Friday, September 9, 2011

How to Turn in Assignments Digitally

When most of us were in school we never had to turn digital files into a teacher.  A manila file folder maybe, and I’m not talking about the folder icon.  However, teachers still used rules and procedures for putting names and titles on reports, projects, and homework, thereby helping the teacher keep things organized.  Digitally this rule still applies, but is probably more important than ever before.  So here are the basics for teachers who want to try to do things with a little less paper.

Email - This is always an option, but not very convenient when dealing with 100+ students.

Naming Conventions:
The most basic way to keep digital files like homework organized is by using a naming convention.  A naming convention is set of rules that dictate the way each file is named, so that when opened or search for, all your files are where they should be and in the order that you want them.  A naming convention can be used with any kind of digital media.

Network drives:
Many school districts have drives on their school network where students can store their files.  In this case a naming convention can still help. In the last two districts I've been in we've had a folder created with special permissions that allow students to put files into but doesn't allow them to edit anything once it is in that folder.   So the folder serves as a virtual inbox for assignments. 

To do this you need a folder with the following permissions for the user groups below:
Students - Write access only (can add files to but not do anything to them once they have been added)Teachers - Read/write access allowing teachers to access, edit/grade the files.
Once this folder is created we have teachers create sub folders by teacher name, and then by class/period.

Google Docs:
Google has many avenues through which users can share documents back and forth.  However, none of them really work well for turning documents in.  This is what I recommend:
  1. Give the students a naming convention.  Ex: Project Name, class/period, lastname, first name this example lets you organize by project with all class periods grouped together and students in alphabetical order.  Although, you could choose any convention you wish, think about how you want to organize all assignments that have been turned in and remember that computers sort files by numerical/alphabetical order.
  2. Once all assignments have been turned in, create a new collection.  I would title it with the name of the project.  Sub collections could also be created for class periods.               
  3. Next, Organize your docs by name so that all of the assignments are grouped according to the naming convention above in #1. This can by done by using the search engine or sorting by title.
  4. Then, Select all the documents you want to move into a folder (this can be done by checking the boxes or by doing a shift + click to highlight from first to last), and drag them to the folder in the left hand side bar.                                         
Now all your documents associated with this assignment are neatly organized for later grading.

It's no secret that I love Google Docs.  After spending some time on Twitter & G+ trying to find the best way for students to turn in assignments via Google Docs here is the best way we've come up with. 

Dropbox & Dropittome:

Dropbox is probably the best cloud storage/backup solution for documents.  It uses your regular folders on your computer and connects them to your dropbox account on the internet.  Then whenever you make changes to this document it syncs the changes to your folder on your computers and the folder on the internet.  Thus keeping one copy of your file no matter where you edit it from.  It's free for 2gb of data, and has options to increase storage capacity. connects to your dropbox account and allows you to "setup a unique upload address with password protection"...and "securely receive files from anyone into your dropbox account. 

Do you have a system that works better for you?  Please share.

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