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...
Pre- 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
- they are comfortable with CSS and have the time to edit it or
- 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.
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...
...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
- use the dozen default themes Moodle offers you or
- 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...