Hi there,

Long silence on this list explained by my move to NZ (a fantastic country) and a new job. I am now developer/programmer in a company that specializes in innovation in education.

In that context, I will have to write the specifications for a redesign of a website that is all about providing information to teachers about software they could be interested to use to support their teaching or their students' learning.

I have already meddled with that on my own time. Some of you may have already come across the gallery widgets and web 2.0 applications for learning that I maintain on my private website.

I would be most interested to get as much input as I can from teachers about what their needs and expectations are. Frankly, it is to your own benefit. Somebody will be paying for the work and an experienced company will be carrying out that work. However, the end result will be a website that is publicly accessible. If you can influence the content or the ease of searching of that website, you win.

What your needs are may be too vague a question. It is perhaps easier for you to have a look at the current "software for learning" website and tell me all reasons why you don't like it or it doesn't work for you. It can be the design (you hate the color scheme), the usability (impossible to locate anything... takes hours to get the info you want), the content (resources that you expected to be listed there were not). Anything you can think of.

Also, if you know of websites providing a similar service or education website that you find particularly well designed and well thought, please provide a link to these.

Many thanks in advance

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Thanks for checking that out. I am primarily interested in general structure.

Feedback on how specific sections within that structure, like the "snapshots of learning" one, that proposes screenshots capturing the software in use in a classroom environment are welcome. My priority, however, will be first to come up with a good structure and presentation of the information for the listing of software. Indeed, what could be added in terms of functionality or how the information could be presented.

On what could be added in terms of software to be listed, feel free to use the link suggest software. You will come across a section that mentions "relevance to NZ curriculum"... if this doesn't apply to you, skip that step. To be honest, it's not clear that teachers of any country can contribute. Let's bring up the issue. I personally think there are important benefits at targeting teachers across borders.

What I can have direct influence on is the redesign of the website (look and feel and information structure). My own opinion on the website is that it looks like a website designed in the early 90s (the truth is that the current design dates from at least 8 years). A lot of efforts clearly went into it but I find it not practical at all to use. Despite the usefulness of the resources listed there, usage is not that great. The number of resources is not that great either, which suggests that only a limited number of teachers bother sending suggestions.

Better can be done in terms of attractiveness and ease of use. I am interested in the feedback and criticisms from teachers.
They do assist greatly. You spotted a few things that had escaped me.

1. Title or publisher, I fully agree.
2. Level was not that relevant for the generic types of software they were listing... but this listing would gain to be expanded in content.
3. New Zealand is supportive of the Use of Open Source in Education (New Zealand Open Source Society, FOSS). Linux should be added indeed.
4. Demoware, indeed, I had failed to spot that one.
5. Ratings, yup, I consider rating. I also consider alternative measures that don't depend on user participation like the number of clicks on that item (number of time teachers required to see the full description). I have come across interesting ratings on a website about web 2.0 awards: Usability, usefulness, social aspects, interface & Design, content quality. I will see if it is possible to come up with similar multiple ratings that work across a variety of software. If I could get data about the number of licenses purchases or install in school, that would provide more objective data. Starting to be a bit overkill, perhaps.
6. Minimum specs, totally agree.
7. Off site vs in site, yes, the difference should be clearly indicated and there should never be off-site linking from the title link. Consistency of behavior is of prime importance.
8. Point taken.
9. Great suggestion. It's not clear whether I can count on much participation (they have a forum "teacher talks" with only a few regulars). But making the editing of specs easier is a bonus. It wouldn't be wiki though but a CMS backend that offers similar functionalities.


On the situation in the US, I can't comment. Similar initiatives are taken in various countries. Becta, in the UK, provides its own listing of software relevant to schools.

On other ideas I have had. Provide information on the file size (some apps like Poser take 200MB). Add a link "related software" or freeware alternative for commercial software (for photoshop, present Gimp as a freeware alternative)..

Anyway, I am putting some of my notes and links I come across when doing a bit of research for this project, on my personal wiki.
After looking at the site here are a few quick ideas you may wish to consider!

