I read the following item about hunting down the perfect CMS. Please, read it for yourself.

I have to agree. Moodle is nice (nicer than Sakai, I say!) and the blurring of lines between LMS, CMS and LCMS is just becoming more apparent.

Blackboard is the big monster in the room. Costs a ton, and I hear tech support is touch n go, but I like it. It works and the users like it too.

I haven’t played with Joomla! much. WordPress (obviously) I like. During a survey at work a while back, I noted that I liked Alfresco (mainly because of ease of administration and my own issues with hosting stuff in-house rather than a SaaS model (It’s a control thing, just let it go!) and WordPress.

Many of my friends as NJHEWA agree with the WordPress idea. Many people still like Ektron (and I’ve heard some rabid complaints about it!)

My daughter’s school uses an item (hosted elsewhere I believe) called Thinqed. Note that it’s owned by Blackboard. Looks like a templated item that gets rolled out with admin options. Problem is, the site is (by my definition) “too busy” and needs an overhaul. I keep getting in trouble with my minimalist styles! Not everyone likes them. If you don’t use the darn site daily, you WILL get lost.

But I digress.

Here is a quote from the article itself. I totally agree with the author’s pick order.

“As I’ve been looking at other content management systems for another project (one which, quite frankly, needs to appeal to investors more than a Moodle-driven site ever could), I’ve had time to think about the qualities that would make a particular CMS especially useful in a variety of school settings. Ease of use for end users is, of course, the #1 consideration. Ease of installation and hands-off, maintenance free operation for admins is #2. Aesthetics follows close behind. If this is something that school committee members or accreditation teams will be viewing, it needs to look slick and professional without anyone having to break out Dreamweaver.

Flexibility is #4. Admins and users should be able to become familiar with the CMS and then apply to a variety of projects and sites. Freedom (as in both beer and speech) is #4. There are too many good platforms that are free and open source to have to pay for anything in this setting.”

Absolutely. Completely. With full flags and batons!

Ease for end users to post stuff, definitely. Teachers from K to Higher Ed either got the “geek bug” and go whole hog OR they just do the minimum as proscribed by the lead administrator of the department. Either way, it works like a charm or ends up a cluttered piece of crap and the users don’t go for it.

Installation ease, easy admin. Yup. Stuff that is difficult to administer (Drupal, i’m looking at you) or patch or install (Drupal, still looking at you!) isn’t fun or funny. Drupal has POWER, no doubt. However, having to go to 5 different places to tweak the CSS and then playing “flip the dip switch” with my user settings..not as much fun.

WordPress, little easier. okay, a LOT easier. Updates…just POP and they are done. Downside..harden the security for PHP/SQL and Apache. You need an experienced hand for this. Templates..oh, we got templates for ya!  Good news: you can make them yourself (break out notepad ++ or Dreamweaver and “git ‘er done!”) Bad news: some of the free templates come with some SEO crap that ain’t so much fun. Middle ground: installing Google Analytics into your WordPress stuff is easy. Making templates is easy. CHANGING templates is easy. You can do it on a DEV version or WordPress and move it to PROD, or just “go live” after a muckety-muck approves the template scheme.

Aesthetics. The following is a comment from a guy who decorates like this: “put the couch there.. it fits against the wall” (yes, that’s me)
I like minimalist, clean lines. I tend to want my nav stuff on the right, but on the left too is OK. WordPress is easy for me to find stuff. Moodle is too. I had a bit of adjustment with Angel Learning (which is currently consumed by Blackboard like Cronos swallowed his kids) but I know when “it’s just me” and “no, the product is organized wrong” Too many times, the aesthetics are great, but the USER makes it look like crap. A true double edged sword. Great tools and flexibility, and the designer/teacher wants to “kitchen sink” the template with weather widgets and real time stock tickers. Keep it basic, and add the extras later, teach. You need to make a new habit to put items on your CMS first, then let’s add some fun.

Anyone using the “blink” tag will be taken outside and kicked with my big steel toe Timberland boots. And if you install WeatherBug, I’m dragging you to the window and the Old Farmers Almanac instead.

Flexibility. Yes. Has to grow with your group, department, whatever. Even if that means making them a second instance of a product because they are using the hell out of it. I hear Joomla! can, but I have no data. WordPress, yes. Drupal, yes. Blackboard, yes. Ektron..from what I hear, not so much.

I saved the best for last. Freedom. Well, this is tough. Who owns the content? If some yammerhead posts crap, who is to blame? The host? the school/company? The author? This has been a difficult point in all CMS/LCMS items. I’m all for freedom of the press (for more on how a REAL journalist works, go on over to see my buddy Eric’s Blog – The Angry Reporter . The question is “who owns it” and “who pays”. ?

I suggest a middle ground. If a person is posting information for a department, etc. than the owner is the responsible person for the department. If it’s incorrect, false, out of date…we look to that individual to rectify it.

If it’s individual stuff (including learning content)..it’s owned by the AUTHOR. You post good items with good references..yay, nice job. You post some more “difficult” stuff, well, the site admin gets told to take it down and we come for your scalp.

Individual items (like blogs) are the owner’s responsibility, even in an educational setting. If you pop the FERPA rules, you get hit with a 2 x 4. Hard. For pages about a school, college, etc. there should be some oversight to insure that the info is accurate and grammatically correct.

In a perfect world, this would  exist for classroom pages, etc. just for style. Someone competent (snort!) should examine the info for grammar and to insure it’s all the same font, etc. Don’t edit the CONTENT, just the LOOK. Questionable items might be brought to someone’s attention, but it’s a faint smell of censorship, so I’m staying away from there.


But don’t listen to me, go find out for yourself. There is an inherent danger in cloud storage (and I am a Google Docs and Dropbox lover!) when it comes to kid stuff. School admins take note of that! Things like lesson plans, etc. that’s fine. But a student’s name, nope. NEVER. Pictures? NOPE. NEVER. Too many problems with that. Put that stuff in a secured area on your school server. And please, Tech Directors, think VPN.