Tech Tool #6: drupal

drupalUntil now, all of my favorite tech tools pretty much match up with other people’s favorites. I would imagine that firefox, google, wordpress, pbwiki, and flickr are also commonly popular tools. Today, I’m going to tell you about drupal, a content management software that can create a dynamic site for you. Drupal is open-source and free, powerful and useful, and if you have a web-hosting service or university server accessible for uploading software applications, then you can use drupal.

If you want to see a drupal site in action, check out this site I recently built for NRMERA (the Northern Rocky Mountain Educational Research Association): http://nrmera.org. This site has been evolving over the years, and I finally thought it was time to try to get people involved with the organization and people who are interested in getting involved to actually become members of this online community, contribute content, and help me keep the site updated. What is really neat about this type of web design is that people (once they are approved and logged in to the site) can help do your work for you.

In other words, if someone wants to update a new phone number next to their information, they don’t have to email me, ask me to do it, and then wait for it to get done. They can log in to the site, make the changes without having to know any HTML (I’ve installed a WYSIWYG editor in this site) and then save their changes. The site now has the new information, they haven’t wasted having to write me an email, and quite frankly, everyone is happy. That is my plan, anyway!

If you’ve never heard of drupal, don’t be embarrassed. This is a more advanced tool, for people who know something about php code and MySQL databases (but, really, you don’t need to know as much as you’d think.) Since the site is dynamic, it includes subscription features, discussion forums, and a slew of modules you can add to your site. If you were ever thinking of creating a dynamic site, you should look into this software. (I’ve taught classes using drupal. At first, the students didn’t seem to like all of the reading and unfamiliar navigation/look of the site, but after they settled in, it was really a great experience. I especially liked how I could see who was online and view pictures of the people when they posted.)

There are some pretty compelling advantages to using this software for certain classes, especially those that include a lot of reading/writing. Purdue University, for instance, has been using drupal for many of its English classes. Read about it here: http://www.digitalparlor.org/pwenglish/drupalsites
(If you scroll down, you can link to any of the instructor sites using drupal for spring 2008. Quite impressive, really.)

This is how I first started getting interested in drupal, by the way.

Have a great weekend!

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