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Re: [school-discuss] Creating the "Killer App"

As others have mentioned, there are already some projects underway that you
might consider joining.

Also, I might take this opportunity to announce a project that might be just
what you're looking for: a PHP, SQL database-driven, course management system
looking for discussion and developers. The project is Edventure, and you can
find more about it at http://dangermouse.brynmawr.edu/edventure/docs/ It is a
Sourceforge project.

Some highlights: Edventure takes a slightly different philosphy than many
course management programs in that it can sit next to existing web pages for a
course. That is, you don't need to enter all of your stuff "into" the system,
which might make it hard to get it back "out". Edventure also has an
assessment (e.g., quiz/exam/survey) system that is tightly integrated with
what we call an "interactive gradebook". 

The design of the project was pedagogically driven, rather than being simply
feature driven. We wanted to create a project that captured our teaching
philosophy, rather than adapting our style to some course system. (It is also
open source (or free) software, something that we feel strongly about.)

You can actually read a short paper ("Interactive Gradebook: The Missing
(Hyper)Link") on one aspect of the project at

I would also like to incorporate the recent discussions of an XML-based
exchange of information. We have about 5 years of exam and quiz questions for
intro computer science, and other topics, that might be useful to others. This
is also discussed in the paper mentioned above.

The project is underway (about a month), and plans for a 1.0 release of this
version are planned for this summer (There was a previous "prototype" in
Perl). If you are interested in joining the project as a developer or a
discusser, let me know. The discussion mailing list can be found at:



Chip <chip@force-elite.com> said:

> Hello, I am a new person to this list.  My Name is Paul Querna, and I am 
> currently in 11th Grade at Mead High School ( http://mhs.mead.k12.wa.us ).  
> Technology at my School and District ( http://www.mead.k12.wa.us ) is based 
> entirely around Windows 9X clients and Novell Based Servers.  Last Fall, our 
> school tried somthing new for technology, they had the students work on it.  
> So, for one period a day, me and about 7 others work on various technology 
> issues at the school.  I already knew quite a large ammount of PHP and Perl 
> before this, and as such wanted to use my skills to create a fulley dynamic 
> high school website.  What then insued was a large struggle to get a Linux 
> based server installed so we could even use PHP (There is Perl for Novell, 
> but no PHP).  After getting our server an external IP, it took another month 
> to get the domain name right, and another month to get SMTP unfiltered.  To 
> say the least, we are still having difficulties coordinating with the 
> District Admins. :-)
> For our website, I created the MyPHPSchool Project ( 
> http://www.sf.net/projects/myphpschool/ ).  It does a few nice things like 
> calendars, Web based Grades, Custom Teacher Home Pages (Teachers can edit 
> links.. add stuff, etc...).  However, this past month I have more or less 
> stopped developing all new features for MyPHPSchool.  Our District, as part 
> of Washington School Information Processing Cooperative (WSIPC)( 
> http://www.wsipc.org/ ), is moving to Skyward ( http://www.skyward.com ) for 
> everything this comming fall (See 
> http://www.skyward.com/News/Archive/Q201.shtml for more info ).  My simple 
> system cannot compete on the level of somthing like Skyward, so it would be 
> pointless for me to continue development.
> This brings me to my biggest surprise.  There is no open source competitor 
> that is anywhere near competitive with the commerical products in this arena. 
> Browsing the Google Administration and School Management Directory ( 

> ) you can see that almost all of the programs are commercial programs(Not a 
> _bad_ thing, just disapointing, not like I am a GPL/Linux Zealot or anything 
> :-) ).  
> What I see, is that in years previous, school adminstration software was 
> specialized, ie one system for student schedules, another for Transportation, 
> another for attendence, and yet another for Grading.  What we are seeing now, 
> is the combining of all these into one product.  Open Source Programs are not 
> competitive with these one system products because it would take tweaking of 
> each to make them all work as one, which is somthing that most Administrators 
> do not have the time to do.  So they go for the more costly in upfront costs 
> in order to save time.
> So where does that put us?  I think this is where open source *could* be the 
> most successful, in creating a one product solutioin, that can still 
> interface with anything else via various methods.  I have read the mailing 
> list archive on ZIS/SIF and EduML, and think that these could very well be 
> the key people need to bring open source to education (on the server side at 
> least) at levels never seen before.  
> What I would like to help with is the very top level of this interface.  They 
> way I see it, the best way is to create a PHP, or Perl web based system, that 
> is _extremely_ data source abstracted.  So that it can pull its information 
> from anything, from a traditional database like mySQL, pgSQL, and Orcale, or 
> from one of the new XML based systems still under development(Perhaps even 
> have modules for both ZIS/SIF and EduML). The system should be able to do 
> every aspect of data movment the school will ever need, this means exstensive 
> output and input filters.  The one last thing I think that is most inportant, 
> is flexiability.  The system needs to be able to run on Windows, or Linux, 
> run in Frecnh, German or English as examples.  That is the key to widespread 
> adoption.  And that is how you create the Killer App, that will bring Open 
> Source to Education.  Create somthing so wonderfull, that is does 
> _everything_ a school needs to use the computers adminstration wise, make it 
> flexiable, and make it free.
> --- Sorry for the long rant ---
> - Paul Querna.
> P.S. One more thing.  I volunteer to help do this "crazy idea(tm)".

Douglas S. Blank,       Assistant Professor         
dblank@brynmawr.edu,          (610)526-6501
Bryn Mawr College,  Computer Science Program
101 North Merion Ave,  Park Science Building
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010 dangermouse.brynmawr.edu