Listing Open Source software and websites by subject would be helpful. It would fit well with how we use delcious to bookmark our favorite sites.

Picture icons for headings would add color, interest and provide an easier user interface, at the very least you could use color codes.

Try featuring a website or different software application each week and then allow teachers to comment under the articles along the lines of a blog.

Your Page header needs more color and should have an easy to recognize Logo

Just my humble opinion since you asked
That's all very good comments.

Listing by subject is on my list. I would like to implement an ajax interface, whereby you can restrict or expand the listing by ticking a box next to each subject on the top of the screen. I will have to double check that it pass the accessibility constraints.

On my list is also to separate this very very vague and poorly informative "Type" column into separate columns. Contents (animation, audio, graphics, etc.), Instruction :: Method (activity building, drill and practice, etc.) & Subject (Mathematics, Literacy, etc.), Technology :: Environment (web, pc, mobile) & OS (mac, windows, linux, webapp) & Software type (presentation, programming, word processing, etc.). Showing these different categories could help the user get an idea of what is available. Making it possible to search by any combination of these categories could also speed up and facilitate search (there seems to be too often an assumption in educational website that the user would be ready to spend 1 hour reading each single entry to try and find out whether the resource is of any interest.... well other webdesigners know that that time limit is well under 5 minutes... I will aim at making it possible to find the information you look for within 1 minute).

I was thinking that it may be good to increase the immediacy of information by providing the start of the description, cut to 255 characters under the name of the software.

Could you be more explicit for picture icons for headings. Could it be that you mean picture icons for categories (an icon for mathematics, an icon for graphics, etc.)

On a different software each week. Excellent idea. On my list was replace the single "new" with a list of the 10 last added. Your idea is even better. I am under the impression that there is a person dedicated to this resource and I know that the company is responsible for the publication of the edGazette, so it's worth what the options are to make it more "alive" / ever changing. A review of a software could be material for both the monthly gazette and the website.

The header is shared through all TKI website. In the development version, more modern banners have been designed (more web 2.0 style).

Easy to recognize logo depends on how much they want this website stand for itself. Even if they are not keen to individualize this section, a more telling picture could indeed enhance the page.

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Anybody checked out the "compare" option? Do you find it any useful?

What about options to rate or comments. Would teachers take the time to do that. What are the websites in which you tend to take the time to comment and the ones where you can't bother?

Keep them coming
I'm jealous! I would love that job.

There seems to be a lot of interesting things happening in education in NZ lately, loads of ICT integration. Can't wait to see where it all leads. I was born in NZ but live & teach in Aussie so have an interest in all things NZ.

As far as the site goes:

* The design seems a little dated. Perhaps the readability could be improved with more whitespace.

* How about a simple Digg style voting system where teachers give their tick of approval for a resource. That would open up possibilities like "10 most popular resources of the week", etc. Has a lower barrier of entry and investment for the users than a full ratings system.

* What about a discussion page associated with each resource where teachers could leave comments, reviews, etc.

* To be honest I didn't find the compare feature that useful.

* I also agree with the points that indigo and kelley mentioned.

Maybe you could review Termites once the site is up and running ;)

Cheers,
Richard

http://tinyrock.com
Well, I do love that job ;-).

On Digg, not bad idea, there is an open source product, pligg that let you have a digg infrastructure at no cost. Problem is we need to integrate within another CMS, so we can't use pligg. Rating is a good thing to have though.

Comments are good practice to.

Is Termites a project of yours? The website looks great!
Yip, Termites is one of my projects. The plan is to release some of my software under the Tiny Rock brand. Thanks for the complement, I've tried to keep it clean, simple, and clear.

Been getting a fairly good response to the release, building traffic has turned out to be more difficult than I anticipated though! It's all worth it just for the buzz of seeing other teachers use my software to get their classes a bit more manageble.

It's great to see you getting genuine input from the community. Can't wait to see the results.

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