Tag Archives: tech tip

Problem solved!

Don’t worry…I promise I’m not gonna turn into tech-tip guy. I’ll get back to the business of teaching and learning mathematics quite soon.

But I have solved a problem.

Be forewarned…if you don’t also have this problem, then your response will be Cry me a river.

And it’s a rich-guy problem. Not rich in the 1%/99% sense, but rich in the developed world/developing world sense.

What I’m saying is that I know teachers in the Peace Corps don’t have this problem.

OK. Here’s the scenario:

You’re a teacher. You use a computer in instruction. But the computer you use when you teach is not necessarily the computer you use when you plan. How do you make sure the files you need are where you need them, and that they’re the right versions?

Me? I have an institution-issued iMac in my office. But I use my personal laptop in the classroom, and that laptop travels with me. If I’m in my office, I’m usually on the iMac because it has the bigger keyboard and screen and an actual mouse, etc.

So planning and other current work files need to be accessible on both devices. Here are my previous solutions…each has its own limitations:

THe “I:” Drive

At my institution, each faculty member has a large partition on a server. It’s accessible through a shortcut on the desktop, and through a complicated series of links and logins over wifi and the Internet.

It’s cumbersome to log on to, and it’s only as good as my Internet connection. If WiFi is wonky, I can’t use my files while I’m teaching. Remote file storage is no good when you need instant, responsive access. It’s a good backup, though.

Flash drive

I love my SanDisk Titanium Crüzer. (Umlaut is mine, but don’t you agree it belongs?) It’s shiny and metallic and it slowly pulses a lovely blue light. It’s fast and responsive.

And when I leave it behind I’m screwed.

Oh and it doesn’t back itself up.

enter dropbox

David Pogue is the man. I knew vaguely of Dropbox, but hadn’t looked into it. He wrote about it recently and I saw a solution to my problem.

Here’s the brilliant thing about Dropbox: Your files live on both computers and they sync automatically in the background while you work on other stuff.

Let me repeat this.


So as I plan on the iMac, my files are modified on the laptop (assuming I’m connected to WiFi, which I normally am). When I pack up the laptop for class, the modified files come with me. If WiFi is wonky in the classroom, no problemo. They are on the laptop.

I cannot overemphasize this point. The files are not just in the godforsaken cloud. They are on my hard drive. Both hard drives. As long as I have had WiFi access recently, I’m good. I don’t need WiFi access while I’m using the files.

No log on. No links. No syncing. No physical object to leave behind.

2 gigs of Dropbox is free.

And frankly, if you need more than 2 gigs for your teaching you either teach film or you need a better way to organize your files.