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New schoolworld – now Blackboard web site

We have a number of schoolWorld (which is now Blackboard).  We have a new site put this week.  We failed to provide a name and register the domain name, so our site ended up with a URL like this

http://www.myschoolpages.com/schools/WayneEducation

We are working now on changing that to match the other sites we have up for our various organizations.  It will look like this, once we pay the name and register the domain name.  http://WayneEducationCenter.org

The other slightly interesting point is the newer templates that schoolWorld (Blackboard) provides.  I can see this while looking at the new site.  My colleague helped the champions by acting as a laison.  She worked with the content champions at Wayne and then translated that to schoolWorld (blackboard).  That again, is customer service.  What value are we adding to our service to our district entities.  How are we helping them to champion their web sites, the content in the web sites.

wayneeducationcenter

A couple champions of the site, cause each site needs these to remain relevant, have been identified, they championed for the site in the first place.  They have an idea to let their students add content to the site.  Great idea, the more people who contribute content to the site, the more people will take ownership and continue to feed the beast.  When the beast stops being fed, it becomes irrelevant and dies – a slow excruciating death.  I know, a little dramatic.

We could support the service (blackboard site) by helping the champions.  Listen to what they want to do and help them.  Help them get going.  This will probably look like creating a couple additional accounts for the students and giving the accounts access to the content that is to be updated/fed by the students.  We may even help with creation of the pages / accounts and assigning of permissions to them.  I could give permissions to one of the champions and simply let them figure things out, but that kind of service, well, sucks.

Uploading files and links…

SchoolWorld – blackboard, whoever else.  I had a request the other day to update a file in the cabinet that is linked from in two places.  I could not initially find the file in the cabinet, so i went to one of the two pages where it is referenced and uploaded the file to the page – and changed the URL in the link in the page.  I went to do the same on the other page, but stopped because I could was being dumb.  Find the file in the cabinet and update it.  I new it was there since the link in the page had a path to the filecabinet.

My second attempt to find the file was successful.

schoolworld filecabinet

Once I found the file in the cabinet – I was able to update it.  I also had to read the file description, because it lists the others places in the site where the file is referenced.  I have to actually copy the new reference to it, because the file name changed.

I do not have to change the file name… I can simply rename the file that was given me and leave the reference file alone. The date does not have to be included in the file name – use something like EMERGENCY PLAN BOCES WIDE .pdf

Each time I am given an updated file, I simply rename it to EMERGENCY PLAN BOCES WIDE .pdf – there is even a friendly file name that i could use to say something like EMERGENCY PLAN BOCES WIDE – October 2014 .pdf

This is preferred because I do not have to change the references to it in other places.

What do CMS’s need most?

It is not a trick question and it is my opinion.  Captain obvious.

Let me cut right to the chase.  CMS’s or LMS’s or school web sites or whatever you choose to call them….they need one thing over anything else……

Content.  Or users to champion adding content.

I was looking at a new implementation of a schoolWorld web site for one of our District buildings.

http://myschoolpages.com/schools/wayneeducation/.

I noticed the template, the images, the template provided functionality.  The ColdFusion used to build this model. “.cfm pages”.  I used to develop in CF a while back.  I noticed the *forced functionality that the templates bring or us.  This model feels old.  I noticed the main navigation buttons across the top of the screen, noticed the quick links, the sub page headers changing as you selected different *options in the template, like athletics, calendars, staff list etc.

wayne_schoolworld

It looks ok, but what it really needs is contentPeople to feed it.  If it does not get feed, it becomes irrelevant, obsolete.

It reminds me of little silos of information.  People want to have their own site, their own presence.  Web sites are created and perhaps have a brief season of life, but too often, they end up starving on the vine.  Why?  the people who championed them move on or retire.  New people come in and they want to champion other systems.  Systems that they are more familiar with…but, I digress.

Websites need content, content needs people to champion and be responsible for using.  Made me think of one of our Moodle sites where last week we meet with a person, a key technology person who told us how busy their teachers are.  How many current systems they have to already use.  We made that moodle a little easier to *encourage teachers to use it by integrating with their current authentication system via an LDAP server.

I also note what must be popular in some sites, things like *Latest , Featured or News, something to allow the people who were championed to use a megaphone or a big ole can of paint.  Conceptually speaking, a way to highlight or emphasize information in the most public spot.  The template used above has a News and a Featured *area.  Now it needs someone to take over feeding it.

The BEAST MUST BE FEED…

Fore the newly minted schoolworld site show above, I will spend some time helping a couple people who have been created in the system with privlidges to create content.  I will show them how to do this or that, change something in a page, create a link to do something….then, soon afterward, I will start peaking in to see if people are adding content to the system.  And of course, a Search textbox – as if that actually worked.

To be a little practical before I go, I did ensure I could log into the site, I think my co-worker created my account, otherwise, I have to get an admin signin for the new system, so i can login with permission to create a new account for myself and then probably for the couple of champion content people spoken of.

schoolword_admin_menu

These are the webmasters (only three, with one leaving soon) – and a couple content champions who have site level administration permissions.

wayne_admins

Creating a teacher site on a Schoolworld instance

I had a voice mail this am from a new teacher at one of our tech and career centers.  The message was basically a request for a teacher site on the website.

