Ramblings of a Digital Educator

November 20, 2006

Finding the right resource for helping your users

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 12:39 pm

I received an email today via the ACTEM listserv (Association of Computer Technology Educators of Maine) in which someone was asking about software for creating an online resource for students and teachers.  He wanted the students on their school iTeam (iTeams are generally teams of kids who help with troubleshooting and training in technology) to be able to post articles, how-to’s, and/or FAQ’s for staff and students at their school.  First of all, what a great idea!  But, the matter at hand is….what to use?  This often depends on what you envision for the “resource”.  Will it be an entire web site dedicated to technology issues?  Will it be a bunch of articles or primarily text-based Q & A or how-to’s?  Perhaps you’ll want lots of pictures, screenshots, or even video tutorials on your page?  In any case, there is something out there that’s just right for your needs. 

Simple or not?

Ask yourself this question.  “Will more than one person be managing this “resource”?”  If you answered “Yes” then you may need something a little more “fancy” than just a simple web page editor.  If you answered “No” then perhaps a simple web page managed by one person will suffice.  There are many web page editors ranging from simply using a word processing program to using a full-featured web site creator.  Some of the more popular commercial offerings are Dreamweaver, Microsoft FrontPage, NetObjects Fusion…and MANY others.  If you’re looking for something a bit less expensive…like free…try one of the Open Source programs…such as OpenOffice web page editor or Nvu (pronounced N-view).  Nvu is very easy to use and cross-platform (Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux)!  What if you want more than one person to edit the page(s)?  If that’s the case you may be better off using something like a blog or CMS (content management system).  Blogs are easy to use and can be quite sophisticated.  many blogs allow multiple users to post to one site.  You can embed images and videos to a particulare article or blog post if you wish.  If you are looking for something a bit more sophisticated, then maybe an e-learning portal or a CMS is better suited for the task.  Moodle is a very popular and easy-to-use e-learning tool.  You can set up a Moodle server and set up “classes” for the specific tasks or tutorials you might want to show.  This is a great way to get your iTeam involved in providing “training” for your users by creating rich content for them to view and use at their own pace.  Another idea is to use a CMS or content management system.  Examples of content management systems include Joomla, Mambo, Drupal, and many others.  Using a CMS will allow you to build an entire site dedicated to technology while providing the ability to have multiple contributors (and administrative control of posts) to that site.  You can host your own or you can find many hosting services who’ll put one online for you. 

Learn more…

I recommend going to this site http://www.opensourcecms.com/ to learn more about blogs, e-learning, and CMS.  You can read all about them and even test drive most of them as well!  Explore and find the one you feel will best suit your needs and the needs of your school.  Have fun!  🙂

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