Starting the semester with Elgg

There’s a growing interest in blogging at Earlham. Jay Roberts has been talking to Ana Cornide and is now going to have his Education students blog their papers.

This led me to reflect upon systems such as Elgg and BuddyPress which combine Social Networking with blogging. What aspects of pure social networking are germane to pedagogy:

  1. Ability to accumulate all blog posts on a topic in a single place.
    Necessary for grading. Can then grade everyone’s entry in Moodle.
  2. Cross site tagging. Individual tags should be global in scope so that they can link disparate blog posts.
  3. Groups / Communities. This functionality comprises the locus of communal work where students can engage in intense collaboration. Besides a group blog where they would track major progress on the project, ideally this would include a simple discussion forum for coordinating meetings, thrashing out details, and the kind of trivia which you wouldn’t want on a public blog. A file store is needed for sharing uploaded presentations, graphics, sounds, recordings, movie clips etc. Then some sort of wiki / static page system the contents of which would constitute the project itself. Needless to say all objects except perhaps forum posts should be taggable and aggregatable and thus we’d look for RSS feeds from every major component (blog, pages, filestore)
  4. As above, RSS feeds from individual blogs, tags, categories, and pages. Such feeds can be consumed inside a Moodle course.

A lot of these features were present in Elgg 0.9 but the user interface together with the system architecture left something to be desired.

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