Monday, February 13, 2006

Karma Chameleon

Sometimes I just miss the really obvious, the really nice, the really useful things... and then I browse around the new Moodle documentation wiki and get back to something approaching everyone else's speed.
From a LEA point of view, the new Chameleon Theme looks to be, as my grandparents used to say, the mutt's nuts...
CulturedPre- Moodle 1.5.n, editing themes was a bit of a mish-mash - there was so much non-CSS formatting strewn about the place that you had no real idea if any changes you made to CSS would stick or be swept away by a rogue <font>tag. Then came 1.5, with it's simpler-yet-somehow-more-complex four css files and some other stuff that most people didn't quite get. A vast improvement, but from where I sit it's going to be difficult to allow each school to edit things how they want, unless

  1. they are comfortable with CSS and have the time to edit it or
  2. they fancy a correspondence course in formatting a web site - with me making some changes and them nodding or shaking their head to each one.
Also, we don't really want to allow schools FTP access to their Moodle folders - so much potential for disaster there (it's bad enough when I have that sort of access) - so short of some fancy server configuration we need something better.
The Chameleon theme uses Ajax - the magic dust that powers, among others, Google Maps and Google Mail - to take anyone wanting to customise their Moodle theme to something approaching...
Ker-ching!...essentially, once logged in to the Chameleon test web site (username and password are both chameleon), shift-click on the page and you can interactively edit the theme, change it, rip it down, redo it, whatever... It does currently require a brief understanding of CSS selectors, but the front page of the Chameleon site indicates that it will be simplified a lot.
So why is this good news? Well, with potentially dozens (if not hundreds) of individual Moodles in any moderately-sized LEA or RBC, the overhead for customising them or making them individual to each school or institution could be huge. Up until now our preferred options would have been
  1. use the dozen default themes Moodle offers you or
  2. create a portfolio of basic ones suitable for primary and / or secondary schools and allow schools to pick from any of those.

Chameleon (which is "just another" Moodle theme and will appear in the roster of available themes under a standard Moodle install) would appear to allow us to delegate any theme-tweaking to schools that want it themselves - and hopefully, if the system is made even smoother and easy to use, they wouldn't need to know much depth of HTML / CSS / etc. in order to make it work. 1.6 is due out in beta at the end of the month...

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant! Ajax CSS for the unwashed masses - looks like you can devote your time to other, more important, things now Ian...