Elgg – an intro or A teacher, A techie, A flower making bask(i)et

So it doesn’t rhyme… That’s one of the things I love about writing my own blog… no one to tell me I’m being silly and unprofessional – well, except me, but I don’t listen to that voice very often.

Nice Saturday afternoon here on the East Coast, and a very interesting day of talking to some very nice people in Europe about the upcoming nordic conference, and how to make money at this edtech stuff… I have a ton of things i’m playing around with, which is part of what makes all this so fun. One of the things that keeps coming up on my radar screen is Elgg. For those of you who listen to the webcast/podcast, you know that I am very fond of the program for many reasons. As Harold Jarche said on the brainstorm on Thursday night “elgg is the first program to really invert the paradigm, to allow the user to create their environment, to choose to create their own groups etc…(pardon the pitiful paraphrase harold)” So…

Who the %$@ am I to talk about it?
Contrary to what people might imagine considering how much I talk about this program, i have no formal affiliation to the elgg community. I’m a teacher and an edtech who started looking for software for my own students a few years ago, and just came across this in a conversation with Nick Noakes in edtechtalk #5. I installed it, instantly liked it, and have been playing with it ever since. I’m currently edteching for 2 installations, both K-12, teaching a university level course with it as an adjunct to moodle(comparing its usage to blogger in a comparable class) and hopefully will be a member of it in another, continuing-ed context. Four elggs, four different situations. I have experience, not knowledge. This is not meant to be a definitive post, but more the opening of a conversation on four fronts, with pieces filled in as I go.

What is it?
Elgg is, in the words of its founders, a personal learning landscape. In the words of others, it’s a multiuser blogging platform with FOAF capacities, and still others an e-portfolio platform. It supports tagging and podcasting, as well as RSS. The elgg.net installation has a couple of thousand members, and is by far the largest installation i know about. It’s being used for communication between professionals in companies, for students in a classroom, as a meeting community for people of various interests, as a blogging platform, and as an eportfolio environment. It has a couple of really cool features which facilitate this, everytime you post to the site or add a file, you can mark it as public, restricted(to a particular group) or private. It also very easily facilitates the creation of impromptu groups by people who are members of the site allowing for a very natural layout, controlled by users. It will not grade tests for you, or allow you a great deal of control over other members of the site.

A teacher
This is something that I have just started, and I actually moved the class to a computer lab for the first go at it. They registered and were up in about 10 minutes. They posted quite easily… and seemed to have a good time for a first day, I’ll update as we go.

It can offer some much needed security if you are looking for a private environment, and also has one feature that really sells it as a blogging platform for students – at the click of a button, you can see all the posts made by everyone on the site.

A techie
The install into a root directory is pretty straight up. mysql database (import the .sql file), includes.php file, a couple of chmods and you’re ready to run. If you want to install out of root, there’s a couple of minor adjustments that need to be done, but not a big deal. It has a simple, effective admin panel. More than you’d expect from a 0.3 release, but not what you’d get from something like moodle (which i like btw, the less control the admin has over somthing like moodle the better, although there are a couple of features like more control over registration that I’m hoping for for 0.4, also possible with a little playing around) There are apparently still serious issues if you wish to play outside the English language. I’m told they are working on it, but it’s an important consideration.

If it’s so cool where can i get one?
Last i heard, the elgg guys were offering elggs for people to try out. Go to elgg.net and post on the site. It’s the best way to get started. If there’s a more formal way of registering I’ll find it and post it…

The Project
Over the next few months, I’ll be talking about the relative success of the different projects… I’ll keep basically the same format, and we’ll see if it’s any use to anyone.

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2 Responses to “Elgg – an intro or A teacher, A techie, A flower making bask(i)et”

  1. Ben Werdmuller Says:
    Dave –

    Thanks for the great weblog article! It’s interesting to hear about your experiences; we’d love to hear more about what you’re doing with your four installations and how the students get on.

    Regarding the admin panel, do the kinds of things you’re talking about include being able to toggle open registration? That will certainly be customisable within the 0.4 release, and I can send code to anyone who wants to do this in 0.301.

    Regarding language issues, it’d be useful to have more details. There are a number of installations in Europe running in Dutch and French (with Greek and more to follow), and so far there have been no major issues. There is a system requirement for the gettext library which is unavoidable at present, but I’m working on ways to get round that too. If anyone has any specific issues we’d be glad to help.

    Finally, there is a patch available on elgg.net that will allow the system to run properly in a subdirectory. It replaces the weblogs unit and can be downloaded from http://elgg.net/elggcoding/files/553/1628/weblogs.zip . If you have a RewriteBase declaration in your .htaccess file (in the root Elgg folder) you’ll need to remove that too.

  2. barbara Says:
    In the words of audioblogger (or at the very least, in the words of their mass- produced emails): “You are revolutionizing the revolution”

    Keep up the great work. You are an inspiration to the rest of us who are frantically trying to stay on top of the wave (vs being pulled under)

Author: dave

I run this site… among other things.

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