropbox gives you 2GB of free space, but you get an extra 500MB for every friend you refer to the service. Dropbox also gives you 125MB extra just for tweeting about your love of the service. Get all of the free options by clicking the very obvious Get Free Space icon at the top of your screen.

Have fun!


For you Mac users, here’s an extra tip that I use all the time. You probably know that you can turn just about any file into a PDF by choosing Save to PDF when printing something. What you may not know is that you can direct that PDF to save right to Dropbox.

When you click Save to PDF, you’ll see Edit Menu as the very last option. Click it, and then click the “+” in the resulting window. A new list appears. Navigate to your Dropbox (or any Dropbox folder) and then click OK. Now, that folder will appear in the Save to PDF menu every time. Simply click it, and a PDF will be automatically shuffled off to Dropbox. Schweeet.

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