There was a request for an online organizer for a special needs student through which assignments and schedules can be managed. It also needs to allow input or interaction by the student’s resource teacher. PageFlakes came to mind with its slick flexible interface complete with calendars, to-do lists, and rss feeds. The interface would be motivating and the students ability to customize would engender ownership. The problem is the Terms of Service requiring that users be over 13.
I had to search for quite awhile before finding anything that meets these needs. I finally encountered Posh, an open source AJAX powered web portal created by Portaneo. Posh installs through the standard download, unpack, upload routine and is attached to a mySQL database through the web installer. I found the SVN in the repository, but it did not appear to be up to date. Installation went fine, although a whole bunch of cryptic errors were thrown when it created the database. I went on anyway and all appears to work fine.
The administrative interface seemed fine, although the French language appears here and there where they missed translating one thing or another. More on administration in a future post.
Posh comes with a default page view that displays all the default widgets (The original clock displayed in French, I had to hack in the English):
Each of the widgets can be moved by dragging and dropping them to various position of the page falling (by default into 3 columns. Mousing over the header bar of each widget brings up options to configure, refresh, or delete the widget. Starting in the upper left column is the Bookmark widget. Click on Add a Bookmark and you get this:
Type in a name, url, and tags, then click add.
Note the pop down menu that lets you find bookmarks by keyword tags. Very handy if you have many bookmarks!
The next notable widget is the calendar–which goes further in that it is more of a planner/scheduler. Click Add Event:
Give your event a title and add a comment if desired. Dates and time can be set simply. Once added, dates on the calendar with events show in gray. Mouse over the date and the event and time appear. Pretty handy for managing long terms assignments or marking dates of tests, etc.
In the middle column, there is a basic notepad, a decent calculator, and a widget to check your pop email account. I didn’t get the email working, but I didn’t try too hard because I am not really looking for that functionality.
The final column of the default layout includes a To-do list that allows one to enter events and a comment. Mouse over the event and you see the comment. It would be nice if the list linked in some way with the calendar.
The is also an analogue clock and a reasonably functional Contact list.
On the menu bar to the upper right side of the page is an option to “Add Widget.” Click on that and the following box appears on the left side of the page:
As you can see there are options to add widgets from the library, and most importantly to add rss feeds as widgets. Just type in the rul for the feed and click go. It checks for the feed and if successful it offers to add it to the page (click to enlarge):
Once you tell it to add the widget, it appears on the page. Of course, you can drag and drop it where ever you like.
Click on an article and a beautiful rss reader appear on the page (click to enlarge):
It includes options to view in the reader or in a new window.
There are also more widgets on the portaneo site including Weather, Google Search, gmail, an English/French translator, and more.
There is also an enterprise edition of this software. It attempts to be a sort of intranet social platform. While I haven’t fully explored this variant, I do like the notebook feature which allows a user to keep notes or snippets of web pages on a separate window. I could see this useful for online research couple with the bookmarks and feeds.
Overall, I think Posh will meet our needs. It is a little rough around the edges with French appearing in the English version, a few quirks to the interface, and a few items that don’t yet work as they should. Nonetheless, I will be taking a deeper look into this in the future. I have a feeling this could be very useful in an educational setting.