Earlier this week, Grant sent me a tweet with a link to a project that he and Brian have been working on, and it is exactly in line with my musings lately around an open web edtech infrastructure.
What Grant and Brian have done is take a whack of current open web infrastructure platforms and launched an open edtech web playground for BC edtechies to try out.
In the backend there is the UBC hosted higher ed virtualized cloud services EduCloud, a fully FIPPA compliant cloud hosting service. On top of this, Docker containers running Sandstorm, a web application platform that has, as a primary goal, making the deployment of web applications as easy as installing an app on a smart phone. One click and you have a fully functioning web application, like Etherpad or WordPress.
While this development stack is mighty impressive in that it represents a very modern web workflow, it is Sandstorm that holds real interest to me because it allows you to build customized web apps that can be deployed with the click of a button. This is incredibly powerful as it allows you to define the defaults of programs that you want to deploy, and controlling the defaults often means controlling how a user interacts with an application. This is powerful.
Say, for example, that you wanted to make a number of different WordPress installations available to your faculty, each with a separate set of defaults, plugins or themes enabled by default. Theoretically, you could create a Sandstorm SPK file (via Vagrant) for the different versions of WordPress you wanted to make available to your users and let them decide which version they wanted to install. Want the standard blog platform? Here is the WordPress button. Want Pressbooks? Here is the Pressbooks button. All deployable with the click of a button.
Well, that is my working theory of how this works right now. How it works when I actually dig deeper into the system may vary from this high level conceptualization. But if this stack works like I think it works, this will make an excellent platform for the simple deployment of customized web applications where the default is set to “education”.
We really need to come up with a proper way to recognize the technical wizardry of Grant Potter. Maybe a medal?