- June 24th, 2009
- zach whalen
Well, I’m finally caught up in reading these blog entries, so I’m taking my turn to post about my proposal. I hope this isn’t too late to get some response and maybe interest in participation this weekend. In short, I’m working with Drupal on my course websites, and I’ve developed some practices and tools with it that I’d like to share. Specifically, I’ve been working on adapting a gradebook module for my own purposes by adding in a mechanism for evaluating student blog entries. I’m basically a committed Drupal fanboy, so I’m really interested to hear if anyone else is doing cool things with this platform. I’d love to converse about my projects or yours, or just generally about best practices and future directions in Drupal development.
I don’t know if there’s enough interest for an entirely Drupal-focused session, but since a lot of the proposals here include comments like “I’d love to see what tools or solutions other people have come up with,” I’d be happy chiming in about what I’ve done with Drupal.
The main thing I’ve done recently (and what I initially proposed) is to use Drupal instead of an LMS (a la BlackBoard) for class websites. I position my use of Drupal as part of the post-LMS conversation discussed in this chronicle piece. Whether we want to call it edupunk or not, the point is that open, flexible tools let us make online class conversations that look (when they work) more like we’re constructing knowledge with our students and less like we’re managing learning. (Also, note how the BlackBoard guy closes the article with the assertion that other tools are inferior because the lack a gradebook feature. Ha!)
To make this more about digital humanities and less ed tech, the thing I like about Drupal is that its flexibility is such that it doesn’t solve problems for me — it gives me tools to solve my own problems. If the defined problem is one of learning outcomes, then maybe Drupal can be built into an LMS. But since we don’t start with that paradigm when we download and install Drupal core, it instead gives us an opportunity to think about information structures, conversation, and knowledge in several different ways at once.
To put it more generally, what are the relative strengths and weaknesses of any platform, and how are those affordances related to knowledge construction in a (physical or virtual) classroom? I think we’d all agree that WordPress MultiUser allows for different kinds of conversations to emerge (with arguably different stakes) than, say, a Blackboard discussion forum, but why are those differences really important, and does that difference also extend to research and publishing (yes, obviously).
I realize some of these paths may be well-worn, but it’s what I think about as I try to build new Drupal sites, as I’m doing this summer. Anyone want to talk about it this weekend?
I’ve written about this some on my non-blog, and anyone who is interested is welcome to visit my recent courses. Also, for more on using Drupal for teaching, there are several groups and projects out there, including, most notably, Bill Fitzgerald’s DrupalEd project.