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Logo Elgg.orgsource

I wrote here about the open-source software called Elgg almost two decades ago. (Not to be confused with elgg.net which was a social networking site for educators back around 2006 and no longer exists.)  Elgg is open-source social networking software that provides individuals and organizations with the components needed to create an online social environment. It offers blogging, microblogging, file sharing, networking, groups, and a number of other features. It was also the first platform to bring ideas from commercial social networking platforms to educational software. It was founded in 2004 by Ben Werdmuller and Dave Tosh

I view those older posts and many of the ones on this site that dates back almost 20 years as historical documents of a sort. I'm tempted at times to update them, and I do sometimes fix a broken image of proofreading mistake, but they may have some value as the documentation of another time in edtech history.

How many of the alternatives to commercial course management systems from my 2006 list still exist? I looked up Elgg to see if it was still in use. The Wikipedia entry shows that an impressive list of sites are using Elgg. The list includes Oxfam, the Australian, Dutch, Canadian and British Governments, New Zealand Ministry of Education, State of Ohio, USA, The World Bank, UNESCO, and the United Nations Development Programme.

Here is one of those old posts - expect broken links.

Elgg is software for building a personal learning landscape.” OK, and what is that? The software is from the Unired Kingdom. I first saw it mentioned on the Moodle site and thought it was a kind of plug-in to Moodle. It uses blogs, e-portfolios, shared files, RSS feeds and other "social networking" tools. I thought it had been designed for educational use, but looking through the users, it has a good number of general users.

Their site has a demo community set up and their resources/links are set up using an embedded wiki. You can create a free user account and will get space for a blog, RSS feeds, aggregator to read other peoples content, space to store your own resources (files). As a guest, you can still view items made public in user profiles - here's mine

Since their new release is version 0.601, this is obviously new beta software. So does this replace a Moodle or Blackboard, or supplement it, or serve a different purpose?

I'm hoping that my collaborator here, Tim Kellers, will have more to add in a follow-up posting. He has installed Elgg and worked with it for a while.

http://webapps.saugus.k12.ca.us/community - California's Saugus Unified School District uses it and as you can see, it is a secure environment with user id and password access. However, take a look at their user introduction pdf document. It's a nice 9 page intro with screenshots. Another K12 district getting ahead of the colleges!

Elgg = software and elgg.net is a site that uses that software.

Ready for the test? Elgg is to Elgg.net as ____ is to Wikipedia. (Answer: Mediawiki)

Well, to deal with that confusion (or further confuse you), elgg.net will now be edufilter.org.

Here's an email that went out to users from the Elgg folks:

Changes are afoot at Elgg.net!
Actually, you've been accustomed to change throughout the existence of the site since we started it in 2004. New features pop up all the time, and we think you'll be pleased to hear that this isn't going to stop soon.
However, we're going to change the name. Next Wednesday, Elgg.net will become Edufilter.org.
This is because, for a lot of people, Elgg.net is Elgg. Granted, it's a confusing name. But Elgg is a free, open source, white label social networking framework that anyone can install on their own servers. Want it running at your institution? Point your elearning folks at http://elgg.org.
Elgg.net, meanwhile, is a social network for education - and therefore, we think Edufilter is probably a better name.
You've probably got concerns, so let's deal with the most important:
#1: We're not going to break any of your links. While the front page of Elgg.net will forward to the main Elgg software homepage, anyone visiting elgg.net/your-username will still get to your page. We have no plans to end this, so if your address is printed on materials, don't worry. Everything's fine.
#2: The site will not be discontinued. It continues to be our flagship installation.
Furthermore, making the site overtly educational means we can give you more directed content and features. Sponsorship opportunities are available; if you'd like to promote your product or service available to some of the world's leading lights in elearning, let us know.
Best regards,
The Curverider team

Tim Kellers installed Elgg software here at NJIT, so drop by and register if you want to try it out. I also suggest you go to the elgg.net site and create an account so you can become part of that educator community. I have made some interesting contacts outside the United States from there. Right now I am just having this blog's content mirrored to my elgg blog account by using an RSS feed (yeah, there are some formatting & image issues doing that).

A Few Other Posts





The Future of E-learning Is Social Learning

My title, "The future of e-learning is social learning," is taken from one of Jane Knight's short, introductory presentations on social learning in organizations. It's a simple enough statement, but I think it is quite true. If any educational results come from the explosion of social sites and tools in the past few years, e-learning is certain to be the first to be affected.

I have to say that the one online course that I amstill teaching addresses all of the tools she talks about in her presentation except for Elgg. (see below)

This introductory presentation covers: What is Social Learning? Social Learning platforms, and the role of Social Learning Professionals.

Elgg was started in 2004 and allows you to create your own online community. It is free and open source and powers all kinds of social networks in education, business and for individual hobbyists. It has good features, but since I teach within Moodle, I haven't felt the need to create an outside social network for a class.

Putting All Your Educational Eggs In One Basket

I started using Eduspaces when it was called Elgg. It was about the same time that Tim and I were starting out with Moodle (late 2005) and starting Serendipity35. It was self-described as the "world's largest social networking site dedicated to education and educational technology. With forums moderated by the leading experts in this field, this service exists to promote the use of cutting edge technologies within education."

