Monday, August 29, 2011

Using Dropbox to wirelessly distribute files to iPads

This summer, I taught 2 two-week semesters of American Literature class. Towards the end of the class, I decided to have my students read Pedro and Me, a biographical comic book written by Judd Winick about an AIDS activist in the '90s. I acquired* the CBZ (comic book) file, commanded my students to download Stanza, a free eBook and eComicBook reader, and went through the following process to get the 50 MB file to 16 students in less than 30 seconds.

  1. Use the Force... of the Public Folder. When you being using Dropbox, there will be a few folders automatically added. One, specifically, has a "magic" power—whatever file you put inside the Public folder will be given a public web address.

    For example, as you can see above, I've left the file Night (Full Text).pdf in my Dropbox folder.
  2. Access it on Dropbox.comFrom here, I can find go to, log in, and scroll to where that file is located.

    When you scroll over the file, there will be a little down arrow on the far right. When you click on it, there will be an option for Copy public link. Click on that. A popup will show you the public address for your file—before you copy it to your clipboard, click Shorten Link, and then Copy to clipboard. Now you can distribute this link to anyone with a simple, short link. If only there was an easier way to distribute that link...
  3. QR, anyone? Go to and paste in your link, and POOF!

    Now you have a QR that, if you scan, will download that PDF to the device (i.e. the iPad). The cool thing is that, since the file is on the internet, all the students can download the same file at the same time. 
There's tons of different applications for this: for example, I'm sharing a PDF, but this is also how I shared my syllabus with students and how I'm planning on giving out lots of teacher's resources that I'd usually just print out. Pretty cool trick, huh!?

*Don't ask.

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