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[school-discuss] SchoolForge website direction (wrote a book here)

First, I'd like to welcome a couple of people to SchoolForge that have
indicated an interest in volunteering efforts towards some of these
tasks, June Greever and BJ Bjostad.  June will be helping out to
define the categories for site organization, and BJ will be assisting
in coding efforts towards bringing the case studies system online
within the new website.  They are both very talented & creative people
and we are thrilled to welcome them on board. :-D

From discussions here and talking with people that have an interest in
working with different tasks, I've been able to put together something
that provides a draft overview of the goals of SF and how we believe
they can be achieved through a structured approach.  These are
discussion points that can be developed further, and priorities are
still open to being adjusted - tasks will probably have to be broken
down further to give more specific objectives - but I think this will
go a long way towards getting there.  I hope that this reflects a
progression of the website ideas that we started with as a result of
discussion that has taken place here.

What we are looking for is input regarding any key elements that may
have been overlooked, and feedback towards establishing the different
elements in ways that can be picked up by those who wish to volunteer

Mission:  To promote communication between non-technical and technical
users within the scope of education through the development of website
resources that promote FLOSS principals and projects

* Set development standards
* Clean up SF resources (Case studies, discussion lists, app index)
* Evaluate, and rebuild these resources into new SF site
* Implement system for the sharing of open educational resources
* Start a project towards the development of a standards database

I Pre-development
 In this area, development standards will be set.  There is no
standard too rigid to follow given that it provides a valuable long
term benefit.  The more standards to follow, the more work there is up
front - however, quality depends on this.  So, the goal of
pre-development is to create a list/resource that development efforts
can be compared to

1) Accessibility standards & criteria -  development efforts should
follow a set of defined accessibility standards.
 a) Hearing & Vision impaired users
 b) Translations and global availability.. are there wiki-methods of
allowing pages to be translated

2) Security standards - ongoing examination of software environment to
ensure best practices are applied towards security in the development
and application of features through the entire software environment.
Some things I've considered in this are things like making sure that
javascript can't be posted via form submissions that would become site
content.  Checking for patches and updates for all applied
technologies.  Reviews of folder permissions, etc.

3) Defining and categorization of target users - in this, we will
evaluate what resources and efforts are ongoing out there, and use
that to develop an understanding of who will be visiting the website,
this information will be used to provide effectively organized content
towards the different users of the website.  With a sort of category
matrix, as we work on the other aspects of the website we will be able
to ask, for example "How does X user interface with Y project" - How
does a teacher use the case studies compared to how an administrator
uses case studies?  Being able to ask these questions with an end user
based structure seems like the way to go.

4) Modularity standards & criteria - This is setting criteria to make
sure that best practices are applied when it comes to how each aspect
of the site is implemented towards being modular to a point that (as
much as possible) presentation and data are separate entities.  This
will ensure that projects and efforts can evolve at a much quicker
pace and have a structural foundation.

II Development - Get CMS operational and bring established SF projects
into the CMS

1) Case studies - the case studies will be integrated into the SF
website.  Before this happens, Tyson is going to reach out to those
who have created case studies and find out what sort of feedback they
can provide and to verify that they are active and can respond to
emails/inquiries on their case study.  Once this is completed and the
case studies have been cleaned up, the feedback will be reviewed and
we will have a discussion on how the case studies should be
implemented in SF.  Some of the things I have in mind would be..
 * Guide users through input, find out what hardware and software
environment they start with, and what environment they end with.
 * Major steps taken, efforts, and what people need to know before
trying to do this
 * Cost savings details when possible
 *  Ability to export as .pdf with a professional 'white paper' type
type design

2) Application Index / Project Index - I feel that the application
index will be reborn as a 'project index' This would provide a place
for FLOSS Education project to be presented, with original SF members
given recognition.  Educational applications would be a category of
projects, however, the scope of projects will be greater to include
the different categories.  We are still thinking this one over.

