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Elgg SITE 2007

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Published on December 27, 2007

Author: Callia

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Adopting Elgg for Electronic Learning Portfolios :  Adopting Elgg for Electronic Learning Portfolios Betül C. Özkan VPAA, Long Island University betul.ozkan@liu.edu Aaron P. Campbell Friends World Program, East Asia Center, Long Island University apc33@rocketmail.com Overview:  Overview This presentation is to report the planning and implementation of an e-portfolio pilot project in that uses Elgg: an open source social software platform designed to connect learners and allow them to share resources.  Participants were largely American university students in a four-year, experiential, global education program, and were geographically dispersed throughout seven countries on four continents.  The authors will explain Elgg's features and its conceptual roots; describe the nature of the educational program in which Elgg was used; and will discuss strengths and weaknesses of it. Elgg (http://eduspaces.net):  Elgg (http://eduspaces.net) Elgg: A Personal Learning Landscape:  Elgg: A Personal Learning Landscape Elgg is an open source ‘personal learning landscape’ program that combines e-portfolios, weblogs and social networking features of a Web-based e-learning system (Tosh & Werdmuller, 2004b). Elgg approaches the creation of a “learning landscape” rather than being merely an e-portfolio system, following the philosophy behind social networking services that facilitate connection to other learners and help create sense of community. Elgg is an alternative portfolio system that “follows a constructivist paradigm allowing the user to completely control and manage their e-portfolio” (Tosh & Werdmuller, 2004b, p.2), while engaging in sharing and conversation with other learners. Elgg: Features:  Elgg: Features A weblog enables students to share the learning process in a conversational way  A personal file repository allows learners to upload, organize, and archive their files, while sharing them with others A personal profile feature helps learners to create digital identities A community feature allows learners to form their own special interest groups  A friends feature gives learners the opportunity to create their own social network amongst the community of users at large, giving them the ability to stay up-to-date with what their friends are doing Friends:  Friends Elgg: Features:  Elgg: Features A tagging feature allows learners to assign descriptive keywords to files, weblog posts, profile information, etc., thus creating a searchable folksonomy of ideas and resources. Privacy levels enable learners to control the degree of access others have to their work. An RSS aggregator allows learners to read and display the flow of content from sources of their choice.  Likewise, a feed import feature allows learners to grab and display content on their own weblogs.  An automatically generated FOAF (Friend Of A Friend) file allows learners to connect with others outside the Elgg system. A dashboard feature allows learners to customize content widgets in any order they wish to see in their personal area. Integration capability with other course management or open source applications used in learning and teaching such as Moodle, Drupal and MediaWiki. Friend’s World Program:  Friend’s World Program Long Island University's Friends World Program is a four-year, global education program based on experiential learning principles, currently with centers in five countries (Japan, China, India, Costa Rica, and the USA) along with an Environmental Studies Program (Australia) and a traveling program (Comparative Religion and Culture), exposing students to a wide variety of different languages, cultures, and regions of the world.  Historically, students have been evaluated on the basis of portfolios created to document their learning experiences.  Friend’s World Program:  Friend’s World Program In the Fall 2006 semester, Elgg was introduced as a pilot e-portfolio project. Because Elgg emphasizes process over product, learner control over administrative control, the flow of conversation over static presentation of knowledge, and the inclusion of people and resources from the Internet at large through its RSS and social networking features.  Implementation:  Implementation An install of Elgg, fitted with Friends World colors and logos, was hosted by a private company. Twenty four students located geographically in seven different countries participated in the pilot, all of different years of progression in the university. All were given individual Elgg accounts at the beginning of the fall 2006 semester and were instructed to make use of them by uploading their essays, papers, photos, and audio/visual recordings to their file repositories, while informing the community of users of their weekly activities on their weblogs. Students were also asked to fill out their profiles and to tag both files and weblog posts with keywords describing the content within. Implementation:  Implementation A separate help forum was also created and made available to students who had questions throughout the process. Finally, at the end of the semester, students were required to prepare a document that served as their ‘final work’ to be evaluated by their advisor. The e-portfolios students created served as documentation for their entire semester’s work, no matter what courses the students were taking or where each student was located. A single advisor, situated at the Japan center, was solely in charge of administering the pilot and moderating the help forum. Strengths of Elgg:  Strengths of Elgg Elgg is learner-centered. While most commercial electronic portfolio programs focus on content and its delivery, Elgg focuses on learners and their interactions. It allows learners to form their own relationships, converse with others about topics close to their intrinsic interests, and construct a space to call their own. “Combining the artifacts contained in the portfolio along with reflection and discussion provides a rich tapestry of the learners’ experience and skills. The electronic portfolio places the student at the centre of the development process enabling control over their learning” (Tosh and Werdmuller, 2004a, p.2). Strengths of Elgg:  Strengths of Elgg O’Hear (2006) points out another difference between commercial electronic portfolio