Getting Started with Elgg by rux99038


									Getting Started with Elgg (draft)
This document is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to the Elgg Learning Landscape social
software. It gives instruction and guidance on the basic things you are likely to want to do to get
going. Further documentation will be available in due course that goes into more detail about the
functions and used of the Elgg system.

When you are registered as a user for the Elgg system you will receive an email with your username
and password. There is also a link in the email that takes you to the Elgg home and log in page. Click
on the link.

Enter the username and password you were sent in the email and click
on Go or press Return.

This takes to the Welcome page. You will see invitations to:
     create your profile
     start your blog
     see what everyone else is talking about

In addition there are listed the latest news items.

As a registered user of the Elgg system you are able to start and run your own personal blog, join a
community blog, or just follow others’ blogs and the public communities and comment on their

Creating Your Profile
Start by putting some information into your profile. Click on the create your profile link. Read the
short bit of text at the top of the edit this profile screen. Scroll down to see the various information
fields available. Notice that each information field allows you to control who can see this information.
You have the choice of private (no one other than you can see it), public (anyone on the internet can
see it) and logged in users (only registered users of Elgg who are currently logged in can see it).

I would recommend that you do not fill in any of the information fields that ask for personal data like
home address, phone numbers, etc. Put some brief information into Who am I, Brief description
(this puts a short piece of text with your personal picture or icon when you upload one in due course),
and Email. If you don’t want the world to see this information, choose the logged in users access
level for each.

You will see some further information fields that ask you to add words separated by commas, for
example the interests field. Words and phrases entered here and separated by commas become search
terms that help users identify others who share their interests. Elgg is a ‘social software’ system that
facilitates the development of communities and networks of individuals who share ideas and interests.

You profile can be edited at any time so don’t worry of you aren’t sure yet what to put in the fields or
decide you don’t want to for the moment (or ever!). When you have finished with your profile, scroll
to the bottom of the screen and click on the save your profile button.

You will see that your profile displayed. Notice that any fields you did not put information in are not
displayed. Just above the profile is a menu of options:

Apart from the option to return to the profile editing screen, there is an option to upload a site picture.
This is a small picture (icon) to identify you and is displayed with any entries you make to your

Getting Started with Elgg                        1                                Terry Wassall February 2006
personal blog, if you choose to start one, and to community blogs. Instructions on this are included at
the end of this document.

Above this section submenu you will see the main menu bar. This is displayed at the top of the screen
wherever you are within the Elgg system.

The Your Profile tab is highlighted as this is where you are at the moment. The other tabs take you to
different areas in you Elgg ‘personal learning landscape’. You can go to and start or update your blog,
you can upload files to you personal file store, open and visit individuals and communities in your
network, and so on.

Click on the Your Blog tab. This will take you to your personal blog which is, of course, empty at the
moment. Notice the new submenu that is now displayed.

There are a number of options available while you are in your blog. You can post a new entry, view
the blog, look at past entries that are archived monthly, view all your friends blogs (others’ blogs you
have linked to as friends if any), or view all the current posts to all the personal and community blogs.
(The RSS feed tab will be described later in this document).

The next instructions are on posting a first entry to your blog. You may wish to postpone this until
you have some idea of what you want to post. You may of course decide you don’t want to make use
of your personal blog and will simply read the other blogs and communities. If you don’t want to start
you blog now, click on the View all posts option and scroll through a few screens of entries to get an
idea of who is blogging and the sorts of things they are using their blogs for. You will also see some
community blog posts. Some of these are particular interest groups, others are communities set up to
support particular modules and projects. If and when you are ready to start your own blog, click on
the Your Blog tab in the main menu bar and return to these instructions.

Starting your blog
Click on the Post a new entry option in the blog submenu. You will see a screen not dissimilar to a
typical email new message screen. There is a post title field and a post body field. To try out posting
an entry, enter any text you wish into these fields. As you will see, you can post an entry that no one
else but you can see. You can also delete entries, edit entries and change the access to entries, i.e. an
entry you post as private can be changed to any other access level; public or logged on users only.
(There are additional access options, for instance to only allowed a particular group of users to read a
post, but this facility is beyond the scope of this document).

Having entered some text into the post title and body fields, scroll down to see the additional post
settings you can select. The first field you see is Keywords.

You can enter a list of words here, separated by commas, that tag your entry so that others who are
interested in aspects of the topic you are posting about can search for and find you post. For instance,
if you are posting on an environmental issue, a film you have seen, a recipe for bread, or your
research topic, then enter some keywords that appropriately tag the message. As more tagged
messages are posted by Elgg users a folksonomy of tags is developed, a socially created informal

Getting Started with Elgg                       2                               Terry Wassall February 2006
semantic map and index of interests and issues. To see how this has already
developed in the Leeds University Elgg, look for the Search box on the right
of the screen and click on Random tags. You will see a screen of words and
phrases that have been used as keywords or entered into the comma separated
lists in individuals’ profiles. Click on the browser back button to return to the
Post a new entry screen.

