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SchoolTool 2012 Report


Hi all,

This is a somewhat edited version of our annual report prepared for Mark
Shuttleworth (our primary funder)


SchoolTool 2012


This was the Year of CanDo.  We completely re-wrote CanDo from the ground
up.  It had been written mostly by high school students, and it was easier
to start over than try to fix it in place.  It needed a new data model to
allow tracking of score revisions over time, UI update to fit SchoolTool's
new design, better support for entering and editing skills through the web,
and many other improvements to make it useful globally as a core feature of

We had to have this ready to be deployed in production in 20 counties
across Virginia this fall, and through close collaboration with our
partners at the Arlington Career Center and Virginia CTE met that deadline
and released CanDo as a standard component of SchoolTool 2.3 in October.

In that process we also spent a lot of time revising core SchoolTool
functionality in response to feedback from Virginia, in particular
re-designing our import spreadsheets to make that process more accessible.

Another big project has been to add an asynchronous task queue for
long-running and scheduled tasks: data imports, report generation, sending
emails, DB maintenance and such.  The groundwork and initial implementation
is done; it will be fully implemented and released in 2013.04.

Douglas learned the D3 JavaScript library and implemented some data
graphics I designed for CanDo.  We will be adding infographics to other
parts of SchoolTool in 2013.

Justas improved support for LDAP authentication.  In particular SchoolTool
can one-click configure itself to work with the standard LDAP configuration
used with Zentyal server (and in turn Edubuntu, if it becomes based on
Zentyal as planned).

There were also many small fixes, changes and refinements following up the
complete re-design of the UI released in November 2011.

Through the end of 2012 we are now focusing on printed reports, bringing
both the plumbing and presentation in line with the rest of SchoolTool and
expanding the selection for teachers and administrators.

Schwadesign did two contracts for us this year, a design guide for printed
reports and a UX review of the setup process.

Jeff Elkner personally funded development of a SchoolTool Quiz module by
Douglas (in the evening and weekends, mostly).  This will probably be made
available in our PPA in 2013.


CanDo continues to be the case study of how a collaboration between a team
of open source developers can work with educators.  It was adopted by
several of the largest (and most open source doubting) counties in Virginia
this year and is playing an increasingly high stakes role in student and
teacher evaluation.  Through much of the summer we held Google Hangouts
between the developers and our lead contacts in VA several times a week.
 On the other hand, CanDo sucked up most of our bandwidth for most of the
year, limiting outreach in other areas.

At this point we have two substantial commercial deployments of SchoolTool
which are fairly opaque to us.  There is the Critical Links Education
Appliance.  We sent Justas to Portugal to help them update the version they
distribute to 2.1.  New this year was the Intelli deployment in the
Philippines, where they are using SchoolTool to manage a system to send SMS
messages to parents based on attendance.  PoV did customization work for

One small commercial deployment in Thailand, via JaanSi.com, has produced a
lot of useful feedback from just one school, and we have managed to release
several fixes to issues they have raised.  Hopefully they will be able to
grow to serve more schools.

We have not found the BIG developing world rollout.  Longstanding
relationships with people in Cambodia and Nigeria continue to be stuck, we
are still in contact periodically.  The promising OLE Nepal pilot conducted
last year concluded that the rural schools where they conducted the tests
simply did not yet have the capacity or need for an online management
system.  We have a number of contacts in other countries, but it is a slow
and uncertain process.  I would note that we are not losing out to other
products in these cases, just that the projects fail to launch.

Based on user contacts, individual school installations have increased, but
not dramatically.

Development Plan for 2013

The main theme is to iterate on existing components and respond to user
requests and bug reports quickly.  There is plenty to do.

We are going to work quickly to get our asynchronous task queue
architecture into the 13.04 repositories.  I do not think we will have to
build additional packages, but we will need to test against some already in

We are looking at JuJu and trying to figure out if a cloud strategy based
around it makes sense for SchoolTool.  We have a basic working charm.


CanDo seems to be the most marketable part of SchoolTool at this point,
particularly among schools that have the wherewithal to implement it and
potentially pay for customization or support.  Now that the code is
settled, we need to focus on documenting and promoting CanDo for US career
and technical education as well as systems using outcomes-based methods

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