Education Technology

The Full Force of Technology On Your Campus

Why Open Source and GNU Resources Are Right for Your Campus...

Michael Twigg M.Ed. I still remember the first time someone asked me if I knew what JOOMLA was: a obscure (at the time) website CMS (Content Management System). I remember the inspiration I had at the possibilities of what could be done using Joomla. A person becomes accustomed to tools that work. A web developer understands that without tools that work...their job just became unmanagable. I love the Joomla community and the fact that it is FREE...the Joomla community has grown to be the premier CMS solution on the web.

I have issues with many proprietory CMS solutions for districts...Don't get me wrong, they normally work...they're hosted off-site...updated regularly...etc. But I caught myself thinking that with the amount of work that is done in-house (districts basically build all the content, and post it to their sites), the CMS was basically all the company did besides loading a few things (years ago this was a big thing...not so much anymore as big companies leech much of their code from opensource resources). The web development teams from districts spend weeks running around getting the layouts setup...they upload and publish...sounds like a lot of internal work...

As intuitive as the bells and whistles are when large CMS companies demo them...several years later many functions remain unused...the sites slowly become front ended sites...with no substance as envisioned for classroom use. Some teachers use the sites...many do not. Although some districts receive free grants for their sites...the corporate CMS's aren't cheap! When the grants are up (usually in 1-2 years) those payments many instances that's a teachers salary...I have setup a Joomla site within 2 hours that had the same, if not more function than many of the corporate CMS companies...all with free resources and opensource.

I believe with the worthiness of opensource and the free software community there is no need for expensive software, updating, and services that can easily be handled in-house. The need is for a substantive "visual" breakdown. I will attempt to lay things out visually in such a way that you can understand how these tools can save your district: time, money, and jobs!

Step 1 - Understanding How Things Work

cms easy

The site breaks down as follows:

1. Design - Stakeholders

2. Content Managers - Stakeholders

3. Editors - Administrative Staff - Stakeholders

4. Approval - District - Admin - Stakeholders

5. Server - Offsite

6. Website

7. User/Visitor

The key is the "Stakeholder." If your web person is not vested, your project is doomed to mediocrity...


Step 2 - Who is Responsible for Content/Design

CMS TeamI believe in the rule of three: always have two people for backup for any project. For example: I have two people other than myself that can manage anything I do, just in case...because ultimately if it is your project, responsibility stops at your feet. In today's age, someone within your school is a web guru...make this person your lead designer, 90% of the time they will work for nothing. Utilize your on site technologist. Finally, make sure your district technologist is in the loop.

As an administrator make sure these people are stakeholders...that they have vested interest in its success...and make sure to include the staff in the design of the features/wants/needs. Outline what everyone should be doing, timelines, periodic checks, and goals. 

A good principal will work with staff to outline the project, let stakeholders build and define, then as a group set: pre, during, and post checks. It's really as simple as that - Setting standards and expectations...from the start.


Step 3 - DYNAMIC "Teacher" INVOLVEMENT!!!

Success RoadIf no one uses the features of the website you just designed for your school...only a few things could be amiss:

A. You did not properly train your staff to use the new technology.

B. You trained your staff, but they decided not to use it...

C. The CMS you chose is cumbersome...or you did not give your staff extra needed time.


D. You trained your staff, they decided not to use the technology, and they are thwarting your leadership.

I've heard everything from: I've done things my way for years and my scores have been great...I'm not changing anything...they showed us how, but I'm not using it...when do I have time! And my favorite, he'll be gone by next year...I can wait this "new" thing out.

The fact of the matter is, you yourself as a principal must be "vested" in the website...think of it as your #1 best friend. Everything you need to do can be funneled through it. When properly done, lesson plans, student teacher interaction, parent interaction, emails, chat, expectations...everything can be done through the site. It helps with documentation...and covering have to take the reigns and let teachers know, there is a chain of expectation that the site will be used - You're going to make it part of PDAS...right? LOL...instant teacher involvement.

I've worked with "destroyers" in the past, and quite simply, they 99% of the time destroy. They rarely build, and websites normally scare-them-to-death! Expectations not so much, many of them are very good at sticking around. I suggest using the website as a put-up, or search for something else expectation for staff. Once teachers have about 3 weeks into the expected norms of what you want them to do, they normally settle down and wonder how they ever lived without the technology.


Step 4 - Set Goals & Expectations VERY High

Be the school that shows everyone in your district what you can be...a solid Joomla site can expand in any direction...your school's site can easily expand to become a district site...half the battle is showing a district what can be done...for free...or at minimal costs...and they will be sold.


texas principal motivation