TECHNOLOGY TOOLS

Technology To Be Used
This lesson will be about open-source technology. A laptop computer, LCD projector, and intranet connection will be used to present the information. The specific open-source technologies to be used will be the dynamic web page generation programs PHP and MySQL. A dynamic web page is a document that is created "on the fly" while it is being viewed using a database, providing new information and giving visitors a new page every time they visit the site (http://about-the-web.com/shtml/glossary.shtml).

The specific dynamic webpage to be used in this lesson is a discussion board - also called a bulletin board or a forum. There are many good discussion board programs out there, but this lesson will use phpBB. The phpBB program is a highly secure, no cost, easy to use program that has many features that are advantageous to office communication. (http://www.phpbb.com)

Open source technology is defined as a program that 1) allows programmers access to the source code (so that they can freely re-design as necessary); 2) allows a programmer to freely redistribute anything they have designed using this technology; 3) doesn't discriminate against any group, persons, fields of endeavor, other products, or other software; 4) requires no additional licenses to operate; and 5) is technology-neutral. (Bruce Perens, http://www.opensource.org/docs/definition.php)

According to http://www.php.net, PHP is "a widely-used general-purpose scripting language that is especially suited for Web development and can be embedded into HTML." PHP can be used to create dynamic web pages. MySQL is the database program that stores information that PHP uses to construct dynamic pages such as a discussion board.

Technology Setting
This technology will be used in a small company that has several departments. These departments have separate roles, but they all have to work together to complete the overall goal of the company. These departments have to spend countless hours in meetings just to communicate back and forth the basic details that they have been working on.

Class Participants
Co-workers in this office will use this technology to increase the amount of communication while decreasing the amount of time spent in meetings. Most of these co-workers know how to use a web page, but they tend to be hesitant when using new technology such as a discussion board.

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NEED

Instructional Need
Discussion boards exist within our company's intranet set-up, but they are rarely used. Instead, several meetings are called between random combinations of departments to re-communicate the same information to all of the people who need to hear it. In many cases, everyone assumes that someone else is documenting the decisions made and the content that is discussed, resulting in nobody documenting anything and vital time being lost.

Instructional Objective
Participants in this class will demonstrate understanding of a discussion board and how to utilize this technology for intra office communication.

Discussion Boards and Organization Goals
A discussion board can be used to archive large amounts of information, decisions, documents, and discussions. It will remain useful to our company as long as it is well organized and properly used. The goals of our organization will be greatly enhanced by the increase in communication between departments, as well as the decreased amount of time that we spend to archive the communication. The discussion board will contribute to this by centralizing information for everyone to access (Matt Evans, http://www.exinfm.com/virtual/vohelp.html).

Discussion Boards and the Class Participant
The individual participants in this class will benefit from using discussion boards by having greater knowledge of what is happening in company as a whole, as well as having more time to stay on task instead of in repetitive meetings.

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WHO DOES WHAT

Instructor Activities
The instructor will begin the class by generating a discussion about current problems with the company communication system. This will set the tone for the class that something needs to change. The instructor will then give a brief basic level summary of open source technology. The purpose of explaining this will help participants realize that their input is very valuable ­ if they see something that needs to change, open source technology can allow the flexibility for those changes. The instructor will then use the LCD projector to show the participants the basic set-up and structure of the discussion board.

Next, the instructor will show participates how to register and use the discussion board. Participants should also be taught how to determine which forum in the discussion board to post to, how to search the discussion board for specific information, and how to attach documents to a discussion board post. If time allows, the instructor can go into advanced topics such as user groups and avatars.

Finally, the instructor will answer any questions and lead a brief brainstorm session to create forum and topics areas for the discussion board.

Student Activities
First students will participate in the initial and final discussions. Students will also be required to learn how to use the discussion board, so note taking will be encouraged. Students will then be given a worksheet that lists the tasks they need to complete on their own over the next week. These tasks will include registering, searching, posting, and brainstorming ideas for the board.

Images:
Discussion board log in screen
Discussion board main page
Viewing a post in a discussion board
Creating a discussion board post

Objectives In This Lesson
This lesson will require participants to learn about discussion boards and how to use them to improve office communication. Students will get to ask questions and explore the discussion board on their own. Students will also get to participate in updating the structure of the discussion board.

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ASSESSMENT INSTRUMENT (RUBRIC)


  0 points 10 points 15 points 20 points
Participation No participation Makes one comment Makes two comments Makes more than two comments
Basic tasks No tasks completed Registers successfully Reads one post and answers question on worksheet Reads two or more posts and answers question on worksheet for each post
Posting a message No posts Makes one post (prints out results) Makes one post in the proper location (prints out results) Makes one post in the proper location with an attachment (prints out results)
Searching Posts No searches Performs one search with one word queries (prints out results) Performs one search with multiple word queries (prints out results) Performs two or more searches with multiple word queries (prints out results)
Brainstorming ideas No brainstorming Submits an idea (on worksheet) Submits an idea that relates to the discussion board (on worksheet) Submits two or more ideas that relate to the discussion board (on worksheet)

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

All-About-The-Web: Glossary of Internet Terms. January 2005. Retrieved March 22, 2005, from the World Wide Web: http://about-the-web.com/shtml/glossary.shtml
This page is great place to look for almost any words that have to do with the Internet or web technology.

Evans, Matt. Virtual Office: Help Page. Retrieved March 23, 2005, from the World Wide Web: http://www.exinfm.com/virtual/vohelp.html
Mr. Evanšs online office is a good example of how a company can use the Internet to improve their office communication.

Perens, Bruce. The Open Source Definition: Version 1.9. Retrieved March 22, 2005, from the World Wide Web: http://www.opensource.org/docs/definition.php
This article gives a detailed account of requirements that program must meet in order for it to be considered true open source technology.

PHP.net: Index Page. March 2005. Retrieved March 22, 2005, from the World Wide Web: http://www.php.net/
PHP.net is the home for the PHP programming language. This site has source code, tutorials, FAQ, and several other tools to help build PHP programs.

Phpbb.com: Features Page. 2003. Retrieved March 24, 2005, from the World Wide Web: http://www.phpbb.com/features.php
Phpbb is a popular open source discussion board program. It is also well documented and supported, making it very secure and easy to use.

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