Open Source Schools Relaunch

Jan 12, 2009

Miles Berry

After feedback from its own community, Becta and a number of other stakeholders, the AlphaPlus team behind invited me to take over the website, so guess how I’ve spent most of my Christmas holidays!

The idea now is to make it much easier for anyone to create content for the site, to reflect the community driven aims of the project. There’s a blog-like front page, which I’m hoping the community there will regularly create content for, and I’ve streamlined the original forum areas. I’ve also brought in headlines from a few aggregated news feeds, worked on the navigation and set up email notifications, although this latter has not been without its problems. All feedback gratefully received.

Early indications are that the hit count has really picked up since the re-design, and it’s been gratifying to see quite a bit of activity in the forums already. My ambition now is to try to expand the readership and membership beyond the techie crowd who already know about open source into the educational mainstream.

Most of the development work I did locally on my MBP, using MAMP, before uploading the content and database over to the production server – a very efficient way of working, as local text editing (using Smultron) has the edge over Cyberduck anyday.

Drupal, I must say, is brilliant, and has come on leaps and bounds since I installed it for the school website. At times I’ll admit getting modules and our theme to work together has been frustrating, but that’s half the fun, and of course the real plus of open source code is being able to adapt it to fit more closely to the requirements than just buying a system off the peg. Drupal’s taxonomy system is, IMHO, second to none. I continue to be amazed at how effective the community has been at providing fixes and coming up with some really cool modules: the CCK and views functionality are both hugely impressive, but little modules like the lovely javascript menus (jquery menu), recaptcha and the notification system are great too.

Finally, a plug for Bill Fitzgerald‘s excellent “Drupal for Education and e-Learning“, which, although written with quite a different project in mind, gives enough of a flavour to how to solve problems with the Drupal toolkit to be an ideal starting point for site development in Drupal.