Using Amazon S3 to share files

Amazon S3 is an online storage facility.  It’s cheap and easy to set up, has unlimited storage and bandwidth and no initial charges or setup costs.  Here are some Amazon S3 FAQs if you want to know more.  Using Amazon S3 you can easily store and share files for others to download or view using authenticated URL links.

1.  Create an AWS account

To use Amazon S3 you will need to create an AWS account.  Go to and follow the instructions.

You will receive an email with all the information you need to get started, including a link to the AWS Management Console.

Once you’re logged in you’ll need to open the S3 service under the Storage & Content Delivery section.

(You can add this to the menu bar for easy access by clicking on the Edit menu, then dragging the service to the menu bar).

2.  Use the S3 Management Console to manage your files

Objects are organised into “buckets” and within these buckets, files can be organised into folders.  You navigate this S3 interface using the breadcrumbs.

To display the properties of a file, select the file in the left-hand pane, then click on the Properties button on the right.  Each object has a unique, user-assigned key, or authenticated URL which makes it easy and secure to share files.

Create a Bucket

To create a new bucket, click on the Create Bucket button, enter a name for the bucket, choose a Region from the list, then click on Create.

Create a Folder

To create a folder, click on the Create Folder button and give the folder a name.

Upload a File

To upload a file, open the bucket or folder to which you want to upload your file/s, then click on the Upload button.  You can add files for uploading by dragging and dropping the files or folders to this upload screen, or by clicking on Add Files.  You can upload multiple files at one time using the Add Files option, but if you want to add folders you will need to use the drag and drop option.

Note:  You will need to have an up-to-date version of Java installed to be able to use the drag and drop option.

Click on Start Upload to start the process.

Set Access Permissions

By default, all new buckets and folders are secured to the owner/creator.  To change these permissions, select the file or folder you want to give access to, then click on the Make Public option under the Actions menu.

Share a file

Locate and select the file you want to share, then copy the authenticated URL link from the Properties pane on the right.

3.  Install and use a cloud storage tool

Alternatively, you can install a cloud storage tool which provides a much more user-friendly interface for managing the files in your Amazon S3 account.  There are a number of cloud storage tools available.  I’m going to cover CloudBerry Explorer which is a Windows product.  You can download this freeware here.

Connect your Amazon S3 account to CloudBerry

Once you’ve installed CloudBerry, open the application, go to the File menu and select “Amazon S3 Account”.  Double-click on the New Account icon, enter any display name you like, then enter your Amazon S3 Access key and Secret key details.  (This information is available under “Security Credentials” in the user menu at the top right of the screen in your AWS Management Console).

Manage files and folders

Instead of computer “drives”, Amazon S3 has “buckets”.  Before you can start storing files, you’ll need to create a bucket to store your files in.

Create a Bucket

To create a new bucket, click on the New Bucket icon on the toolbar in the cloud pane.  Give your bucket a name (between 3 and 255 characters in length).  Of note, you cannot rename a bucket, but you can create as many buckets as you like.  As Amazon S3 has one name-space for all bucket names, you will need to choose a unique name for your bucket that no-one else has chosen.  You can also choose a location where your bucket will be stored – more information about this is available here.

Set Access Permissions

All new buckets have “private access” only permissions.  To change these permissions, click on the ACL Settings icon on the toolbar.  This dialogue box has a number of options, including adding individual user email information and the option to apply access permissions to all subfolders and files.

Upload Files

Once you’ve created a bucket, you can upload files directly into the bucket, or you can add folders and sub-folders to store your files in.  To create a new folder, click on the New Folder icon on the toolbar.

By default, the pane on the left in CloudBerry Explorer displays your S3 buckets and stored files, and the pane on the right shows your local computer files, although you can adjust these locations to suit, or open up multiple tabs and work on more than one operation at a time.

You can drag and drop files from your computer to the S3 account, or you can choose to transfer files between Amazon S3 accounts by changing the Root directly.  You can also select files and use the toolbar options (or right-click options) to Copy or Move the files.

You can monitor the progress of your upload by showing the Queue at the bottom or the screen, and use the refresh button to refresh the display.

Share files

Once you’ve uploaded files to S3, you can share the files with anyone who has access permissions by generating a Web URL.  Select the file you want to share, then click on Web URL on the toolbar.

Select the option Generate short url using (set an expiration date and time if necessary), then click on Generate.

Online technology for teaching, learning and collaborating

Over the last few days I have been introduced to three different online platforms that really opened my eyes to how much technology for teaching, learning and collaborating is moving online.

I’ll start this blog with the credits – thanks to Sam Moskwa at CSIRO for introducing me to Slides, thanks to Nancy Woinoski of the E-Learning Heroes Community for introducing me to Padlet and thanks to Julie Lindsay of Learning Confluence for introducing me to Smore.

So, after a little investigation, here are just a few others that I have come across which I think are worth looking at in the context of effectively creating and presenting information, and collaborating and sharing knowledge, starting with the three I’ve already mentioned.


Slides offers a framework for easily creating beautiful presentations using HTML and enables anyone with a web browser to create, present and share presentations for free.

Slides is easy to use and has extensive functionality.  Presentations created using Slides can be viewed in any browser, including mobile phones and tablets.  You can broadcast your presentations to an audience of any size and viewers can follow along in real-time from any device, anywhere in the world.

There is also a Pro version which offers functionality including the ability to present offline and sync to Dropbox.  The video below gives an overview of how Slides works.


Padlet is a virtual wall that allows you to easily express your thoughts with others on a common topic.  It works like an online sheet of paper where you can put any content such as images, videos, documents or text, anywhere on the page from any device.