programs and Elgg: “…where Elgg differs from a regular weblog or a commercial social network (such as MySpace) is the degree of control each user is given over who can access their content. Each profile item, blog post, or uploaded file can be assigned its own access restrictions - from fully public, to only readable by a particular group or individual” (¶3). Since the students manage their own portfolio content, control the level of access to their work, and build a unique social network related to their interests, Elgg passes the control from instructors to students, helping them to move toward greater learner autonomy. Weaknesses of Elgg:  Weaknesses of Elgg Lack of presentation features (Not anymore) Elgg seems more of a weblog than a presentation portfolio (Barrett, 2005) , making the creation of a ‘for credit’ final portfolio a difficulty without the use of alternative software. (Not anymore) Unstructured nature of Elgg. Students or instructors conditioned to using centralized content management systems or commercial electronic portfolio programs, may find the freedom given to Elgg users distracting or confusing. The distributed nature of communication on weblogs may pose a significant challenge to those students and instructors used to threaded discussion lists and more centralized forms of discourse. Still in beta form Friends World Program’s Experience with Elgg :  Friends World Program’s Experience with Elgg Social networking via tagging. Tags allow students and faculty to create a searchable archive of files, conversations, and interests, from the bottom up. Greater sense of community. The ability to share the learning process in an informal way, through the weblog feature, has the potential to change the sense of community and identity in the program in exciting and unprecedented ways. Friends World Program’s Experience with Elgg:  Friends World Program’s Experience with Elgg Searchable file repository. For the first time in the program’s history, students and faculty can have access to all student work created and stored in the file repository. The globally distributed nature of the program’s various centers has largely prevented this in the past. Transcendent portfolios. The possibility exists for students to build e-portfolios that transcend the institution itself. Elgg enables networking with real-world contacts, while students build an online identity and presence that will serve them after they graduate and move on with their professional lives. Friends World Program’s Experience with Elgg:  Friends World Program’s Experience with Elgg Template selection. In order for students to gain a greater sense of ownership over their online workspace, they desire the ability to choose from a wide variety of pre-made templates and to configure the appearance without having to edit with code. Bugs.One of the risks of choosing to use software that hasn’t yet been fully developed is the presence of bugs, or glitches in functionality. Training: Both students and faculty need training to better understand Elgg’s concept, capabilities, and use. Formal Discussions: As Elgg lacks a threaded discussion formal, more formal discussions had to take place on a different platform - Moodle - causing extra administrative work to maintain two accounts for each student and faculty member. Friends World Program’s Experience with Elgg:  Friends World Program’s Experience with Elgg Administration: The administration features on Elgg are still rudimentary. Deleting users and configuring the site is still a problem. Tracking. The current version of Elgg only allows users to see the latest updates on student weblogs. An administrative tool that would track all activity in the system would be helpful, such as new uploads to file repositories, changes to profiles, formation of new communities, etc. Assessment. With such an open, process oriented piece of software as Elgg, how to assess the process becomes an important issue. Should informal conversations on weblogs be considered part of the assessment data? Should students be required to post to their weblog and share their process? If so, how does this become integrated naturally with learning as it takes place in the classroom and in the field at each center? Use in Other Programs:  Use in Other Programs Elgg is slowly gaining a foothold amongst institutional use, providing a means for file sharing, reflection and conversation through weblogging, and social connection through networking. Some K12 schools and universities have already started experimenting with Elgg. Final points:  Final points The use of Elgg in educational settings is likely to increase in the near future because it provides secure, free, accountable tool which combines, blogging, file sharing, community building and many other features of open Web. “In many ways, Elgg represents everything that's appealing about the Web 2.0 movement: community-oriented, user-driven, low maintenance — and wide open. For example, because Elgg is built on open standards, users can opt to plug in their favorite blogging tool instead of using Elgg's” (Poftak, 2006, ¶5). References:  References Barrett, H. (2005). Create online portfolios using common tools and open source software. Workshop Notes. NECC 2005 Conference. June 26, 2005 Retrieved October 8, 2006 from http://electronicportfolios.com/NECC05workshop.pdf O’Hear, S. (2006, Aug 11). Elgg- Social network software for education. Read-Write Web. Retrieved September 26, 2006 from http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/elgg.php Poftak, A. (2006, August 15). Community 2.0: Introducing social networking for the educational set. TechLearning. Retrieved October 9, 2006 from http://www.techlearning.com/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=191901615 Tosh, D. & Werdmuller, B. (2004a). E-portfolios and weblogs: One vision for ePortfolio development. Retrieved September 21, 2006 from http://www.eradc.org/papers/ePortfolio_Weblog.pdf Tosh, D. & Werdmuller, B. (2004b). Creation of a learning landscape: Weblogging and social networking in the context of e-portfolios. Retrieved September 21, 2006 from http://www.eradc.org/papers/Learning_landscape.pdf Adopting Elgg for Electronic Learning Portfolios :  Adopting Elgg for Electronic Learning Portfolios Betül C. Özkan VPAA, Long Island University betul.ozkan@liu.edu Aaron P. Campbell Friends World Program, East Asia Center, Long Island University apc33@rocketmail.com

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