[schooltool-dev] Configuration issues for schools

Tim Holy tim.holy at gmail.com
Sat Feb 7 21:11:03 UTC 2009

Hi Tom,

On Sat, Feb 7, 2009 at 1:13 PM, Tom Hoffman <tom.hoffman at gmail.com> wrote:

> Frankly, the best idea I can think of is to just have SchoolTool
> manage this data for you and work out how to exchange it over XML.

I think this is moving in the right direction. Are you envisioning some kind
of real-time interaction, or do you just mean through an agreed-upon set of
XML configuration files? Any kind of real-time interaction makes SchoolTool
a dependency for TuxMath. (Presumably, if I turned the tables on you, you'd
be reluctant to introduce code that makes it necessary to have TuxMath
running in order to run SchoolTool.) I worry that realtime interaction also
makes things more fragile, and at the moment I don't see a compelling need
for it.

I'd favor a set of open standards, which SchoolTool or any other program
could support. If that's a set of XML files, so be it.

However, I personally see numerous advantages in having SchoolTool and
TuxMath interact primarily via the filesystem:
1. We need a place to put data anyway---why not just make it a
mutually-agreed upon set of directories?
2. TuxMath and most other educational software already has the ability to
read files, but few can parse XML.
That said, it's not like I'd rule out the use of XML if there were a
compelling reason, and see below for some possible candidates.

My main thoughts for possible roles for SchoolTool (or any other management
software) would be:
1. Easy configuration. You already have all the sudents and teachers
assigned to grades/classrooms (right?), and so we should use that
information to inform TuxMath and other software about these relationships.
Currently, our "tuxmathadmin" program creates the directory hierarchy I
described from a comma-separated-value (CSV) file; if nothing else,
SchoolTool could save the appropriate data to the CSV file and run
tuxmathadmin. There are additional issues about adding/deleting/moving
students, but those would be pretty trivial to solve.
That works for TuxMath, but part of my interest in this discussion is to see
if other educational software would be interested in making use of the same
directory hierarchy (there has been some cautious interest from GCompris).
If so, we should try to come up with reasonable standards.
2. A more sophisticated and frequent task would be reporting. Currently,
tuxmath saves data about how students do on the lessons. But we don't yet
have a GUI yet for visualizing that data. Is that something that we should
write as a standalone program (and we are considering doing so), or is that
the kind of thing that might be a module in SchoolTool or other program? I
can see advantages either way. What are your thoughts?
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