Mahara 1.3 RC1 has been released and the list of new features is promising. Does it mean that the book Mahara 1.2 ePortfolios: Beginner’s Guide is now outdated? I am pretty sure it is not. If you are just about to start with Mahara, either current stable version or the new one, you will find the book useful.
The book was published by Packt Publishing in February 2010 and I got a chance to read it recently. I was looking forward to it because as a teacher who had some personal experience with implementing Mahara at secondary and high school level, I was wondering what way of introducing e-portfolios to the students the authors recommend.
The guide was written by Derrin Michael Kent, Glenys Gillian Bradbury, Margaret Anne Kent, Richard William Hand. This team represents a balanced group of people with solid background in educational technology, open-source development, end-user training and learning design, too.
While reading the book, I enjoyed the focus on instant action. Since very first pages, reader can start experimenting with Mahara features being introduced. The concepts of the software are illustrated in many use cases from various environments like primary school, international corporate university or vocational training provider. These examples and scenarios helped me to extend my existing attitude to Mahara as I tended to see it as a software for schools only.
After the initial introduction into the environment, creating an account and setting up the user profile, the book guides the reader through key elements of Mahara system – artefacts, blocks and views. I appreciate that the authors managed to satisfy both kinds of readers. Those who need detailed step by step instructions on how to work with Mahara user interface will use the book as very well written manual. And those who prefer to explore the environment on their own by just playing with it will find some inspirative examples to think about.
In seven chapters, the book covers basically all available features of Mahara 1.2 including the users interaction, groups and institutions management and site administration. Touching all these areas, it offers a clear overview of what Mahara is and help you to decide if it would suite your needs.
When I was explaining Mahara concepts to my students, we were able to prepare their first views during the first lesson. Of course, by just telling them click here, click there, it is not difficult at all in fact. Mahara has pretty, modern user interface, intuitive for people who are familiar with Internet social networks. But after reading this book, I was able to provide them more examples and think of other projects and situations where we could use Mahara successfully.
You will be able to become Maharan without this book, definitely. But if you are going to explain what Mahara is and how to work with it effectively to the others, this book is written for you.