Elgg - Social Networking for the Classroom

Elgg is an open-source Social Media component, originally developed as a Social Networking add-on to Moodle. Several universities including Stanford and Carnegie-Mellon use Elgg as the basis for their online courses. Elgg derives its name from the Swiss hometown of its creator, Ben Werdmuller von Elgg. Elgg is now used as a stand-alone social networking tool for businesses, universities and schools. Because Elgg is open-source software it is free to use and there is an active community of developers creating additional tools for Elgg. View this video for an overview of Elgg.

The power of Elgg's Web 2.0 capabilities

  • The Wire - micro-blogging
  • Blogging
  • Wiki-like pages
  • Bookmarking
  • On-the-fly permissions
  • Groups

Overview of Elgg capabilities

Elgg's Components

Log into Elgg at https://hselgg.dublinschools.net for high school Elgg, https://mselgg.dublinschools.net for middle school Elgg and https://eselgg.dublinschools.net for elementary school Elgg. Use your FirstClass username (lastname_firstname) and your password. Students log in using their directory username (GraduationYearLastname_Firstname) and their student I.D. as their password. Students need a special permission form signed by their parents to participate. You should collect these permission forms and turn them in to a TST. Once these have been turned in we will add them to the Elgg server so they can log in.

Watch Video on logging into Elgg and the Dashboard.

  • The Wire: The Wire can be viewed as a cross between a status update in FaceBook and Twitter since it is limited to 140 characters.
  • Blogs: Elgg is the only option in Dublin for blogging… especially student blogging.
  • Files: Though not a true file server, you upload Files to use in other components of Elgg.
  • Activity: This just tells you what recent activity there has been on Elgg.
  • Bookmarking: Can create bookmarks to share and comment
  • Friends: Shows you your list of friends, this is important for sharing content and messaging.
  • Video: At this point, can only view YouTube videos that have been uploaded to Elgg. We should have more functionality in the future.
  • Pages: Wiki-like pages that allows you to determine read and write privileges on the fly
  • Groups: Groups allow you to create communities of colleagues or students and share files, bookmarks, pages, and blogs as well as have group discussions

Groups - Creating Educational Communities

One of the greatest capabilities of Elgg is the ability to make groups. You can make a group for a class (i.e. Math 7, Mr. Sweet's Video Class), for a PLC (provides the ability to share without meeting) or you can also set up groups in a class (students investigating a concept, etc.). Groups provide an opportunity to collaborate with a smaller group of colleagues, students or both. All the components of Elgg are available in groups, as well as discussion posts.

Seventh Grade Math teacher, Katy O'Neal had this to say about how she used Elgg in the classroom and its benefits:
I used Elgg as a means to communicate with my students as and as a means for them to communicate with one another. The kids would go to my web page … or research on their own the math concept to be covered in class the following day. The kids were to blog "one new thing they learned" and to read 2 other blogs. This made the lesson the next day so much easier for the students because they had previewed the info as well as read 2 blogs and reflected on what they knew. Having this exposure to the lesson ahead of time produced much more meaningful classroom discussion as well as they ability to dive deeper into the standards and materials being learned.

The students also used Elgg to ask each other questions about issues they were having with homework. This was neat to read as a teacher and see how they would collaborate to attack a problem. When needed, I would jump in and post something to lead them in the right direction towards the correct answer.

… No one ever just gave an answer… they would explain how they arrived at that answer. Again, a deeper level of thinking.