Drupal in Education -- Lullabot Podcast

Last week, I had the chance to talk with Jeff Robbins at Lullabot about using Drupal in Education. This conversation has been unleashed upon an unsuspecting world in the form of Drupal Podcast 66: Bill Fitzgerald & Drupal For Education. It's a pretty free ranging, mildly technical discussion of some of the different ways that Drupal can be used within different educational contexts.

I spend a fair amount of time talking about using Drupal in Education, and every time, I am struck by the different niches Drupal can fill within educational organizations, ranging from courseware to portfolios to constituent management to online magazines and newspapers to public facing web sites, and other uses in between. And as I have these conversations I realize, again and again, that using Drupal in Education is difficult to approach as a unified topic, as each of the sites listed in the previous sentence has a unique set of needs, and therefore a unique set of design requirements.


It was great to be able to talk with Jeff, and thanks to him and the folks at Lullabot for making some space in their podcast lineup to talk Education.

Put a Little Science in Your Life

From an Op-Ed in the June 1 online edition of the NY Times by Brian Greene: Put a Little Science in Your Life

Building a Student Portal -- Response to a Question from Miguel Guhlin

Over on his blog, Miguel Guhlin asks:

Anyone have suggestions on how to respond to this question? I welcome all brainstorming ideas...

We are ready to implement a student portal (with teacher and parent portals to follow) for our 1:1 campuses. We would like for this portal to be a web-based, searchable, "pretty"

While "pretty" is subjective, this is one place where spending a little time with either an ID or a graphic designer, or both, will benefit your site. "Pretty" has a frequently overlooked cousin, "Usability" -- sorting out your navigational structures (done in Drupal using the core block and menu items), and making sure your theme enhances these architectural decisions, will often get you both Pretty and Usable, which is a winning combination. Starting with a solid base theme, like Zen, helps you theme your site in a time-efficient way, particularly if you and your team are learning how to design/theme in Drupal. Drupal can be themed pretty effectively via css alone; if you have someone on staff who can work in php, there really isn't much you can't do. Also, if there is one element you decide to outsource, the theme is a pretty good choice.

OER's: Publishing is the Easy Part; Now, Let's Make Them More Usable

Introductory Notes

These are some thoughts in progress -- I've been thinking these things through for probably the last few years, but things have been getting more interesting of late.

Some of the blog posts that have helped shape my thinking here include:

Everybody's Favorite Open Source LMS: Blackboard

From Michael Feldstein, via the OLDaily.

It looks like Blackboard paid for Google adwords to have ads for Blackboard appear when people searched for "Open Source LMS" --

Image via Michael Feldstein

Unfortunately, the Blackboard ads appeared under the heading "Open Source LMS" creating the appearance that Blackboard is an open source product.

Interesting Happenings at BYU

I saw this earlier today over at --

Kyle Matthews and Clint Rogers built a Drupal site in suppport of a web analytics class. The site aggregates student blogs and expert blogs; this way, everyone blogs from their chosen blogging platform, and their feed gets imported into the course site. In other words, people use whatever blogging tool they are currently using, and the software running the course (in this case, Drupal) adapts to the participant. This is a nice contrast to the usual approach, where all participants must adapt to the structure required by the LMS.

Thoughts on Sharing Lessons

I'm writing these ideas out quickly -- there are sure to be holes in this, and gaps in this reasoning -- please point them out in the comments.

For some context on this post, see these two threads on Dan Meyer's blog.

Users working with online lessons will generally fall into at least one of the following categories:

  1. People searching for lesson ideas (probably the majority)
  2. People already creating content on their own blogs (a growing number of folks, but still a very small percentage, compared to people in category 1, or even teacher-bloggers)

Yeah. Schools Really Need To Ban Cell Phones

In an article from the Sydney Morning Herald (which I found via, of all places, Techcrunch), "half of Japan's top-10 selling works of fiction in the first six months of the year were composed ... on the tiny handset of a mobile phone."

Yes, you read that correctly. Novels written on cell phones.

As noted in the article, the cell phone tales often lack complex scene and character development.

DrupalEd 5.3-0

This release features both security and maintenance upgrades.

For new users, this is the best version to download and install. The download tarball contains a directory named "Instructions" that contains some instructions on getting started. For additional help, and/or to get involved with the DrupalEd community, submit issues to the issue queue or join the DrupalEd group.

Download DrupalEd here

For existing users, you do not need to download and install this tarball. Rather, you should be managing your upgrades by using the update status module. This module will help you keep your DrupalEd install current and secure. If you have an existing DrupalEd site, you should upgrade immediately to keep your site secure.

My Proposal, NECC 08

In this session, participants will examine portfolios from several angles:

  1. as a learner, using the portfolio to track/present their day to day work;
  2. as a learner, using the portfolio as a tool to highlight individual artifacts in order to demonstrate learning over time;
  3. as an instructor, examining the various situations where portfolio use may or may not be the best choice to support student learning;
  4. as an instructor, using a portfolio as a professional development tool;
  5. as an administrator/evaluator, using a portfolio as a means of presenting the different types of learning occurring within a school or an organization.


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