Skip to main content

WordPress, Drupal, Moodle

This weekend I installed WordPress on our personal server. The process took about two hours, including customization and tweaking beyond the basic installation. No great PHP or MySQL skills were required; as long as you know how to use the command prompts you can install WordPress.

The modifications included adding Amazon code to the PHP-generated pages. This allows us to use Amazon links without long URLs. To do this, I had to copy code from our Amazon Associates account and paste it, formatted, into the PHP code. Not a challenge, thankfully. I also enabled two spam filters via the PHP code.

What makes WordPress, Drupal, and Moodle popular is the ease with which these systems can be extended. Third parties have created numerous plug-ins, widgets, and themes for these three open source platforms.

I could, rather easily, support a pretty large number of teachers and students using open source software (OSS) for Web applications. The price is ideal and the skills required are increasingly common. I bet many high schools have dozens of students familiar with MySQL and PHP. Students could earn class credit supporting platforms, reducing costs even more and giving the students real-world experiences leading to future career opportunities.

I am a big supporter of Drupal and Moodle. I think schools could do a lot with these platforms. Drupal is portal software with every feature you might want: local messages, forums, blogs, and even collaborative books. For classes, Moodle offers these features within the safety of closed classrooms. Moodle is more complex the Drupal, but it has a different purpose.

Drupal is a content management system (CMS) for general use. You can do a lot with it, but it wasn't designed to include gradebooks and other academic features.

Moodle is a learning management system (LMS). It assumes you might want to grade all content. I would definitely use Moodle for any class I teach without hesitation.

While Drupal and Moodle support blogging, I only needed a basic blog for a project. Drupal would have been serious overkill.

I can envision a school system adopting all three for the same reason I have: they serve distinct purposes.
Media teachers, from art to writing, are going to have to know how applications differ and what their purposes are. I recall a time when people used Lotus 1-2-3 as everything from a word processor to a database. The spreadsheet was forced to be everything… and did many things poorly.

Making Moodle do everything, as I have seen, is not wise. Mixing and matching free platforms is not difficult and produces better results. It does mean learning three systems. It also means learning how to design themes for each of the three that are consistent visually. You can "hide" the shift from one platform to the other.

One platform I have dropped recently is Wikimedia. I was increasingly disappointed in the Wiki format and the slow progress of the platform. It is strange, since Wikipedia is so popular, but it is a text-centric system. I found other platforms handle mixed media better.

I have used Wikibooks and Wikimedia installations in classes, but the students found it difficult to organize and maintain books online. Drupal books are easy to maintain and organize, moving chapters and sections via drag-and-drop interfaces. Plus, Drupal uses standard HTML, instead of Wikitext markup. For all its flaws, HTML is still the dominant Web standard for page design, coupled with CSS and JavaScript.

I encourage teachers to read about the OSS applications I've mentioned. I love using them and I'm sure my students have, too.


Popular posts from this blog

Slowly Rebooting in 286 Mode

The lumbar radiculopathy, which sounds too much like "ridiculously" for me, hasn't faded completely. My left leg still cramps, tingles, and hurts with sharp pains. My mind remains cloudy, too, even as I stop taking painkillers for the back pain and a recent surgery.

Efforts to reboot and get back on track intellectually, physically, and emotionally are off to a slow, grinding start. It reminds me of an old 80286 PC, the infamously confused Intel CPU that wasn't sure what it was meant to be. And this was before the "SX" fiascos, which wedded 32-bit CPU cores with 16-bit connections. The 80286 was supposed to be able to multitask, but design flaws resulted in a first-generation that was useless to operating system vendors.

My back, my knees, my ankles are each making noises like those old computers.

If I haven't already lost you as a reader, the basic problem is that my mind cannot focus on one task for long without exhaustion and multitasking seems…

MarsEdit and Blogging

MarsEdit (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Mailing posts to blogs, a practice I adopted in 2005, allows a blogger like me to store copies of draft posts within email. If Blogger, WordPress, or the blogging platform of the moment crashes or for some other reason eats my posts, at least I have the original drafts of most entries. I find having such a nicely organized archive convenient — much easier than remembering to archive posts from Blogger or WordPress to my computer.

With this post, I am testing MarsEdit from Red Sweater Software based on recent reviews, including an overview on 9to5Mac.

Composing posts an email offers a fast way to prepare draft blogs, but the email does not always work well if you want to include basic formatting, images, and links to online resources. Submitting to Blogger via Apple Mail often produced complex HTML with unnecessary font and paragraph formatting styles. Problems with rich text led me to convert blog entries to plaintext in Apple Mail and then format th…

Let’s Make a Movie: Digital Filmmaking on a Budget

Film camera collection. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Visalia Direct: Virtual Valley
June 5, 2015 Deadline
July 2015 Issue

Every weekend a small group of filmmakers I know make at least one three-minute movie and share the short film on their YouTube channel, 3X7 Films.

Inspired by the 48-Hour Film Project (, my colleagues started to joke about entering a 48-hour contest each month. Someone suggested that it might be possible to make a three-minute movie every week. Soon, 3X7 Films was launched as a Facebook group and members started to assemble teams to make movies.

The 48-Hour Film Project, also known as 48HFP, launched in 2001 by Mark Ruppert. He convinced some colleagues in Washington, D.C., that they could make a movie in 48 hours. The idea became a friendly competition. Fifteen years later, 48HFP is an international phenomenon, with competitions in cities around the world. Regional winners compete in national and international festivals.

On a Friday night, teams gathe…