By Miles Berry
One of the things I find most exciting about ICT is its potential for collaboration and communication. Our usual start to Year 6 ICT lessons, of designing a personal homepage, never really did this justice, as my pupils spent so long collecting together clip art and photos, that the medium took over from the message, and whilst they were reasonably pleased with the results, the content was static, and no-one else visited their pages.
This year, I decided to tackle things rather differently and jumped on the blogging bandwagon. The notion of an online journal, shared with the rest of the class, was an immediately appealing one to my pupils – they grasped the concept very quickly and could see far more value in sharing their ongoing thoughts and experiences with their class mates than the snapshot of their hobbies and interests which the old-style homepage provided.
The first challenge was to find the right tool for the job. I wanted something that would meet each of the following criteria:
Facilitate pupils’ reflections on the breadth of their learning.
Promote independent learning and learner voice.
Be fairly easy to use.
Have (at least the potential for) an elegant, non-cluttered look and feel that users can customize for themselves, without having to worry too much about design, at least initially.
Have fine-grained access control, so that I can choose which blogs are open to which users, eg to prevent access to pupils’ blogs from non-registered users, also perhaps so that pupils can choose which of their entries are available for others to read.
Be open source, ideally running under LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP),
so that we could host it ourselves.
My search eventually led me to Elgg (see http://www.elgg.net), which is open- source blogging software for education, but far more besides. Elgg, developed