From Elgg to where?

Ana Cornide is using Earlham Learning Spaces again this semester with her intermediate Spanish class (SPAN301) which has two sections of about 15 students each. I spent about 50 minutes with each class and we got through:

  • logging in and customizing user profile
  • making a blog entry and adding a keyword / tag
  • displaying other posts tagged with the same keyword
  • joining the appropriate ELS community
  • going to the community, finding another member and making a comment on her blog
  • uploading and adding a graphic image

I feel like (sic) this is quite an impressive achievement for a single 50 minute hands-on class session. Remember that the students did all the above things.
Thus Elgg has going for it an extremely flat learning curve — students picked it up in no time.

Point 1: Easy to pick up
The Elgg replacement, whatever it may be, must be simple to use and easy to get started with.

Essential features

The two essential features that I see at this point are:

  1. Sitewide keywords / tags. It is really pedagogically powerful to see how a tag you use can lead to someone else’s post on the same topic. Ana has had several generations use the same tag so that students can see a whole tradition of blog posts on the subject
  2. Collecting or ‘aggregating’ (I hesitate to use this building site term) students together in a group or community is also powerful even if they only use the community to go to another’s blog and make comments. Here again, sitewide is the deal.

How does WPMU address these features?

  1. Global tag and category RSS feeds
    “Would you like to have global (i.e. site wide) RSS feeds for every tag and category on your WordPress MU site? Now, if someone on blog1.yourdomain.com writes a post and tags or categorizes it ‘politics’ and someone on blog45.yourdomain.com also write a posts and tag or categorizes it as ‘politics’ – now both of their posts will appear in http://yourdomain.com/wp-content/tag-feed.php?tag=politics. And you can do that for any tag or category on the entire site.
  2. Recent global posts and comments – by user from across your site
    Specifically, if you have users who are posting to (and commenting on) multiple different blogs on your WordPress MU install. And you want a way to be able to catch all posts (or comments) – just by that user – in one feed… regardless of what blog they are posted on. The fo llowing two plugins, do that all for you, no worries! Recent Global Author Posts Feed & Recent Global Author Comments FeedWith them in pace you get a feed just for a selected author that amalgamates all their posts into one big RSS feed.

These are just two ways that WPMU can handle the functionality we’re looking for. More later …

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