3) Editorial section development - I think something similar to
opensourceschools, but integrated into the SF website.  There are a
lot of directions this could go, but a strong news section which
highlights and notes details - as far as SF internal -  automation
could be provided for things such as creating news feeds based on
events such as 'new case study - title' or 'major project updates.'
News sections could also cover multiple aspects, such as major events
relating to FLOSS and education and all that falls between.  - I also
saw that for Drupal, there is active development towards Digg like
interface but some of the modules it requires are still in development
(maybe SF could find a way to promote those efforts?)

4) Discussion Forums - not a whole lot of description is needed on
this one, maybe just keeping in mind that with the mix of people
visiting the site, there are a lot of different topics that could be
forum sections.  Places for teachers to talk with other teachers about
implementing projects and answering questions, for teachers to talk to
the developers, school administrative discussion, and on...

5) schoolforge-discuss and core lists -
  I don't see a lot changing with the discuss list, but I'd like to
keep it going as sort of a 'behind the scenes' resource (subscription
options will still be available via the website.)  I think that the
core list will be disbanded in favor of using the discuss list for
gathering input, sharing ideas, project news.. pretty much how it is
currently being utilized.  Discussion between SF developers and
projects will probably take place in the forums.  I think the core
list had its value in the initial stages of SF, where many people were
working to bring many more people together - (I'd say that effort was
very successful - I am constantly impressed by the efforts and
projects being worked on that have been shared here, especially from
those that are driven by teachers.. you know, with all the time they
have available)

III Building & development of shared open educational resource system
(shared documents)
   This will be developed along with the other features, however, the
purpose of open edu resource materials development is to introduce
others to the concepts of open source in a useful and productive way -
so it seems that this should really be focused on more once the  ideas
noted above are starting to come together, and the SF website is
operational at a level that advances present functionality.
1) The presentation of a open educational resource
  A) Perhaps a page that describes the resource via metadata,
  B)  offers downloads via multiple file formats (with the standard
being ODF and a promotion of OpenOffice)  Design it so that people can
see what ODF offers - upload the document with the ODF format, and
would it be possible then to automatically generate the other formats?
Formats such as .doc, .pdf, etc...
 C) Offers the facility for commenting, something like a blog at the
bottom of the page.  This would give people using the different
resources a place to share feedback and helpful tips to one another
(sort of like comments are included for each PHP function on the PHP
 D) Facility for uploading & submitting different versions of the
document (important updates..different languages..etc) and historical
2) Promotion of content development and examination of where to get
the ball rolling
The most interesting thing about this, is that almost each person
I've talked to has had an idea for something that could be made
available with something like this - and almost each idea has been
completely different then what I had thought of (a very good thing, I
think!).  Things like college prep exam materials and resources,
teacher/administrative documents like behavioral charts..
3) Not something to do now, but maybe on the back burner - integration
of web based ODF file editors so that people could update documents
without having to install openoffice in situations where it's not
possible to install it?  Just an idea to put on the table - I don't
see this happening any time soon though.
IV  Standards Database
  I've checked out some of the different formats that are used to
represent standards..  time will have to be put into creating an input
standard for taking in the educational standards in a way that can be
applied to providing meta data for the resource listings.  I'm pretty
sure that standards that can be represented in outline format will be
the best candidates initially.
 The way I'm looking at this is that it's pretty much a project in
itself, the standards database should be an open resource that others
can use in the application of their own tools.  In my earlier post
describing ideas on how to achieve this, presented a way to accomplish
a lot of this through setting up a framework that would allow it to be
implemented with as much as 1 states standards information, and to be
able to grow as others are able to start projects towards inputting
standards information.  It seems like that would be the way to go.

Finally, I'd say that there are some benefits to focusing on steps III
and IV later rather then as initial development efforts. Working with
and expanding established SF content resources will give us a
familiarity level with Drupal towards sucessfully implementing the new

I'm going to give my fingers a rest now.  :)