How to host a website on Dropbox

Built yourself a website and need somewhere to host it for free? There’s a really quick way to do this with your Dropbox account and a neat little web-app I discovered over the holiday called Pancake.

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As the image above explains, just hook up Pancake to your Dropbox account, create a folder for your site and you’re done. Pancake will give you a URL, and there’s your website.


Can my school buy a Kindle?

Earlier this week our librarian popped in to see us. They purchased a Kindle but had since been told that the license agreement wouldn’t allow them to use it with students. This didn’t seem right to me (& it seemed a shame not to let them open the box…) so I decided to have a look in a bit more detail. A call to Amazon & a bit of Googling later this is the current position in the UK.

Can a school purchase a Kindle?

Yes. Just like you buy anything else from Amazon.

Who do I license it to?

The Kindle needs to be licensed to an individual, not a company. However, this doesn’t stop a school purchasing them. When you get your Kindle it has to be set up to connect to an Amazon account for purchasing books, so this needs to be a person. The way I see it there are 2 options:

1) The school librarian sets up an Amazon account and links the Kindle to this. 2) School bursar (or whoever you call your finance person/people) has an Amazon account and links the Kindle to this.

Personally I think I would swing towards option 2 (linked to the purchasing books question below), but either is possible, and Amazon don’t have any problem with you doing either.

How many can we have?

There is no limit to the number of Kindles you can register on one account. The reason why you would want to register them all on the same account is so you can share books between the devices. If the school purchases a book it would be good to be able to put it on any Kindle it owns. There are however rules about the number of devices that can have any one book on. More on this below.

It is worth noting this can also include the Kindle app for Mac/PC/iPad/etc.

How do we purchase books?

From the Kindle store. There are a few different ways a school could approach the purchase:

1) The librarian could purchase the books and get this money refunded by the school.

2) The school could purchase Amazon gift certificates for the librarian to use to purchase books.

3) The bursar could purchase books using the account they set up when licensing the device.

I think option 3 might be the neatest here. If the device is registered by the finance team it makes sense for them to purchase books in the same way they deal with all other school purchases. The advantage I see to this method is it provides more control, more accountability. With option 1 or 2 the audit trail of what has been purchased isn’t so tidy.

Interesting parallels here with the iTunes Store, another current purchasing problem area for schools.

What are the rules about these books?

This is a slightly different approach to how you would use a paper book, so worth expanding on. When you purchase a book from the Kindle store you are buying a license to read it rather than the physical book itself. You purchase the license to read the book and choose to put it on your Kindle. Generally, a book can be on up to 6 devices (that are registered to you) at any one time, but this varies depending on the publisher. Some will be less, some will be unlimited.

Amazon help you manage this- if you try and put a book on too many devices it tells you so you cannot accidentally break the license agreement. Before you purchase a book the Kindle store provides information on the number of devices it can go on.

Can I loan the device to a student?

Yes. Giving the physical device to a student to read in the library/wherever is fine by Amazon. In much the same way I could loan my Kindle to a friend, they are happy for the librarian to give the device to a student. You might want to think about insurance implications for the school, but that isn’t really specific to this one device.

Can I loan a book to a student who already owns a Kindle?

This is currently a no. The books the school purchase can only go on to devices the school owns. I do expect this model to change though- the US Kindle store allows loans (with a whole other set of rules), and organisations like Hampshire Library Service have a system in place to loan eBooks. One to come back to.

Thanks to Colm at Amazon for all the help, and credit to the fantastic I Love my Kindle website for some of the detail. If anybody knows any different to this do add to the comments, but this appears to be our current position.

What your new MIS actually needs

I’ve been involved recently with the early stages of a large MIS procurement exercise. They asked for feedback from the group, here’s mine.

The process has started beautifully – by asking actual users in actual schools what they want. Going to software providers with a list of requirements rather than tailoring the way we work to what the software already does makes me really very happy.

Unsurprisingly, what we’ve discovered is that what we want doesn’t actually exist.

Here is where this group have a chance to do something a little bit groundbreaking. If I had to get one single requirement on to the tender for this project it would be as follows…

A forward thinking group wouldn’t worry about the tool not doing everything right now. What they would be doing is making it a requirement that the tool has an API available so others can work with it.

Need your MIS to integrate with some other piece of software? No problem – that second company could talk to it using the API.

Some new amazing analysis tool appears in a years time after you’ve already committed long-term to the MIS? Great – it can use the API to get at your data.

Got an organisation who won’t use the same tool but you need their data? That’s fine too – the two can talk using the API.

Get this in to the tender spec and we’re on to a good thing. Fingers crossed.

Google Apps is making our 1-1 Trial Easy

At the moment we have a pretty large number of students helping us to answer some questions we have about 1-1 deployments. More of that to come as the data starts to appear.

What I have seen now we’re a couple of weeks in to loaning devices to students is just how easy our life has been because we are a Google Apps school. A couple of scenarios for you:

Android Users

A student given an Android tablet to trial logged in using their school account, all their documents are already there and available. If they edit content from Drive on the tablet it’s there when they log in to any other machine in the school. Easy. Same goes for their mail/calendars.

Over on iOS the GDrive app achieves the same thing, but setting up mail/calendars is not as easy.

Loan Kit

One of the big challenges with loan devices is they are not set up with all the content a user needs. Or, when they come to finish the loan it all has to be manually moved to the next device. No problem with students using GDrive – their content is in the cloud so it doesn’t matter what device you use.

Lessons for 1-1 Deployment

What we learn here isn’t that Google Apps is a must (although it’s clearly our tool of choice), but that file storage that is available anywhere, and on any device is. If we want students to move seamlessly between devices/locations then we can’t tie their data to a single place.

Follow up activities for us:

  1. Look at Google Vault (or other services) for backing up content.
  2. More testing of offline Google Drive. It’s improving all the time.
  3. Compare GDrive against Evernote.