Web Based Databases

Last week I mentioned Jotforms, an easy to use web tool for creating simple forms. This week I would like to expand on this idea and talk about online database tools. Basically these are tools similar to traditional desktop databases, except you access them and enter data via a web interface. Because they are accessed through the web, they provide all the advantages of a web-based tool including ubiquitous access and the ability to share data collection and data mining. Two examples of this type of web database are Dabble DB and Zoho Creator. The following example describes the use of Zoho Creator, but the principles and methods described can be applied to any of these web database tools.

Zoho Creator is one of the many web based tools provided by zoho.com. Creator allows you to create any number of web-based data applications. For example one could create a simple form for capturing school custodial work requests. Using the simple form creating interface, you can easily drag and drop fields, arrange them, and create a web form where the information is to be captured. Once the information is entered it can be viewed and searched as with any database. Email alerts can also be established that route the request to specific individuals. In our custodial request example, once a teacher submits a request, an email containing the information is sent automatically to our building custodian, and to the principal.

In addition Zoho Creator allows you to export your data in a number of common formats including PDF, Excel, and tab delimited text. One other very nice feature is the ability to export an RSS file. This RSS file contains the latest entries in the data base. One could imagine having several of these web based data collection tools and using an RSS reader to organize and watch them.

Another use we are exploring is the creation of a data collection tool for classroom walkthroughs and observations. Using one of these web database tools, a principal could easily create a form to capture classroom walkthrough information. Since this is a web based tool one could easily add content from any web accessible device, a laptop, a cellphone, a palm device or an iPhone.

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