New York’s Wayne-Finger Lakes Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) has teamed up with Xerox Corp. to deploy the company’s advanced knowledge-sharing software, DocuShare, across the region’s school systems. The new system is saving time and improving communication between districts and educators, its users say.

DocuShare is a web-based document management system that allows users to easily store, access, and share information in an interactive work environment. School personnel who aren’t familiar with hypertext markup language (HTML) can pass along information on the district’s intranet without having to go through a web master or site administrator first.

All items stored on DocuShare are organized using nested folders, called “collections.” Items such as files, calendars, bulletin boards, and web links can be stored in these collections—and can appear in more than one collection at a time—while remaining easy to access through DocuShare’s search features.

The software also features a “What’s New” component, where new additions can easily be checked. It has a search function that lets users find items by keywords or attributes, and it features a table of contents for easy navigation.

Because it’s web-based, DocuShare does not require the purchase of specialized software, as it can be used from any standard web browser on any computer platform and operating system from which internet access is available. This means that DocuShare minimizes cross-platform problems and allows schools using Macs and PCs to interface, according to Jack McCabe, assistant superintendent for curriculum and technology at Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES.

In addition to these characteristics, DocuShare includes Windows Client, which enables users to download and install a Windows feature so they can drag and drop files to DocuShare as though it were a mapped drive. Innovative templating files allow users to customize DocuShare’s web browser to blend with their current web presence. The system also can run huge Oracle databases.

DocuShare can be used at two levels. As a guest, users can view and browse the community repository, but they cannot create collections or edit documents. As a logged-in user, you can create collections, files, and objects, submit information to the repository, and edit information.

All these features mean that teachers, administrators, and anyone else provided with a passcode and at least some level of access can view the documents they need to see related to their child’s school or district. Teachers can use the system to set up homework helplines and classroom web pages where students can go to get assignments.

According to McCabe, there are significant benefits to using a document sharing platform in schools: “First, it is very simple to use. And second, as a tool it allows the user to discover different applications related to document management and sharing information among users.”

Practically, it allows teachers to share curricula and lesson plans and gives them access to other class information, and it allows committees and groups to have their own virtual workspace. “DocuShare can provide a back-up to school web pages. This is where important information can be disseminated,” added McCabe.

Docushare also allows educators to use their time more effectively, because they can review the documents posted by other users directly on the site. This way, there is less need to call time-consuming meetings.

“There’s an illusion of education in schools around hardware, with the attached inference that high-tech schools are those with high-tech hardware,” McCabe said.

But, according to McCabe, the most critical issue is whether educators have training and access to the technology available to them: “The real innovation is to create tools and structure which inspire learning and higher productivity. DocuShare helps bring people into the community of users.”

McCabe also values DocuShare for its cost-effectiveness. Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES bought an unlimited license for around $25,000—and the system serves 80,000 students throughout the BOCES, as well as 8,500 teachers, administrators, and staff.

Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES

http://www.wflboces.org

Xerox Corp.

http://www.xerox.com

Docushare

http://docushare.xerox.com/marketing/ index.shtml