Below the Keywords field is a drop down list of Access
restrictions you can apply to your entry.

Notice the default is Private – only you will be bale to
read the blog entry. Leave it at private for the moment, but open the list to see the other access levels
available. At the moment they are only logged on users or public. Later, if you should join any
community blogs, you will see these listed as access groups you cab choose too.

The last section allows you to
Embed a file in the post form
your Elgg file store.

This creates a link in the post that, when clicked on, allows the reader to open or download the file.
Note that access restriction can be specified for each file in you file store so, for instance, could have a
blog entry that is public (any anonymous internet user can see and read it) but the entry could have a
link in it that is only gives access to the linked to file to logged on users.

Make sure you have some text in the post title and body fields and click on the Post button.
You will be returned to the normal view of your blog and will see the post, the same in
layout as this illustration.

Things to notice:
The date of posting: When you post a new entry to a blog it is always displayed first. When viewing
a blog you will always see the most recent entry and will need to scroll down to see the earlier ones in
reverse chronological order.

Post title: The post title indicates the access level. This post is private so only you can see and read it.

Site picture: This is the default picture for your blog. You can upload and use another picture for you
icon if you wish. To do this click on Account settings at the top tight corner of the screen and select
the Your site picture option from the account settings submenu. This is where you can upload a site
picture or your choice. Do not worry about the size of the picture you upload as Elgg automatically
shrinks them to the size required.

Keywords: This section is only there if you entered any keywords. Any keywords that have already
been used at least once by another user become links. Click in on these will produce a list of others
who have posted on blogs.

Posted by: This will always be your Elgg user name.

Getting Started with Elgg                        3                                  Terry Wassall February 2006
[Edit] [Delete]. Clicking on these options will allow editing or deletes the entry. If deleted and entry
cannot be undeleted. When editing, apart from changing the text of the entry, you can add or remove
keywords and change the access restrictions.

You have now posted your first blog entry. If you have followed the above instructions and
recommendations you have posted it as a private entry so no one can see it but you. You could decide
to edit it in due course and change the access to ‘public’ or ‘logged in user’ but it will always have the
same posting date. If it is just an experimental post to try out the process I would recommend deleting
it and starting with a new entry if and when you decide to start your blog. See suggestions for starting
your blog at end of this document.

Things to do:
Finding and joining communities

It can be a bit difficult finding community blogs in Elgg. If a colleague or tutor has set up a
community for a particular purpose then you may have already been invited to join and have been sent
an email with the URL of the community. This will take you straight to the community to join it.

However, there are a growing number of communities you may
be interested to join or at least read the members’ posts. One
way to find these is to click on the ‘View all posts’ link and
scroll down the post to look for communities. You will
recognise a community post as it has the community name
attached to the poster’s icon as in this case, the @ Using Blogs
in Education signifies that this is a post to the Using Blogs in
Education community.

Clicking on this icon will take you to the community blog.

Once in the community blog look at the community icon at the
top left hand corner of the screen. This will tell you if it is an
open, moderated or private community. In the case of the Using
Blogs in Education community it is open. You will see a link
below the community icon Click here to join this community.
If it is a moderated community the link would Click here to
apply to join this community. There are some private
communities. These do not have a link for joining.

Before joining or applying to join a community it is a good idea
to scan the entries, read the profile information of the community
and scrolling down to the original post (you may need to go into the blog’s archive to find this) to get
an idea of what the purpose of the community.

If you wish to join just click on the joining link. This will take you to a screen that shows the icons of
all the communities you are a member of. Find the icon of the one you have just joined and click on it.
This will take you to the community blog’s profile. To enter the blog again click on the Community
blog link in the sidebar below the icon. You do not need to join a community to read and comment on
the entries. However, you do need to join in order to post entries of your own.

Commenting on entries

You will find that most posts in personal or community blogs allow you to comment on them. Below
each post you will see a link like Posted by edublog | 3 comment(s). This indicates a post that has
had 3 comments attached. If the number is 0 there have not been any comments so far. To read these

Getting Started with Elgg                       4                                Terry Wassall February 2006
comments or add one of your own, click on the comments link. This will open the comments for you
to read, if any, and also a text field to enter your own comment if you wish. Just enter your comment
and click on the Add comment button. Note that you cannot edit comments but you are able to delete
comments you have made.

