How Filr can benefit Teachers and Pupils
I look after the IT setup at a school for 13 -18 year old pupils. Almost all our desktop PCs run Windows. In September 2013, I installed Filr. The reasons were to provide:
- Improved access to files for pupils and teachers from home
- Access to files via a wider range of devices: tablets, Mac laptops, etc.
- A better way for administrative staff to share files with people outside our organisation
Filr does a good job in this area. I thought my job was done, until I dug deeper and struck gold!
I also teach Computing. One of my classes follows the iGCSE Computing course , a 16+ qualification. This term, we have been working on the computer project, where the pupils have to create a computer program to solve a problem.
The first half of term is spent on the technical solution, the second on the documentation which is what is actually marked. It provides 20% of the final grade and is a long document. Getting good quality, comprehensive documents from pupils requires tight teacher control and lots of reviews and checks.
Tools available to me
With my IT hat on, I like our VLE. It’s well behaved, easy to use and needs little maintenance.
As a teacher, I really don’t use it, especially for the task described above. My reason is very simple. Pupils work on school PCs and/or at home and/or on a laptop so they have a version of the write up on their school filespace, at home and most likely on their laptop as well.
I ask for chapter one. They upload it to the VLE; that’s another copy.
I then have to download it to my classroom PC and, most likely to my PC at home and/or laptop: more copies.
I mark it in a word processor and return it with suggestions for improvement: another copy. I ask for chapter two and the improvements to chapter one. This will repeat for all six chapters.
Question: how many copies of the file exist by the end of the process? What can go wrong? Is this the best that IT can offer a teacher?
So where’s the gold?
This is what Filr lets us do:
- Pupils share the files from their filespace with me as an editor using Filr.
- I subscribe to these files, so I get an email when some work is done.
- I install the desktop application at home and/or on laptop (Windows or Mac) and synchronise Files Shared with Me.
- Pupils install the desktop application at home and/or on laptop (Windows or Mac) and synchronise Home or a folder containing the file.
Now, though there are several copies of the pupil’s file, it is effectively a SINGLE copy. Think of it as a virtual file. This is what now happens:
- Pupil edits the file, I am informed, I see the edited file wherever I look.
- I review the file, add comments. Pupil is informed and sees my comments wherever they look at the file.
- File synchronises in the background. We can even work off-line. File synchronises when back on-line.
Instead of doing this with a file, do it with folders:
- One of mine is shared with the pupils, to which pupils subscribe; it contains copies of notes, tasks and resources and links to resources.
- One for each pupil is shared with me, to which I subscribe; it contains their work.
- Pupils have up-to-date access to the course resources. I don’t need to upload them.
- I have up-to-date access to pupils’ work; they don’t need to upload them.
What are the benefits?
Me as a teacher: I have a better VLE, at least with regards to sharing files, which, really, is the main function of a VLE.
Me as IT manager: Only the file server needs to be backed up; all the other copies can be re-synchronised or recreated.