Need Help, Suggestions!

Hello blogosphere, I have a question.

We’re putting together something called the Digital Internship Project which will focus on supporting a group of 15ish preservice teachers as they move through their internship/practicum experiences. What we would like to build is a supportive online community for these students which would allow the following:
– personal blog spaces
– sharing of digital artefacts/learning objects (lesson plans, units plans, presentations, etc.)
– shared wiki space
– content aggregation
– probably a bunch of other things I’m not thinking about right now

So, any ideas of where to start. Of course, I’ll only use free/open source tools for this because I am sure there is something out there. Is there one solution (e.g., Drupal, Elgg) which will do all of this well without tons of modification? Do I need to be splicing a few things together?

I have a few ideas already, but would love to hear from others before I move heavily into one direction.

Thanks for your ideas.

7 thoughts on “Need Help, Suggestions!

  1. Except for the wiki space, I think you could use Drupal or Elgg to put something like this together. Elgg apparently has the ability to hook into a wiki – “Elgg has code that enables a lightweight connection to a wiki space for communities – for this to work, you will need to install your own wiki then use the code to connect the two.” I’m not sure exactly how this connection would work.

  2. I haven’t seen Elgg, but I was thinking of using Moodle as the hub and then link to other open source / free blogs (WordPress) and wiki space. This way you have some email built in as well as discussion boards.

  3. Drupal will handle most/all of this very well.

    The blogs, content aggregation, and resource sharing can all be handled by core Drupal.

    I’d also recommend the views module and the simple access module — views will give you some pretty granular control over how content is displayed, and simple access will allow you to set up access control for group work, or to allow site users to work on projects privately before publishing them on the web.

    The wiki functionality will be the biggest stretch — it is a pretty easy fix (takes less than 10 minutes) to add code into a content type that will allow multi-author editing. In 4.7, Drupal has an improved revisi0n system that will give you more options with rolling back changes. There are also some contributed modules (freelinking would be a good one to check out) that allow you to create links to pages — there is also a wiki module (called “liquid”) currently being developed, but this is still alpha/beta level code.

    So, if you want multiple users editing the same content,and the ability to roll back changes, Drupal will get the job done well. If you need full wiki functionality, you’d probably be better off using Drupal in conjunction with MediaWiki.

    With all that said, if the Wiki functionality is critical, you should also look at an Elgg/Mediawiki combination. Elgg gets you blogs, file storage/sharing, podcasting, and content aggregation. Additionally, Elgg has some great access controls for individual users.

    You have some really good options here. As I see it, the sophistication you need from the wiki will be a key factor in your choice.

    Hope this helps.



  4. I’d recommend that each of them set up their OWN spaces — bluehost, dreamhost, even go-daddy (altho somebody I know has some problems there).

    Glu them together with RSS

    The advantage is that the pre-service teachers will leave the program understanding how to use their own spaces, a portfolio of tools and techniques that will go along with them, and a leg up on all their competition because they have already established their digital offices.

    But that’s me. I figger any educator needs the resources of a resonable web services provider in order to do the kinds of things they’ll need to do to catch up with their students.

    Setting up one of these accounts is not rocket (or even computer) science. A few clicks and they’re rocking and rolling.

  5. hello there!

    I think the answers you got were exactly spot-on, though I can point you to this site if you are to choose a wiki:

    where you can compare wiki software on various perspective.

    oh, and if you manage to hook together elgg and mediawiki, please blog about it somehow, because we’ve been trying to find info about that, and found no more than the short note Rob Wall reported earlier.


  6. My problem with Drupal (which I use for my website/blog) is that out of the box it does almost nothing. I tried to get my students up to speed with doing something useful with it, but failed. Of course in your scenario, you’ll be doing all the heavy lifting with Drupal and build the stuff that the students will use. I just installed CivicSpace, a pre-packaged Drupal with modules and wizards to make it easier for a Normal Person to get things up and running, and it looks pretty promising.

    Another option is Moodle It doesn’t have blog space, but it does have wiki’s. And perhaps more importantly, it has lots of other stuff that teachers need and want built in. I have several students who have introduced Moodle to their schools and have had the entire school jump on board. I’ve arranged to have my IT folks run Moodle servers for anyone who asks. That’s pretty cool.

    Another intriguing option is to, as Nate suggested, build the stuff out of freely-provided tools. I’ve recently been building an argument about how Gmail, Writely, Google Calendar and blogs provide better email, file sharing, web publishing and calendar facilities than most universities and virually all K-12 schools, so we may as well just fire the folks who haven’t bothered doing that jobs and hire those who can help teachers with curriculuar matters. That idea may make it to my blog in a few days.

  7. Thanks for all of the suggestions all, it’s truly great to know that I can get great support when I need it.

    I’m still not 100% sure how I am going to pull this off, or what will ensue, but it seems that there are at least two other university projects coming up with very similar needs for a collaborative space like this. I’m hoping that I can get the resources for these projects together and built something incredible … and of course share it with everyone.

    I must say, I also really agree with Nate’s comment on letting the students figure out these things for themselves, and let *them* aggregate it all. I think that’s really the ideal in some respects. I certainly like the idea, but whether that’s going to fly for this project (i.e., will this be a good enough deliverable for the stakeholders/fundgivers) is going to be the question.

    Thanks again everyone, I really appreciate your time, and I may be calling on you again in the near future once we get a bit of momentum in this project.

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