These are the things I did creating a new teacher page for my customer

  1. Created a new staff account for the teacher
  2. Created the teacher page for the account
  3. shared the account and page details with the teacher.

details include

The public link of his new staff teacher page  http://www.sitename/webpages/teachername…/

How to find the public page via the home page of the web site.

How to find the staff login page http://www.sitename.org/staff

Look at the nice picture.  This link was not avail on the public web site, interestingly enough….

teachersite

I did have to get his email initially from the voice mail message and contact him to verify that he was real and which website we were talking about.  He did mention the school name in his message and left email.

I went to the site, logged in as webmaster and created an account for him.

Once I had his account created,  I followed the teachersites link in the Staff Members Area, filtered and found his account – and clicked on his name and found the option to create the teachersite space.

create_teachersite

 

With the page created, I needed to figure out how edit its content.  Using the account credentials created, I logged into the site teacherSites space here sitename/staff , and saw his admin area for the new page.

teachersite_admin

Expanding the web accessible security cameras for a school district….

We had a high level meeting today to discuss how we could help our districts regarding web accessible cameras and security.  We have a solution for BOCES that is a good model that we expect will be utilized by some of our individual school districts.

High level recap:

We have 3 buildings within our BOCES umbrella that each have video cameras installed at various locations in the building.  Frontrunner is the business who sold us this hardware/software configuration.  We purchased a server/license etc and worked with a customer rep setting up the server.  The software used is called Genetec and has two clients.  A heavy client, that includes options for creating users and user groups for the local configuration.  The second client is web based – and only requires a password to access the cameras.  This is a nice solution, scalable, simple, accessible.

This is what we can offer our districts who may be compelled to follow.  We can help them by sharing our experience.

High level entities in a district scenario.

  • Frontrunner – selling them the hardware and software
  • Genetec installation of a heavy client
  • People needed by the district for this project
  • People(s) at the district who will work with the Genetec software setting up partitions, user group and users for their buildings
  • Person who will help name the building locations and matching cameras in the software.
  • People(s) who will be software admins and perform tasks like update passwords, update access to cameras, establish
  • Network person(s) to configure firewall settings
  • Maintenance person/ bldg supervisor to help name the camera/locations in the schema also to clean lenses and ensure cameras operational
  • Establish a policy of how often passwords get updated.  Advocate a minimalist approach regarding who needs access to the heavy client.  Push the web client – which is simpler, and less problematic.  Using the web client removes the requirement of installing the *heavy client, which requires a lot of 3rd party software (which is included in the client) and drive space.
  • Project coordinators from our side helping the districts determine what they need from Frontrunner

People in the district who are software admins as described would use the heavy client and would be installed on their local workstation.  There are two pieces in the heavy client.  1) Config tool 2) Security desk.  Installing the heavy client provides both pieces.  The Config tool is used to create partitions, user groups, users (including login credentials), the Security desk is used to monitor cameras and access video content for each camera.

Genetec web camera software permission and stuff..

Request came in from Keith, “Can you set up so and so to access the cameras at location 1 and location 2″.

A quick check of my brain reminded me that in this software, I have a client called Config tool.  When I log into it, I can see the partitions available on our webserver (genetec web server actually).

User groups belong to partitions – users belong to user groups.  The *permissions are assigned to a user group.  So we simply need to create the account, and then add it to the existing user groups, one each of location 1 and 2.

High level steps to add someone so they can view cameras at their location(s)

1 – Launch the Config tool client, provided by Genetec

2 – Add a new account to the system

3 – Add the account to the existing User group

That’s it.

Nice, scalable and simplish.

School World webmaster stuff…..

My customer contacts me today saying, “can I edit the content on page bla bla bla”….. Which probably meant that they tried logging in and did not see where or how to get to the page with the content OR they forgot how to login OR…..

The first thing I had to do was find the page that she was referring to”.  Page bla bla bla did not appear in the quick links or under the main navigation options.   Finding the page turned out to be a little difficult.  I ended up searching on the site home page and finding a page on the site that seemed like the right one.  Using the bread crumb navigation, I was able to find the path to the file in question.

I drilled down to the page hoping I could see there who has editing writes to it.  Makes sense to me.  Find the page – find out who can edit it….. NOPE.  No dice.

Instead, I have to know the persons name, which I found by looking at the content in the page, and open the site admin area (since I am a webmaster, i can do this) – click on the site administrators link, and search the name of the person.

I found the account/person – then looked to see where the account had rights to edit content.  I ended up adding more rights.  by navigated down a clumsy path through the content, providing a couple check marks along the way.  When I was done updating the account privileges, I logged into the account to verify that it could edit the page in question.

Overall, a little clumsy and poorly designed in that I could not find out who had editing rights to a particular page.  Instead, I have to know the person and follow that context/path.

Morals of the story?

  • School World design not real intuitive (for me)
  • Can’t determine who can edit a page by looking at the page
  • Must travel the path of site admin – accounts – rights to determine who can edit what
  • Log into an account after updating to ensure it is what you intended.
  • Bite the bullet and do this work – rather than assigning the account WebMaster privilege.
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