Juggling daily classroom duties and other responsibilities make it very difficult for school staff and students to maintain and update school websites.
This was the case with School District 16 in eastern New Brunswick, where upkeep of the school websites often fell on the shoulders of one staff member who had little or no web design experience. As a result, many of these sites were rarely updated.
However, since developing a content management system based on the open source Drupal server software, the district has streamlined its web services. Drupal is a free software package that allows an individual or a community of users to easily publish, manage and organize a wide variety of content on a website.
Teachers at School District 16 can now upload content and student work and school websites have become much more interactive as the process of updating has become much easier. Contact with parents has also been improved dramatically. There is even a mobile version for handheld devices.
Importantly, the Drupal media server has also given teachers and students a place to publish their work safely. It has replaced the “fridge door” in many instances as a showcase for student work. In concert with the server, in-service training was provided by the school district to schools on several topics, including video production, publication, and copyright. The tools were also given to each school so that the students could engage in content production and publishing.
Examples of the impact of the Drupal Media server can be found on school District 16’s website at: http://www.district16.nbed.nb.ca/.
Moving their website to a Drupal environment allowed the school district to focus on communication and content creation as opposed to web design. It has also allowed the district to spread the responsibility of maintaining its presence across several people at the office.
Moving to Drupal has given the power of publishing to every teacher. The websites have created a conduit for communication between classrooms and homes. Teachers now have the opportunity to model responsible publishing for their students on a daily basis.
School District 16 now holds an annual Creative Use of Technology in Education (CUTE) Awards. The awards are held to recognize and celebrate the innovative and creative ways students and teachers make use of technology to enhance learning. Special guests with experience and expertise in various aspects of technology and media are invited to introduce the finalists in thirteen categories and to announce the award recipients. The following website will provide interested readers with additional information on how schools are using this application: http://www.district16.nbed.nb.ca/schools.
School District 16 is now piloting Drupal as a platform for an initiative they are calling LINC for Local, International and National Collaboration. Connecting New Brunswick students with experts and other teachers and students from around the world to work on collaborative projects is an exciting new area of learning, fueled by the advancements in ICT. Historically teachers involved with these projects were often frustrated with the free tools available to them, especially when it came to sharing media. School District 16 is confident the Drupal application will address these concerns and move them forward in a whole new and exciting direction http://dt16community.nbed.nb.ca/linc/.
John D. Kershaw
NB Department of Education
David M. Kershaw