Collaboration with Dropbox and Google Drive

During last Friday’s Professional Day, my friend Rob and I covered a few topics to consider when designing collaborative activities that use the iPad.  Specifically, we covered some of the differences between Dropbox and Google Drive, and how those differences make each tool either a better, or worse, solution for sharing between iPads.  One main difference we found is the ability to assign different permission levels to subfolders (folders within folders).  For instance, in Dropbox, when you create a folder within an already shared folder, that new folder will inherit the permissions of the “parent” folder, meaning that the new folder will be shared with the exact same people as the parent folder.  Additionally the people woth whom the parent folder is being shared will have the exact same level of access to files within the new folder as they do with the parent folder.  Make sense?  For example, if you create a folder in Dropbox, and share that folder with your class, all of the students in the class will have access to anything you drop into that folder – including new folders.  This makes for a messy situation when you want to share items with only certain individuals (e.g., grading).  Several people have experimented with workarounds for this, including keeping a folder for delivering class materials (shared with all the students in the class), and separate folders for each student (shared only with that student).

In Google Drive, however, you can set different levels of permission on each item, even if an item is stored within a shared folder.  This has many advantages.  For example, you can create a class folder (shared with everyone in the class), and then create subfolders within that class folder that are shared with only certain individuals (or groups of individuals).  This is useful if you want to provide feedback to students on a paper they’ve submitted to you electronically.  You could also use this method to create folders for small groups, where only the members of that group have access to that folder.  This is a handy way to have students share materials and collaborate on projects.

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