as I thought to find time to revise , but now that I am in the New Forest, it is very easy to get distracted by dog walking, bike rides, shopping etc. I have had to force myself to stay inside for at least an hour each day to do a bit of each subject.”
It was also great to see the enthusiasm they’d shown for commenting on one another’s blog entries, with one girl in particular making an effort to respond to everyone else’s posts.
Of course, many of these comments were of the ‘me too’ nature, but even these helped the pupils realise that there was an audience interested in what they were writing.
Elgg makes it easy for my pupils to store their work online, in a secure environment, so they can get to files and folders from home or school. Because of Elgg’s social model of learning, whilst they can make files private, or shared just with their teacher or their group, Elgg encourages them to share their work with the rest of the community, with all the opportunities for collaborative learning, voice, and writing for an audience that this implies.
Image files can be embedded straight into blog posts, to help illustrate entries, and make better use of the vast number of digital photos we store on the fileserver.
We’ve also experimented with rudimentary podcasting, using the open source program Audacity (http://audacity.sourceforge.net/) to record and edit audio, such as Speech and Drama pieces, and then uploading these to share via Elgg. To be fair, a crowded computer room doesn’t make for an ideal recording studio, but I can see huge potential for this for our more auditory learners. We’ve also explored Elgg’s customizable themes, but getting to grips with this is, at the moment, a little bit too ambitious for Year 6; that said, my pupils have welcomed the opportunity to experiment.
As users add files and posts into Elgg, they add keyword tags; the system then suggests other posts or files with the same or similar tags, connecting learners with other with shared interests. This could go a long way to meeting Ruth Kelly’s ambitions for personal learning spaces, which “will be more than simply a storage place – a digital space that is personalised, that remembers what the learner is interested in and suggests relevant web sites, or alerts them to courses and learning opportunities that fit their needs.”
There are tools for setting up lists of ‘friends’, whose blogs you’ll follow, and then using a Friend of a Friend (FOAF) system to locate other blogs that you might be interested in. Similarly it’s possible for users to create their own community blogs, which would allow those with a shared hobby or studying a particular course to share their experiences and insights more effectively. We haven’t made much use of these ourselves, but it’s easy to imagine them working very well in a larger Elgg installation, shared between more than one school, such as at LA or RBC level. The Elgg developers themselves are interested in exploring Elgg’s use to support inter-school collaboration or twinning.