DropBox vs. iDisk

I’ve had a DropBox account for about a year now (I like to sign up for things and then marinate on them for bit)…but I recently had to put that into practice.  As an ardent fan of everything Mac, I didn’t see the need to actually use DropBox before in spite of all the accolades from fellow colleagues and tech geeks, like myself.  MobileMe’s iDisk worked just fine for me and it was integrated into one place – mail, calendar, contacts, storage…what would I need DropBox for?

Well, I still don’t need DropBox (yet), but I friend of mine wanted to show me some pictures that he sent to his family and the easiest way for me to see them was via a link to a folder in his DropBox account.  So, I downloaded the application onto my computer…I’ve had the app on the iPad since April.  The only file on there (so far) is my case study that I wrote for my thesis.  It was my little attempt to test the waters of this program.  It seemed to work.

But I love MobileMe.  I love iDisk.  I have so many files – work, school, business, and personal – on there.  But when MobileMe is eliminated to make room for iCloud…I’m going to have to figure out what I’m going to do.  I guess for now, it looks like DropBox might work, but I’m hoping that I can find the cloud storage that I’m used to (and need) with iCloud.  I’m not making any decisions or assumptions right now…it’s just something that is continuing to marinate.

Weebly – Sounds Funny, but it’s Serious Business

So, I decided to read up on the changes when MobileMe services transition to iCloud.  I knew that I would be losing some elements of MobileMe’s services, but what I didn’t realize is that I’d be losing the iWeb feature.  At first, I was freaking out because I’ve hosted my class website there since 2007, not to mention the other sites that I’ve created using iWeb.  Now, I have to either find another site to host it, or risk losing all of that work.  Jeesh!  Now that I think about it, I have my portfolio from my master’s program on iWeb.  Argh!  Well, I guess I have a lot of work to do.  But I digress.

Weebly.  It’s a web hosting site that has both a free and paid subscription service.  At $39 dollars a year, it’s really not that bad – especially considering that I was paying $99 a year for MobileMe (primarily for the iWeb service).  But MobileMe will still host my class website till June 30, 2012, but I’m not going to wait until that day to start searching for a new place to host my class website.  Which brings me to Weebly.

Its user-interface is not as friendly as MobileMe.  But truth be told, nothing is going to be as user-friendly as anything that Apple makes.  However, it is pretty easy to use.  I would suggest that if you’re thinking about using this site, check out the Help section because it’ll answer some questions that “should” be intuitive but isn’t.  I started a preliminary version of my class website, but I’m going to wait until I get back to school to continue any further.  My fear is that my district’s firewall will block this site because it has a blogging option.  It’s so draconian.  I mean, it seems as if I can password protect and monitor comments so I don’t see the big deal with having a blog.  But we’ll see.  For now, I’m going to leave things as is on the site.  I hesitate to invest too much more time into creating my class website there if my students cannot access the site at school.

But before I close, let me just mention some of the really cool things that Weebly allows:  I can create a dropbox for students to email me their assignments, I can create class accounts for student-create websites, and I can embed Voki clips!  Three things that will definitely change things up a bit for my students (and me)!  So, things are looking slightly more positive, but I’ll hold off for the major celebrating until I get back to my classroom.

Now…if Weebly is blocked at school you can bet that I’ll be emailing the IT department, the PR person and whomever else it takes to get the firewall lifted.  It’s time to stop blindly blocking sites without truly thinking of the consequences.  We can’t continue to exist with our heads in the sand.

P.S.  I love this photo from National Geographic!  
Come to think of it…why wait until school starts?  I’ll just email the IT department right now…

Voki – A Happy Medium

Those who know me, know that I do NOT like to be on video.  But I understand that the shift in the various technology tools used in the classroom includes the use of videos.  So, here’s my happy medium…Voki.  It allows me to create an avatar which looks mostly like me (they took away the option to change the size/shape of the eyes and reduced the various hair styles available), but I think that most people will agree that the avatar looks fairly like me.

So, this is what I’m thinking…for my class website this year, I am going to record various clips using voki and embed those in various pages.  I think that this will add a more “interactive” feature to my class website as well as help those students who are auditory learners.

The problem?  Voki is not as user-friendly as it SHOULD be.  I’m having to create a new Voki for every sound clip I want to use…and I have to use Firefox instead of Safari in order to get the sound clip to upload.  I also can’t record right into the Voki itself.  I have to record my audio in GarageBand and then upload the file to Voki.  Why the long run-around?  Not sure.  I wish that it were more easy.

Right now, I’m brainstorming ways that I could use Voki in my classes.  I’d like my students to be able to write, narrate, and record an audio clip and then upload it to the class wiki.  But it needs to be user-friendly.  I mean, I’m not a newbie to technology, and it took me quite a few tries just to get it to work.  Will my 7th graders have the patience for this?  Well, last year’s students had the patience of a saint.  I can’t count the number of times that technology did not work for us.  Too many, in my opinion.  We lost a lot of instructional time just sitting there…rebooting…breathing…reloading…you get the picture.

I guess what I need to do in the meantime is put together a basic How-To for Vokis so that I can give that to my students.  Perhaps it’ll make the process a bit less painful.  And, I’m hoping that my tech-stars will just take it and run with it.  =)