Monthly Archives: March 2008

(ELGG) Social Networking Features – Practical Scenarios

I don’t intend to do advertisement for Aperto Learning Solutions, which I just came across and can’t even testify to the quality of their work. However, I think that the way they delineate certain social networking features present in ELGG giving practical scenarios in which they apply is very insightful.

Brian Benzinger’s blog series on Web 2.0 beign used in class

Brian’s list of great Web 2.0 resources and excellent examples of how they can can add a flavor and simplicity to learning experiences is a must read.

Jay Cross Defines “Informal Learning” in 10 minutes


Learn more about Jay ideas and publications on his blog.

Open Source Alternatives to Web 2.0 Services

What we see happening in school districts, educational institutions and companies all over the world is the urge to adopt technology to manage and deliver better learning experiences. As a result, these entities end up “investing” (sometimes) significant amounts of money without considering free alternatives offered by the open source community.

The open source community has been growing ever since its start around the 70′s early 80′s with MIT AI Labs’ resignation to initialize the  GNU project and the Free Software Foundation. Around the same time the  University of California at Berkeley’s had already started working on their Unix system.

Why don’t the companies and schools save some of that money to invest in good quality open source and free initiatives?

Let’s see some examples of open source software that could offer great service in Education, yet, need more attention from technology adoption decision makers. I’m focusing more on applications that can be intalled on local servers, since one of the biggest concernes is “Who is going to access this resource? How can we keep it clean?” Hosting such services on an institution’s own servers gives them relatively more control than just, lets say, creating a community on Youtube or Ning (we’ll discuss whitelabel social networking suites in another article).

Why is open source better than proprietary software? First of all, it is free with the exception of a few projects that have thrid party companies offer add-ons that are not available in the project’s community. Second of all, the quality of the applications is guaranteed by communities of developers that are always trying to add innovative ideas to the projects because that is what they love to do. Moreover, open source projects are in perpetual beta phase of development.

The goal of this article is to mainly show examples of open source initiatives that try to replicate current mainstream Web 2.0 applications/communities in a way that allows anyone to install and tweak their own version of such services.

PHPMotion – So many schools and companies see the potential in video sharing communities as far as education is concerned. Websites such as Teachertube have become more popular amongst educators. PhpMotion lets you install a free Youtube-like video sharing community on your own server. Think of the possibilities here!

Moodle – Free LMS with several plugins to make it even morfe fun(ctional) and relevant to your needs. Some interesting parallel projects add much more to Moodle.

Sloodle - One of those successful projects that use Moodle to bring LMS functionalities to MUVEs such as Second Life.

ELGG – Create your own collaborative learning environment. Let the learners interact, tag, blog, exchange, pictures, videos, and information of all kinds. Your own social network. Thsi suite was created having educational setting in mind.

WordPress – Create a blogging platform for your organization, let the learners be active and post individually or edit/publish in groups. It is fun, instructive and helps them stay creative.

PLIGG – Add the power of the democratic Read/Write Web voting communities to your learners’ environments, it is all about them anyway, isn’t it? PLIGG was built by the open souorce community to be a Digg “clone”, so its primary focus was on social news. However, many people have used it to rank other websites, to post videos, stories, pictures, etc. [link to examples]

Photos – If the way we share our videos, documents, thoughts has changed, the way we share our photos has not remiained the same. Trying to find an open source clone for the widely acclaimed photos sharing service Flikr was not an easy task. More people have been looking as well. After a google searcb it is possible to see people asking for the service for a while and wishes have been partially granted. I say partially because the open source community has yet been able to replicate the service, nor does it seem to be interested in doing so. Some efforts to create open source photo management systems have been put into motion for quite sometime now.

Some intiatives aim at keeping educators informed and connected with the open source projects that are, for the most part developed for educational settings. Some of which include but not limited to:

SchoolForge‘s association whose “mission is to unify independent organizations that advocate, use, and develop open resources for education. SchoolForge is intended to empower member organizations to make open educational resources more effective, efficient, and ubiquitous by enhancing communication, sharing resources, and increasing the transparency of development. SchoolForge members advocate the use of open source and free software, open texts and lessons, and open curricula for the advancement of education and the betterment of humankind.”

MIT Open Courseware is MIT’s approach to open content for all. “A free publication of course materials
used at MIT.” Offering
lecture notes, problem sets, labs, lecture videos and demonstrations. According to MIT you can get access to a “wide variety of subjects” through this initiative.

Many other institutions, such as Stanford University and University of California at Berkeley offer content on iTunesU, using the open source approach to offer course material to learners all over the world.

In other posts we will discuss other open source initiatives, not exactly trying to “clone” specific Web 2.0 tools, not even Web-based at all.  We will talk about open source alternatives to commercial desktop applications such as Open Office - a productivity suite similar to Microsoft Office that can be downloaded and installed free of charge onto an unlimited number of computers.

More information on how open source can projects can benefit learners and instructors can be found here and all over the internet, that is now created and updated by common people, in a participatory and democratic way.

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