The Padlet knowledgebase  is very helpful when you’re starting off and there’s also a Padlet short code for embedding Padlet into WordPress which opens up a range of possibilities for WordPress bloggers!


Smore is a service for creating dynamic and changeable media, including online flyers and newsletters.

You can create flyers in Smore using different types of media, including videos.  Deleting or adding elements is as simple as dragging and dropping them on or off your page.

Here’s an example of a Smore flyer created by Julie Lindsay to advertise an upcoming professional development event.

This short video gives you an overview of Smore.


IDroo is Skype’s version of a whiteboard.

It’s an “endless canvas for your drawings, learning-lessons and brainstorms” that you can share with anyone in the world.

There are multiple drawing and writing tools and it’s all vector, so you can edit, move, scale and rotate what you create.

Read this review by PC World and access the download link here.


Pasteboard is an image sharing web app.   The platform only supports images, but it’s simple to use.

Once you upload an image, it’s publicly available but not broadcasted – it’s up to you to decide who you share the image with.

I found the functionality somewhat limited, but for the purpose it seems to have been created, it’s worth taking a look at.

Realtime Board

Realtime Board is “your regular whiteboard, re-thought for the best online experience”.

It’s an “endless online whiteboard where you can organise your workflow, brainstorm and manage your tasks in a highly visual way”.

Get started by viewing the Tutorial Board.


Carbonmade is a simple-to-use online portfolio and instantly sets itself apart as a friendlier, not-so-serious way to create a page for showcasing your work online.

You basically get a page of thumbnails or horizontal stripes, each of which represent your various projects.  The level of image, text, and colour customisation available on this page depends on your account, the free plan offering mostly generic text and colour options.

Here are some “awesome” examples taken from the 700,000+ portfolios created so far.

This Carbonmade Tutorial shows step-by-step how easy it is to create your site.


SlideIdea is a free app that gives you the tools to create and display presentations quickly and easily and engage your audience through smart phones, laptops and tablets.

One of the most interesting features of this app is the ability to create interactive slides where your audience can vote or leave messages using their mobile device.

To get an idea of what you can do with SlideIdea, watch this short video.


Prezi is a web-based presentation and storytelling tool that uses a single canvas instead of traditional slides.

The canvas allows you to create non-linear presentations that allow you to zoom in and out of a visual map.  You can upload images and videos and include URL links to other resources.

I’ve been using Prezi for a while and find the number of ways you can present content fascinating.  Looking at what others have done is one of my favourite pastimes and there’s no shortage of these.  To point you in the direction of the best presentations, here is The 6 Best Prezis of 2013 – staff of Prezi recommended!

Watch this overview video on Prezi to find out more.


Tricider is a free brainstorming tool offering a platform on which people can brainstorm together and find solutions even if they’re scattered around the world.

Read this blog by Nick Grantham for an overview of Tricider, or watch the video below. is a free and easy to use Web 2.0 tool that allows you to create mind mapping and brainstorming diagrams online.

It’s intuitive interface is visually appealing and “let’s anyone brainstorm and organise ideas without getting in the way”.

You can display your ideas online, print your work, or share with friends by email.

Watch the video below to learn more about the basics of

Presentation Next

Presentation Next claims to be the world’s most advanced HTML5 presentation builder, and the world’s most fun, yet professional HTML5 presentation maker.

You draw your ideas spatially on an extremely large canvas using a mouse, touch, keyboard or a pen. Pan and zoom effects and animations are used to give the presentation a filmic look and feel. 

Presentation Next comes with customisable templates and one of the most popular features among developers is the capability to create a single HTML5 file that can be attached to e-mails or can be hosted on a website. 

Read this MVP blog for more information on Presentation Next.


Thinglink helps you tell your story by “making your images come alive with music, video, text, images, shops and more”!

With functionality including the ability to link to other resources, it’s claimed that “your ThingLink interactive images form a channel that other users can follow”.

This short “quirky” video gives you an overview of how you can use Thinglink to “upload your images, tag them with media, e-commerce and social profiles and share them with the world”.

Of course there are hundreds of other online technologies – do you have any you use, know of, or recommend?

What motivates us?

Over the last few days I’ve come across several references to Dan Pink and his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.  In this book he proposes that for the challenges we face today, there is more and more need for people to find intrinsic value in their work and the secret to high performance and satisfaction is not rewards, but “the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world”.

In this TED talk, Dan talks about the power of incentives, extrinsic and intrinsic motivators and the research findings that particularly for tasks involving cognitive function, rewards narrow our focus, restrict our possibility and lower performance.


In his article “Why Corporate Training is Broken and How to Fix It“, Jay Cross proposes that wise managers take control by giving control.  He talks about how corporate training has changed from the Industrial Age where workers were “cogs in the machine” through the Social and Information eras to the Network Era of today where workers are much more customer-focused, are rewarded for innovation and where collaboration is replacing command and control.   He also suggests that traditional training is not keeping pace with reality in that modern day workers are making more of their own decisions and want to learn but they don’t want to be trained.

Knowledge workers, according to Dan Pink, are motivated by three things:

Autonomy – our desire to be self-directed
Mastery – our urge to get better at stuff
Purpose – the feeling and intention that we can make a difference in the world

In order for knowledge workers to be self-directed, managers need to “inspire workers, set expectations, and get out of the way”.  In this podcast Dan Pink also suggests that managers can increase the intrinsic motivation of their people not by developing elaborate incentive schemes, but by helping people recognise their progress, shine a light on that progress, recognise it in front of other people, celebrate that progress and help them stay on a path toward making progress. 

As depicted in this RSA animate adapted from a Dan Pink talk, management is great if you want compliance, but if you want engagement, self-direction is better.