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Mahara 1.2 EPortfolios 35

RichardSanders writes "This recent publication provides an accessible introduction to using Mahara within business and academic settings. It is great to see that the authors work for TDM, who provide Mahara & Moodle based solutions for a broad range of clients. This professional experience has contributed to a coherent and easy to follow text that provides essential information for new users. This comes as no surprise, as many individuals within the academic sector regularly benefit from Derrin's advice within mailing lists concerned with educational technologies." Keep reading for the rest of Richard's review.
Mahara 1.2 ePortfolios: Beginners Guide
author Derrin Kent, Richard Hand, Glenys Bradbury and Margaret Kent
pages 264
publisher Packt Publishing
rating 9/10
reviewer RichardSanders
ISBN 978-1-847199-06-5
summary This book will provide you with step-by-step instructions to get started with Mahara and create an impressive electronic portfolio.
Covering key functionality that the reader should be aware of, the book comprises of 7 main chapters dealing with reasons for using Mahara, setting up an account, adding artefacts, creating portfolio views, creating & managing groups, interacting with friends, overall site settings and administration. TDM have also provided an installation of Mahara for readers of the book to interact with, if they do not have access to an installation of their own.

Looking at this from the perspective of higher education, I can see this publication being used in two main ways. Academics can dip in and out of the publication to cement their understanding, and it can also be used in formulating support for students who are using Mahara for the first time. For both of these purposes, the authors' previous experience of writing instructional text for technology shines through, with flowing informal writing that is easy to digest and a logical, stepped approach to introducing each of the key features. Use of screenshots is intelligently done and you are provided with questions to test your understanding within every chapter. I particularly liked the 'Have a go hero' sections provided throughout the book, which are designed to encourage deeper investigation by the reader.

Other highlights include Derrin's example of a multi-page Mahara view, an easy to understand explanation of tagging. It's great to see the authors highlighting the importance of folder structures for files that you may store online. The publication also deals with quality checklists for information that you publish online, which is important to consider from an accessibility perspective.

For a new edition, there are only a few improvements that the authors could consider. The main area for improvement relates to the provided case studies, which are referred to at appropriate points within chapters. These are designed to illustrate how Mahara functionality can be used in particular situations and they manage to fulfill this purpose. This useful idea could be significantly enriched if case study examples were integrated into TDM's companion Mahara installation for readers to access. This would also help to encourage active community involvement around the installation, which could bring further collaborative benefits between readers in the future. It is also worth mentioning that the index could be improved for those that want to dip in and out of content.

I can whole-heartedly recommend this publication to anyone who is intending on using Mahara for the first time. If you need a more general academic justification for using ePortfolios or are looking for a way to compare the different solutions available for use, you would be better off looking somewhere else. This book is unashamedly for those who have already considered this and have come to the conclusion that Mahara is the best fit. With the close integration of Moodle with Mahara on the horizon, using this book to learn the basics becomes a no-brainer for those who already have this popular open source VLE.

You can purchase Mahara 1.2 ePortfolios: Beginners Guide from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.


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Mahara 1.2 EPortfolios

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  • What is Mahara (Score:5, Informative)

    by MichaelPenne ( 605299 ) on Wednesday September 01, 2010 @02:49PM (#33439242) Homepage
    Basically it's open source software for creating an education institutions own 'Facebook' social networking site. It was created by a consortium of institutions in New Zealand - which by the way has made a national commitment to FOSS- with many of the island's Universities and Schools running Linux on the desktop, Moodle for their Learning Management System (online quizzes, discussions, assignments, gradebooks, etc.) and Mahara for their social networking/eportfolio.

    When an institution installs Mahara, each user gets their own site where they can post files, have a blog, post photos, etc. and then invite people to view different parts of their site based on access roles, e.g. guest can see some things, teachers can see other things, employers can see yet other things, etc.

    Students use it to build resumes, weblogs, create their own learner communities, etc. When it's integrated with an LMS like Moodle, assignments can be pushed from Moodle to Mahara - say a particularly good paper, photo, video, etc. and you can also send views from Mahara to Moodle for grading - say a blog assignment, etc.

    Mahara, means 'think' or 'thought' in Te Reo Mori- overall its very cool software and a very cool project- nice to see it getting recognition!

    Full Disclosure - my company provides commercial support for Mahara and contributes financial and code support as one of the network of Mahara partners- we have more information about it here [remote-learner.net].

  • by MikeTheGreat ( 34142 ) on Wednesday September 01, 2010 @03:48PM (#33440138)

    hehe - yeah, I hear you. If you're not familiar with ePortfolios then most descriptions sound like heaps of buzzwords from a different industry :)

    Speaking as a teacher, I know what an ePortfolio is (more or less), so let me take a shot at explaining it. But instead of re-typing stuff, let me start with stuff from the "ePortfolio" page on wikipedia:

    "An electronic portfolio, also known as an e-portfolio or digital portfolio, is a collection of electronic evidence assembled and managed by a user, usually on the Web. [...] E-portfolios are both demonstrations of the user's abilities and platforms for self-expression. [...]

    An e-portfolio can be seen as a type of learning record that provides actual evidence of achievement" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_portfolio)

    At the end of a traditional school experience, most students have a GPA/transcript, and whatever they've put on their resume. However in some fields (like art, or so I'm told :) ), grades aren't as useful to employers so students instead built up portfolios of their work - collections of good stuff that they've done that shows off both how skilled they are, and what their style is. This way the advertising agency doesn't waste time on the kid who's got a 4.0 but really wants to do Goth/emo illustrating for comic books, etc.

    An ePortfolio takes this idea online, obviously. I've also seen it used for fields that don't traditionally require portfolios, in an attempt to make the school experience more "real world-y" ("look - our students are doing real things, not just taking exams! Look at the real things they're doing!"). It's not a bad idea, but has a number of problems/challenges in it's implementation. The biggest problem is that if your field values portfolios then you're probably doing it already. And if your field doesn't (like mine - computer science) then interviewers/grad schools don't really care that you're doing it.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.