Thursday, April 24, 2008

SchoolTool Spring 2008 (Hardy) Release Notes

The Spring 2008 release of SchoolTool is the final snapshot or "alpha" release of SchoolTool prior to SchoolTool 1.0, scheduled for April 2009. The next major release will be SchoolTool 1.0 beta, in October 2008. As an alpha snapshot, the Spring 2008 release is incomplete, but provides an update on the current status of the project. Of particular note is the implementation of a complete build/package/distribution tool chain via which allows non-technical users of Ubuntu Linux to have a running student information and calendaring system with a few simple commands, and which automatically builds and pushes software updates via Ubuntu's package manager. This release includes: Calendar -- SchoolTool's calendaring features have been further refined. SchoolTool provides web-based and iCalendar compliant calendaring services, including a school-wide shared calendar and individual calendars for persons, groups and resources, such as the library or a computer lab. We provide unique integration for a wide range of school timetables, including rotating schedules. Resource Booking -- Integrated into our calendar are tools to find available shared resources within a school and manage reservations. Journal -- An integrated gradebook and attendance log of the style used by classroom teachers in Eastern Europe. The journal allows a teacher to assign each student a score or indicate an absence for each meeting of a section. The journal uses AJAX to quickly update individual scores without refreshing the entire page. The Journal will be the basis of SchoolTool's attendance system. Demographics -- By default, SchoolTool now tracks a small set of data about each student. We've worked on making this extensible and customizable, and future releases will have a more comprehensive default demographics schema. Navigation -- SchoolTool's navigation paradigm has been redesigned for much greater ease of use. Coming attractions: in addition to the above components, we are currently working with schools to develop and test an "American style" gradebook, a competency tracking system (CanDo), and an intervention tracking and narrative report system. These tools will appear in future "core" SchoolTool releases or as add-on components. We will also be creating many web and .pdf reports for all this data. Administrative features:
  • Installation and updating via Ubuntu package management.
  • Proper init scripts for controlling startup/shutdown.
  • Installation conforms to Debian practices; files are in standard locations.
  • Custom access control policy for SchoolTool allocates permissions based on group membership or relationships.
  • Access control partially customizable through the web.
  • Automatic generation of large-scale sample data for testing.
  • Data import through CSV files or custom Python scripts (LDAP and CAS single sign on support under development).
  • Server control and database maintenance via the web.
  • Uses Ubuntu package-managed Python 2.4, Zope 3.4 and Paste.
  • Full i18n and unicode support throughout. Existing translations are out of date, but will be updated in coming months via Rosetta on
  • SchoolTool is now a WSGI application, allowing the use of any WSGI-compliant web server, including Apache with mod_wsgi, and WSGI middleware.
Backward compatibility: Unfortunately, SchoolTool 2008 is NOT compatible with previous SchoolTool Calendar and SchoolBell releases. Given the long delay between releases, there were extensive internal changes not only to SchoolTool itself, but also to Zope 3, which rendered backward compatibility support quite expensive. Given our limited development resources and the small size of the legacy SchoolTool userbase, we reluctantly decided not to attempt to support backward compatibility. Forward compatibility: Given that this is an alpha release, which should not be trusted in production use, we may not support full forward compatibility to October's beta release. We have to focus on completing the basic feature set. From that point on, we will support forward compatibility into production versions of SchoolTool 1.0. Installation: For the forseeable future we are only supporting deployment on Ubuntu Linux (currently, Gutsy and Hardy). Since we aim to support installation by school personnel, we need to require a relatively controlled environment that we understand intimately. In 2008, it is usually easier to install Ubuntu on a server or virual machine than to manually install and maintain the host of libraries required by SchoolTool on a system where they aren't under package management. 1) Add SchoolTool's Launchpad PPA to your Software Sources. Either manually edit /etc/apt/sources.list or go to the System menu, select Software Sources and select the Third-Party Software tab. Add these lines: If you're running gutsy: deb gutsy main deb-src gutsy main If you're running hardy: deb hardy main deb-src hardy main 2) Update your software list. Either type "sudo apt-get update" in a Terminal or, if you've got the Synaptic package manager installed, go to System > Administration > Synaptic Package Manager, launch it, and click "Reload." 3) Install schooltool-2008 Either type "sudo apt-get install schooltool-2008" in a terminal (and answer "y" to the subsequent questions), or in Synaptic search for "schooltool-2008", select it for installation, and hit "Apply." If all goes well, many, many small Zope components will be installed and you'll have a SchoolTool server running on http://localhost:7080. The login is "manager" and the default password is "schooltool".

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