These are my notes from John Jones‘ presentation “Drupal for Education” at the TTT Conference in Wichita, Kansas, on 12 June 2008.

BEFORE THE SESSION JOHN TOLD ME SOME HISTORY: THE DEANSPACE SITE WAS BUILT WITH DRUPAL, THERE IS NOW A PROJECT CALLED CIVICSPACE WHICH IS A DRUPAL PROJECT FOCUSED ON POLITICAL SITES. JOHN DEVELOPED THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY WEBSITE FOR KANSAS BEFORE WORKING FOR ESSDACK. JOHN’S PERSONAL WEBSITE IS A GAMER SITE: radiatinggnome.com

Drupal is an open source content management system
– free for anyone to use, is a huge community of users

now you are stuck with…
– kid tied down and adults working on him with saws
– page of lots of complicated knots

many are tied to a proprietary package
– static pages created years ago
– very limited options for

What you need
– WD-40 image
– needs to be smooth
– can’t promise WD-40 right out of the gate
– are always challenges with getting people to use the website

what we are trying to do
– flexible, customizable design
– distributed content creation
– a site that grows with you
– a robust community of nerds (leveraging this, the Drupal Project)

Open Source idea
– now owners, no bosses, just community
– Lots of competing ideas and exploration
– never be alone
– no licensing fees

OpenOffice is now pushing Microsoft further

I do other things for fun, but many people working on these open source projects like Drupal don’t
– it is a worldwide community
– very passionate people who really care about what they are doing

idea of how to control access to certain pages
– how do you define user roles
– one solution is not intrinsically better
– depends on the context

Open source community provides you with a library of options that can be very customized

If I was a 1990s web designer, I have written thousands of lines of code and I am the only one who really understands it, even if there are hidden code
– open source reality is very different, there are many Drupal developers who could step in

Drupal background
– comes from English pronounciation of “druppel” – the Dutch word for Drop
-started in dorms at the Univ of Antwerp in 2000 as a way to share news, ideas, and an internet connection
– tens of thousands of monthly downloads
– very passionate and active community

Now flashing through different websites built with Drupal
– in a lot of open source packages (Joomla, Mambo, Plone, PHP Nuke) – with many of those you may feel more constrained in terms of look and feel
– AOL Corporate site
– Fast Company.com
– Imbee
– Savannah Morning News
– Warner Brothers music site
– Lullibot is a group now doing lots of drupal sites
– SonyBMG site is all driven by Drupal
– Jerry Garcia’s website

very different look and feel with all these websites

flexibility
– a wide variety of modules available
– variations to fit different use cases
– many themes available, and they can be customized

shared responsibilities
– the old way: News, calendar, classroom resources, and announcements all go to the webmaster who posts to the website (single gatekeeper, this turns into a big bottleneck)
– the drupal way: the one creating the content is putting it on the website (this is a big training issue)
Ellinwood schools were our first Drupal school site
– it will be years before we get there with the teachers in terms of everyone doing something on the web…

Dynamic content
– show users something fresh (you always want to do this)
– promote your events and programs
– reward users for returning
– if info there on Monday is the same as we had on last Wednesday, I’m probably not coming back
– that is a lot of work if it all falls to 1 person

The ESSDACK Package
– robust functionality to start
– room for growth in the future
– customized to your needs
– training, videos, and documentation

we already have classrooms and classes setup, subgroups
– kids can subscribe to a class (then they can go to the main calendar on the site, kids will see main events as well as their own classroom assignment deadlines integrated into the same calendar)

school menu: what is the best way to make that available to the public
– if you are getting it as an excel file, is making a PDF the best way to share it?
– can train school lunch folks to provide that as a dynamic part of the site

core functionality: typical district site
– distinct look and feel for each building
– district and building home pages with calendar, news, etc..
– more…
– groups are a powerful tool
– public or private (most is public)
– image galleries
– contact forms
– breakfast and lunch menu
– email newsletters

THIS IS REALLY GOOD STUFF. ESSDACK IS VERY SMART TO OFFER THIS FUNCTIONALITY TO SCHOOLS.

marketing: problem with the web, it is a pull technology (you need people to want to come to your website)
– email is the best web-based push technology, reaching out to people
– trick is that everyone gets a ton of spam
– trick is we want to publish high quality content that drives people back to your website

can have specific

What to remember:
– drupal is flexible + our experience = WD-40

Ellinwood: USD 355 is an example Drupal site we have setup

position I dig in on: your school needs a professional space, a consistent interface that will be easily updatable
– use email newsletter to send out bulleted announcements
– kids can still create webpages and add to the web, students do need a place to create, design and publish
– Drupal gives you control over the “middle of the page” content
– menubars at top and sidebar form the template
– menus can change based on the content
– I encourage the school to have a separate website where kids can work with full HTML, a sandbox

demosite we use for newer school districts (to look at different options and customization choices)

I worked one summer with upward bound students and HTML
– had kids work with notepad instead of WYSIWYG, because there is nothing like trying to figure out what comma or quotation mark
– really emphasizes attention to detail which kids may not get other places

we can do wikis with drupal
– wikis mean different things to different people
– core idea is a page that multiple people can edit together, see revisions, have multiple

original wiki site links required CamelCase

are audio and video modules for Drupal

Drupal isn’t the prettiest CMS out of the box, but it is the best for a community that I have ever seen
– Mambo and Joomla are great for a news or magazine site, for that kind of publishing site
– Drupal’s real strength is community and shared content creation

I have a World of Warcraft Drupal site where we are collaborating together to create content

literacyleader.com is a professional learning community site that we have built and are supporting
– teachers involved are creating and sharing content together

for Drupal comment moderation, teachers would have site-wide comment moderation rights

I was a PC guy before coming to ESSDACK, when I got my Mac I discovered SnapZPro to create tutorial videos

it is hard to create a unified manual for Drupal because sites are so customized

I use SnazPro now to show tech support people exactly what a problem is with site… this is a GREAT benefit

St John, KS – www.usd350.com
– lends itself toward more centralized control over content (that is an individual choice for the school district, however)

Questions about text readers
– Drupal has been very ADA friendly historically
– most designs are CSS driven rather than table driven

I was at WSU when the state mandated ADA compliance (big issues were tables and images without alt tags)

tech support for Drupal in this case would be me, it is more about knowing where to go for help

JOHN ESTIMATES ABOUT HALF OF KANSAS SCHOOL DISTRICTS ARE NOW USING SOME SORT OF PROPRIETARY PACKAGE FOR A DYNAMIC WEBSITE, THAT SCALES WITH DISTRICT SIZE IN MANY CASES, WHAT ESSDACK IS DOING IS CREATING A MODEL WHERE SMALLER SCHOOLS CAN AFFORD AND HAVE THIS SORT OF FUNCTIONALITY.

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