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CGI Scripts for the Electronic Classroom

A Presentation at the Teaching with Technology Symposium
West Chester University, Pennsylvania
May 7, 1998

I am not a computer scientist; I'm a librarian by training, and a college instructor by inclination. Among other things, I teach courses in [archived at the Wayback Machine - 2009] using the Internet at local colleges. The librarian in me wants to make all of my resources as available as possible to my students, and the teacher in me wants to explore all avenues of approach in creating these resources for my students. I've tried many approaches to incorporating the Internet into the courses I teach, and CGI scripts have proved to be some of the most effective, and fun, tools for teaching that I've found.

What is CGI?

CGI, Common Gateway Interface, is not a language, it is a "gateway" between little programs that run and perform neat tricks and the hypertext server. CGI scripts are written in a variety of languages, including C, Basic, and Perl. All of the scripts I use are written in Perl, and I believe it is most common language used.

Web pages written in HTML are static -- they do not change. CGI allows interactivity. With CGI you can have fill-out forms, page counters, search engines and other nifty tricks.

Examples of CGI Use in Teaching

Here are a few CGI script examples and how I use them.

  • Security Issues
  • CGI scripts are a two-edged sword. They can present a security risk, but they're so useful that it is worth the trouble to make sure the scripts are safe to use. The danger in CGI scripts is that they are executable programs that allow direct access to the server.

    The best way to be sure the scripts you use are safe is to ask your system administrator or some other trusted programmer to review them. Selena Sol, a terrific CGI programmer and the Online Services Coordinator at the Electronic Frontier Foundation has written an excellent essay on CGI security issues. The NCSA has a collection of security tips and hints. The offers a FAQ on Web security that includes very clear explanations of security ricks associated with CGI.

    Keep track of where your scripts come from and keep an eye on those sites for updates and improvements.

  • Where are the script archives? - links not checked for Some Time

  • Second Session

    Live Action! Setting up a fill out-form.

    How to make a fill-out form.
    Last Edited: 11 Mar 2012