Preston Lodge High School doesn’t currently have a web site – but that’s about to change. I met up with some of the people involved today. Interestingly, despite not having a site just now, they were unanimous that the school site they want needs to be one that isn’t just a dull electronic equivalent of a notice-board. There was a real recognition that students had to have a voice on the web, not just “the school”.
I met with Andrew Dodd, a student who has developed his own content management system. This was a very impressive piece of work which Andrew had developed in his own time. He’d taught himself the PHP scripting language and the MySQL database, quite an achievement for someone already under exam pressures. The system provided a content structure, included user authentication via password, and included an open source bulletin board system. Experience of running the Exc-el web site, and the Dunbar Grammar site using the eZpublish CMS has shown us that we need a heavier-duty system. For example, we need more granular access control and more flexibility to cope with the expected future demands on these sites. It’s also really important that it’s sustainable – and it won’t be long until Andrew leaves. We’re planning to showcase Andrew’s system by making it available on the Exc-el web site for others to download and use if they need a simpler, light-weight CMS which will perform well on limited server power.
We’re now in the situation where Dunbar Grammar, Musselburgh Grammar, and Preston Lodge are all wanting to develop their web sites in similar ways, with high levels of student involvement and interactivity. They need to be “web 2.0” sites, as the jargon has it! That means we’ve a good opportunity to develop a reasonably standard and simple architecture, which will help improve support and sustainability. These sites will have an important role in teaching and learning, so need to be robust and reliable.
I also met Jan Ainslie of the English Dept who had become involved in the web development through her role in producing the school newsletter, PLus. We’ll be posting the last edition to the web, and doing the same with the forthcoming Christmas edition. It’s hoped that this will help increase the audience, and also generate a dialogue with the community through comments on the web edition.