Making ‘friends’

As you become familiar with the Elgg system you will find a number of personal and community
blogs that you are interested in following and possible commenting on and posting to. You are able to
designate any personal blog you wish to follow as a ‘friend’. Communities you belong to are
automatically designated as your friends. To view all the posts made by friends and communities you
belong to you can now click on the Friends’ blogs link instead of the View all posts link. You might
still wish to view all posts occasionally to see what is going on and if any new interesting
communities have been started. However, this would be an inefficient way to keep track of blogs you
are interested in. As of the date of this document (6th February 2006) there are over 800 blogs and
communities and it is likely you will only be following a relatively small number of these.

Tracking interesting activity

When you are in your personal blog you will see in the sidebar below your icon a section called
Recent Activity and a link to View your activity. Clicking on this link will open a list of comments
that have been made to your entries, comments you have made on others’ entries and any follow up
comments to these.

When you make a comment on an entry in someone else’s blog a watch is automatically kept on this
entry and further comments are notified to you in the your Recent activity section. If you find an
interesting entry that you do not want to comment on but you want to follow any comments that are
made on it by others you, click on the comments link on that post and scroll down to find the Mark
interesting button.

From now on any comments on this entry will be notified to your recent activity section.

To see if there has been any recent activity you need to go to your
blog and click on the My recent activity link. You can also ask
Elgg to email you when anyone has commented on you blog or
any other entries you have marked as interesting and set a watch
on. Click on Account settings at the top of the screen and click
on the Edit user details link in the submenu. Scroll down and look for the Receive messages option
and click on Yes. From now on you will receive an email if there are any comments on your entries or
others you are watching.

Use of your personal blog
A blog is a general purpose tool and can be used for an almost infinite number of personal, social,
educational and work related purposes. In an educational context there are a number of specific things
you can use your personal blog for, depending to a certain extent on whether you are an
undergraduate, post graduate, or academic involved in research and/or teaching.

Getting Started with Elgg                     5                               Terry Wassall February 2006
You may be engaging in some activity connected to you studies and set up by a lecturer or tutor.
These may be entries you have been asked to make to your personal blog or to a community blog set
up for the purpose. In these cases you should ask your tutor for clarification, if necessary.

You may find an open or moderated community that is posting information, sharing ideas and
resources and commenting on issues that you are interested in. Reading, commenting and posting in
such a community will enable you to engage with a network of other students and staff who share you

You can use your blog as a record of thoughts and ideas related to your studies. This may include
brief descriptions of useful resources you have found relevant to a particular module or essay for
instance. You may get useful ideas or pointers to other useful resources from comments from others.
You can integrate other web resources, images, even sound and video files in your blog.

A good way of getting ideas on how to use your blog is simply to spend some time looking at other
blogs and seeing the wide range of topics and issues posted and, sometimes’ discussed.

There is no doubt about it, blogging is not for everyone. Some students, for instance, will engage in
blogging activity if their tutors require it but will leave it at that. It is not always easy to find a ‘voice’
of your own for on-line communication of this sort. However, writing a blog in the main improves
writing style and develops the reflective approach to framing and expressing ideas and thoughts, the
ability to engage in written exchanges sympathetically and effectively, and develops many of the
‘information literacy’ skills that are crucial to being an effective ‘life long learner’ and personal
effectiveness more generally.

A strength of a system like Elgg is that it is a) not tied to any particular aspect of your formal teaching
activities and b) you have a great deal of control over what you use your blog for and over who can
read and comment on your entries. Elgg is an example of ‘social software’ and is designed to facilitate
on-line interaction, the development of communities of interest, and the discussion, supportive
critique and exchange of ideas that is at the heart of the learning process.

Here is a list of some ideas of how a blog can be used in an educational context. For details of where I
copied these from see the entry in my blog

Blog entries you write can have a number of purposes and aims. They can be:

        Your thoughts about what you are learning, what you understand and don't understand, how it
         extends or contradicts what you already know and understood, what questions still need to be
         answered, what needs further clarification or what still needs to be demonstrated for you to be

        Making connections to your learning by exploring what others have written about it on the

        Strive to improve your writing and take risks with expressing your ideas and bouncing those
         ideas off of a much larger audience

        Developing a distinct voice for communicating and discussing ideas - your ideas, your
         thoughts, your take on things, your enthusiasms and interests

        Expressing your opinion but backing it up with well thought out reasons

        Learning to collaborate in the development of ideas by expressing ideas, sharing information
         and resources, commenting on other's entries and responding to comments made on your blog

        Asking questions and raising issues that will make a reader think and want to comment.

Getting Started with Elgg                         6                                  Terry Wassall February 2006
Getting Started with Elgg   7   Terry Wassall February 2006

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