Friday, 26 September 2008

SharePoint Starts School

Instead of moaning about the Villa’s surprise cup defeat to Queen Park Rangers this week I am going to look at how SharePoint is starting to appear in areas other than the large corporate workplaces. Focusing especailly on the way that SharePoint usage is expanding rapidly in throughout our schools. More and more smaller companies are realising the benefits of storing their important company documents and systems on the magical SharePoint. Possibly discovering that Windows SharePoint Services is available as a ‘free download’ and does around 70% of what full SharePoint (MOSS) does has influenced them. In today’s difficult financial climate a solution like SharePoint which will save businesses money and is fairly inexpensive to install is something worth considering. But it isn’t only businesses who are been introduced to the growing SharePoint world. It seems SharePoint is now for ‘all-ages’ as more schools and colleges move to SharePoint for their information management. Children, teachers and even parents are now being given SharePoint logons (although it is often referred to as ‘The Intranet’). School never used to be like this in ‘my day’ when we got excited if we were allowed to have access to the school’s BBC Computer for one hour on the third Friday of the month. Mind you, schools have changed a lot in thirty years since my days as a Milk Monitor. Things have certainly progressed in education even if unfortunately Grange Hill has now finished and schools appear to be more like the current BBC drama Waterloo Road. So why are schools now starting to see the need for SharePoint? The official Microsoft answer can be found at http://office.microsoft.com/en-gb/sharepointserver/HA102769731033.aspx, but this makes SharePoint seems terribly formal and to a child boring. Today’s children are used to systems like MySpace and YouTube with options of expressing themselves online in so many ways. Perhaps not always good, or particularly safe, ways, but with SharePoint these expressions can be controlled. Children are used to websites that are brightly coloured, full of movement and often with irritating noises. The great thing for schools is that SharePoint can have all of these things as well. With SharePoint Designer adding flash animation to SharePoint is fairly straightforward. The children can also on SharePoint be given their own MySite. This is an individual private area where they can be creative and express their inner feelings, but also it is a ‘controlled’ environment, where the school can moderate exactly who has access to it and at which times. In the UK the Government and Microsoft are working with local Councils to help push SharePoint into schools and an important reason for this is to improve communications between parents and the school. By giving parents a logon to the school’s SharePoint portal a new communication string is open. Many parents know the frustrations of trying to ring a school to finding out how ‘little Johnny’ is doing in his new class. Well, SharePoint can be setup so they can log on any time day, or night, and find out. The option to send questions to appropriate teachers from the child’s SharePoint site can also be configured. When a question is submitted it could kick in a SharePoint automated Workflow that sends an email to the teacher and can then be tracked by the parent. Also parents can have instant access to school calendar dates so they can know when the next Teacher Training day is or the date the of the re-arranged Sports Day. This would save them from having to go through all those old letters in the bottom of their daughter’s P.E. kit bag. You know, the ones that have somehow have been lying there with her unwashed swimming costume for ten days and have unidentifiable mouldy sweets stuck to them. Teachers can also gain many benefits from a good SharePoint system. They can communicate with their students (chase up homework, offer extra reading material), store their lesson notes, share information with colleagues and generally have to cart around less mounds of paper. So how far can schools go with SharePoint? The possibilities are endless perhaps even one day going as far as online exams with virtual teachers. The use of video, interactive whiteboards, automatic language translators, accessibility options (visual or hearing impaired) and mentors could all be incorporated into SharePoint. SharePoint Developers, like Officetalk (I have to mention them each week as they pay my wage), can take all these ideas and more and make them into SharePoint applications. Drop Frank an email at frank.faulds@office-talk.com if you have any ideas for School applications. So with both primary and secondary schools now using SharePoint it certainly is SharePoint for ‘all ages’. The next challenge is get my ninety year old Aunt Sally to start using it. Perhaps they could have interactive SharePoint screens at the Post Office where pensioners could poke the screen with their sticks to select which Post Office service they require. I am not of course suggesting that all old people have sticks as I know many are more active than 41 year olds like me and certainly more mobile than the Villa forward line appeared to be against Queen Park Rangers.
If you came to this blog looking for the FREE CAR SHARING template you are not too late just click on the little car on the right, but hurry as they are running out fast.

6 comments:

Jose Antonio said...

Hello,
My experience working with SharePoint and Schools can be resumed in a few points:

1. WSS doesn't look good.
2. WSS is more powerful and easy to use than open source alternatives.
3. Integration with Microsoft office is important.
4. Picture galleries are important.
5. Giving everybody in the school the possibility of updating information is very important: the cook can publish the menu!

it is also important that support issues are minimized. That can be well managed with a good online Q&A.
In Slovenia more than 15% of the schools are working now with SharePoint for their public facing Web sites. In comparison with their old static HTML Web sites now they are capable of involving parents and that is the ultimate goal.

I would be very glad on sharing information regarding the topic. jose.morales at b4contact.com

stone said...

hello.


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Sumbit Blog

Anonymous said...

Oh dear... I try not to be far from my children so if anything is a problem i can be there.

The thought of using computers to come between me and a childs welfare doesn't 'sit well'.

Is this really a good use of a teachers time?

Thrillster

Dizling said...

What Workflows are Available in WSS 3.0?

The only workflow that comes with WSS 3.0 is designed to be used with Issue Tracking Lists, and is called the Three-State Workflow.

SharePoint

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Angus Mcjockeyfart said...

Gee, how did that last comment get through moderation?
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