This past weekend, Eduspaces users received this mail:

Hi All,
We would like to inform all users of EduSpaces that we will be shutting down the service on Jan 10th, 2008.
We have provided a mechanism for you to export all your blog posts in either an RSS format or HTML. To do this, go to your blog and select the submenu option you require. For those of you with files, you might want to download those as well.Thank you to everyone who has supported EduSpaces over the last three years.
Best regards,
The EduSpaces team

I can't say I'm fall-on-the-floor shocked by Eduspaces' (so far unexplained) end.

The original guys behind it (Dave and Ben) moved out of Eduspaces a while back (though Elgg is still active at http://elgg.org for now). Some bloggers I read - like Chris Sessums - seemed to go inactive around mid-November.

I basically abandoned my own Eduspaces blog because I couldn't keep up both blogs sites on ed tech. I had an RSS feed pull Serendipity35 into my Eduspaces site for a time. I thought it might bring new readers to my writing, but ultimately I think it just diluted and divided the audience. I won't be moving my old Eduspaces blog to the new location.

There is discussion about all this by users on the site. Where to go, how to get all your existing posts, how to move them - many questions.

Exporting your posts may work, but think of all the lost and broken connections and links that have been established by search engines and other blogs and sites to your work at Eduspaces.

When I started having my own students create blogs for my course, I chose Blogger. My thought was that Google wasn't going away soon and it would be at the edge of whatever software and crossovers blogging would take. I still feel that way. I've had my own Blogger site on poetry since October 2005 and have never had any problems with it.

I'm also thinking here beyond blogging to all the other software we rely upon in our schools.

The first thing that comes to mind from my instructional technology time is a course management system. Faculty, support staff and (to a lesser extent) students know the pain of moving from one platform to another.

Whether that's WebCT CE 4 to CE 6, or to Blackboard, or from any of those to Moodle, Angel, Desire2Learn or whatever. Files that don't translate, recreating forums and discussions, new tools, new user interfaces - it's a long list. Faculty don't want to do it. If they must do it, they want it to be seamless, or to have someone else do the grunt work. And that makes a certain sense. Their job is to teach and do research, not to deal with JavaScript errors and such.

Putting all your educational eggs in any one basket is dangerous.


UPDATED 2/26/08
Dear eduspaces.net member:
As you know, TakingITGlobal will continue to host the eduspaces.net community. You will explicitly need to state if you would like to have your account transferred to its new home at educatorcentral.org. This message is a final reminder to state your preference at eduspaces.net - if you say no or do nothing your account will get removed (you will need to be logged in to fill in the form). Please use this final opportunity to have your account migrated to educatorcentral.org, After February 27th this option will no longer be available. Final migration will take place in the second week of March of which you'll receive notification.

SOS: Social Operating Systems

If you read Wired magazine, you probably have come across their section called "Jargon Watch." The issue I'm reading now (you can check it out online too) includes the term Social Operating System which they define as "a social network site like Facebook or MySpace that seamlessly integrates activities, including entertainment and shopping, to become a platform for online living.”

Most of know operating systems (OS) as a set of computer programs that manage the hardware and software resources of a computer - such as Windows or Mac OS X. So how is something like Facebook an OS?

Before we move on, mash this up with something I heard in the latest This Week in Tech podcast episode where they were looking at Facebook as a kind of little Google innovating and connecting and now buying up other companies. You'll hear talk of Google and Facebook becoming "operating systems" on many sites. Facebook just acquired Parakey which is self-described as "a platform for building applications that merge the best of the desktop and the Web."

You may not think of Facebook as something that can be used educationally or professionally, but others disagree with that opinion - see these ways to use Facebook professionally.

Back in May, Facebook began being talked about as being an operating system with other web apps integrated with it. They released their own Facebook Query Language and started developing their own web servers.

Now, every time you log on to Facebook, you find another widget or application is available. Most of them are for fun (tarot, trivia...) but that will change.

So, people are starting to seriously talk about something like Facebook become a Personal Learning Environment? (BTW, I cannot consider MySpace - despite Wired's definition - as being a contender here since that site is such a design mess).

PLEs are systems that allow learners take control of and manage their own learning by providing support to set learning goals, manage content and and communicate with others in the process of learning.

PLEs may be a desktop application, or composed of web-based services. They would allow the the integration of both formal and informal learning experiences. Social networks, especially ones that can cross institutional boundaries, (Facebook rather than Blackboard) come closer to the ideal.

The Elgg system, which works well with a Learning Management System like Moodle, might be a good example of this.

So, would an a social operating system be a mashup of all these things? Would the ideal SOS be one where a learner would select all the tools & applications she needed and not necessarily just accept the ones selected for her by the teacher? Could the learner select the content he wanted or needed?

Will sites like Facebook move towards becoming learning environments, or will learning environments like Moodle, Elgg, Blackboard move towards social networking? There evidence of movement in both those directions now. The former feels more "open" right now, but with open source learning management systems like Moodle or Sakai adding blogs, wikis, RSS feeds and other tools, perhaps the commercial players will be left behind.