Tag Archive for maru-a-pula

What I learned about technology from a Botswana marimba band

Every kid there is on Facebook, like here.

Many of the kids bought phones just for the two week stay — lots of texting.

Our Facebook page helped engage fans at the rate of 50 interactions per week. The students, however, didn’t post on our wall.

All of the electronic event bulletin boards in the world still cannot turn people out like a single Arts section headline article in the local paper.

Two of the group bought computers to take back home, one of them a netbook.

I had regular, real-time email exchanges with Botswana in the morning and at night.

Our touring vans had wireless Internet and a xbox (when running).

Google Maps Mobile was absolutely indispensable when driving from place to place.

I found it easy to set up advance ticket sales within just a few minutes per event.

It was equally easy and inexpensive to lay out programs, posters, business cards, and even a six-foot vinyl banner in InDesign and send to a copy shop for production.

It was even easier to produce hundreds of t-shirts but much harder to sell them.

Recording from a theater’s sound board straight into GarageBand was more effective than using a portable audio recorder (thank you Overlake theater tech!).

The CD replication shop accepted MP3 files by FTP and replicated the CD in two days! They printed the CD surface and sleeve a few days ahead of time.

Our small Canon videocamera captured much higher quality video than our Flip, at under double the price.

I feel like I witnessed the launch of the iPad in slow-motion across three states, as I encountered people who had just received their orders.

I saw a surprising number of cracked iPhone screens in various people’s homes, all of the devices still in use.

Obsessing about music, Botswana, and schools for two weeks helps put educational technology in proper perspective.

    Elgg as Alumni Web Site, Part 2

    Last week, I got frustrated with attempting to modify Elgg core code to make cosmetic changes. There were two problems. First, the language settings are only partially abstracted, so the text strings that appear within Elgg are actually hard-coded within core code. Second, text strings are spread out throughout different parts of the Elgg directory structure, so items are often hard to find. Contrast this with the east of modification of Moodle or phpBB, as I have found in the past. Hopefully, the good folk within the Elgg development team will abstract the language file soon, making it easier to use Elgg for a wide range of purposes such as an alumni web site.

    I was dead in the water until I discovered this command-line trick from Rob Fisher to perform full-text searches of the Elgg codebase.

    grep -lir "some text" *

    I put each of the strings I wanted to change through this command to find the variety of locations on the server where the revelant items were located.

    MAP alumni

    I made a number of changes to make the site more useful as an alumni web site.

    • Changed all mention of “blog” to “post.” Most users won’t actually be blogging here but rather posting occasional updates on there whereabouts and activities. I didn’t want to scare off prospective participants with a loaded term that didn’t really match the purpose of the site.
    • Removed “Dashboard” and “Resources” to simplify the site and narrow its focus. Test users were confused about the purpose of these two items. Remote RSS feeds didn’t work anyway due to fopen() being disabled at Dreamhost. I would like to get this working one day.
    • Made graphic design shorter and more people-oriented (based on Northern stock template).
    • Provided some explanatory information on home page for logged-in users.
    • Eliminated “public” restriction type and made “logged in users” default. (Because this is a closed network, posts are not “public.”

    One outstanding question is what to do about RSS feeds on a private site. Ideally, some users will follow the site through RSS feeds. But with the “walled garden” setting turned on, RSS feeds don’t work. One solution is to make the site wide open, though this won’t necessarily best serve the alumni who want to freely chat with each other without posting lots of information in a public space. Another is to modify code so that RSS feeds are public though the rest of the site is not. This is probably the best solution.

    I still have not heard of other schools using Elgg for an alumni web site, though I did find that the Elgg development team certainly has it in mind: Elgg Alumni Spaces. I wonder what code modifications they are up to?