Tag Archives: free

Elgg 1.0 released

Elgg, an open source social networking platform, has released its long awaited update available here.

Elgg allows you to create and customize your own social networking site. User blogs, forums, file repository, friends, activity feeds, bookmarking, messaging, plus a host of other features allow you to create your own Facebook-like site. Except you host it yourself giving you complete control.

This is a significant release bringing with it a multitude of enhancements over what is now called Classic Elgg. It supports all the common protocols of interoperability for social networking sites including OpenDD, OpenID and OpenSocial.

Curious? Here is an example of an Elgg site for all those rugby fans out there, rucku.com, or the well known Eduspaces for education.

Classic Elgg, when used with the excellent Folio plug-in, is still a great solution for an eportfolio system, with the added addition of social networking built in. (This feature is missing from the WordPress MU that we are currently using, but projects like BuddyPress are currently being developed to remedy this).

The blend of eportfolios and social networking seamlessly allows friend or peer feedback and assessment to take place on learning artifacts that are shared with other users, or alternatively made public for others to comment on.

When selecting a solution for our eportfolio requirements, Elgg rated very highly. It did not become the favoured option above WordPress MU, for the reasons noted here in my research notes:

An excellent application with all the features required to effectivly create a learning portfolio (when using the Folio plugin). Has the additonal benefit of the social networking environment to facilitate learning conversations between learners. The support is poor and the documentation virtually nonexistant. Also some examples of learning such as podcasts, could not be embedded in the pages only a link could be provided for downloading the file. With more support and documentation, this product would be very hard to beat.

I really look forward to Elgg 1.0 being developed further. Hopefully we can look forward to some fantastic plug-ins being developed to fill in the gaps of the developers and make the software more suited to a wider range of applications. I say this from an eportfolio perspective! The developers have created a fantastic product and if I were looking for just a social networking platform, then it would suite me very nicely.

Why not try it out on the demo site to give you an idea.

Jing – A screencasting tool

If you are a teacher or regularly run workshops for other teachers in using new technologies and software, you can be sure that you have spent hours putting together how-to sheets or screencasts using a variety of different tools.

Included are Apple’s well known screen capture keyboard shortcuts or Grab, or a selection of other tools including iShowU, Snapz Pro, the more Web 2’y tools like GrabUp, Skitch or Screencast-O-Matic.

Jing is another tool and a free download. It is able to capture your screen, or a selection, as an image or movie and upload them directly to a location of your choice for embedding in to blogs and other web pages, or simply to store online for future use or sharing.

The process is simple and with the concept of  ‘Jing is the always-ready program that instantly captures and shares images and video…from your computer to anywhere’ this app certainly makes it easy…

1. Select the option from the Jing menu.

2. Drag the cross hairs to select the screenshot area. This is one of Jing’s best features – the fact that all of the selection box lines extend right to the edges of the screen.

3. Selection the from the options of image, movie…

4. ..and then annotate with text, arrows, drawing or shapes and select from uploading to your free screecast.com or flickr, ftp’ing to a remote location, saving as a file or copying to the clipboard. Further options include uploading to use as link (URL) or to embed in your blog, the option used throughout this post.

5. The file will then upload and inform you that the code for embedding on your site is ready for pasting in. Very handy.

It is as simple as that.

If you choose to upload them to your free trial screencast.com account (easy to create from the Jing preferences – no need to visit screencast.com) you are able to upload 2GB of movies and images and have 2GB of bandwith available per month. More info on that here.

I have found that giving teachers and students screencast how-to movies instead of paper step-by-step guides has reduced time spent on preperation for teaching these skills as well as reducing the time spent going over skills with individual teachers. Just make them easily available on the web available and remind people how to access them.

Rating:  out of 5

Pros: Free, integrated upload and embeding, easy to use, intuative, supporting website

Cons: Weird default ‘sun’ controller (thankfully you can change this to the input menu), no moveable (follow the mouse) movie capture