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From the Classroom: Remixing Wikis with Rendezvous, Web Services and SchoolTool
Tom Hoffman, Manager, SchoolTool
Tim Lauer, Principal, Lewis Elementary School

Date: Wednesday, March 16
Time: 11:30am - 11:45am
Location: California Ballroom B & C

At Lewis Elementary School in Portland, Oregon, Principal Tim Lauer's teachers are supporting the writing process in their classroom using wikis in a unique configuration. David Heinemeier Hansson's Ruby-based Instiki wiki has been installed on fourth and fifth grade teachers' iBooks. Apple's Rendezvous integration advertises each teacher's wiki's location to the school network, easily found by students via Safari's bookmark toolbar. Simple wiki editing allows the 9 and 10 year old students to focus their efforts on writing instead of navigating file servers and word processor interfaces. Security is simple and empowers the teacher: the wiki is only accessible locally and when it isn't being used, it is turned off. The existing social dynamic and rules of the classroom are emphasized--sign your name at the top of the page, don't mess with things that don't belong to you--instead of technical strictures. Once a writing project is completed, it can be exported as static HTML and published to the public website.

SchoolTool, an open source management information system, combined with a few additions to Instiki's Ruby scripts, can streamline the process further. An XML web services interface provides up to date class rosters, prepopulating assignment pages with links for each class and student. SchoolTool is emerging as a hub for this kind of loosely coupled application in schools. With wikis and their kin, Rendezvous, web services, and a few judicious scripts tying everything together, we can envision a new intranet operating system for schools that'll actually make life easier for teachers, students, and administrators.

Hoffman discusses the project's evolution and implementation within a distinct social context.

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