Set up your own Profile in Mahara: Part 1

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Mahara 1.2 E-Portfolios: Beginner's Guide

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Create and host educational and professional e-portfolios and personalized learning communities

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by Derrin Michael Kent | February 2010 | MySQL Open Source PHP Web Development

In this article series by Derrin Michael Kent, author of Mahara 1.2 ePortfolios Beginner's Guide, we will look at creating our own profile page and using the Mahara text editor.

For this article, we are going to concentrate on the Profile tab of the main menu. The very first thing that most Mahara users want to do is customize their own profile space, making it unique to them. We will show you how to do that. For the following examples, we will be working with Janet Norman of PI Inc, showing you how she has configured her profile space. Why not set up your own profile in the demonstration site as you work through the examples? Let's start by looking at profile information.

Profile information

Later you will set up your own profile page—showing yourself and your knowledge off to others in an attractively personalized way. However, before you do that, you need to add some profile informati on. Your profile information is the first example we will see of "stuff " that you can add to Mahara. When we say stuff we simply mean informati on, or items that can then be viewed later or arranged into web pages, which we will see when we look at your profile page.

You are now going to set up some profile information as "stuff " that you can select from and use. We will look at three types of profile information—your profile itself, profile icons, along with your resumé, goals, and skills.

Editing your profile

Let's show you how to edit your profile. Any information you enter into your profile is private from everyone except the Mahara Site Administrators. You will get to choose who can view what, later on in the Mahara process.

Time for action – editing your profile

  1. Click the Profile button on the main menu.
  2. You will notice that Mahara has opened the Profile submenu. The Edit Profile tab is selected when you first enter your profile space. Let's take a quick look at Janet's profile. You will notice that the About Me tab is selected. Janet has already entered her name.

  3. Say something about yourself! Scroll down to the Introduction section of the About Me page and enter some text. Here is what Janet Norman typed in:

  4. Whenever you make any changes, click the Save Profile button at the bottom of the page.
  5. Next, click the Contact Information to the right of the About me tab.
  6. You will see that you are expected to fill out some telephone numbers and addresses. The first thing you should notice is that you can have more than one e-mail address in a Mahara site. To add another e-mail address, click the link to Add email address. The e-mail address will receive a confi rmati on e-mail from the Mahara site and you will have to go to your e-mail account and follow the link to confirm it is genuine.
  7. You can now use radio buttons to toggle which e-mail address you would like to use as default for your account. This selection is important because it is at this address that you will receive system messages. You will also noti ce that you can delete an e-mail address by clicking the small, red-colored cross to the right of the e-mail address.
  8. Fill in your contact information on this page. Remember, you don't have to complete all the fields if you don't want to.
  9. Click the tab called Messaging. Mahara will bring together the types of people you are likely to engage with in live text, audio, and video conferences. People can display these contact details to each other in their profile page and other web pages. Enter your contact details for the facilities you use on this page. If you are still not using live conferencing tools, perhaps now is the time to start thinking about it.
  10. Finally, click the tab called General. On this page enter your Occupation and Industry (remember to click the Save Profile button when you have finished). Janet Norman typed this:

What just happened?

You have just completed your profile by entering some information about yourself, including your personal information, what messaging/conference tools you use, and your Industry background.

Both the Contact Information and Messaging information are private and will only be seen if you add them to a web page. This is because you don't necessarily want anybody in the Mahara site to be able to see your telephone number and address for security reasons.

Help!
If you have found so far that you wish you had a bit more information about what certain options do, then don't worry! Mahara is very well documented software. On most pages, you will see litt le question mark icons. If ever in doubt, click on these and you will be given very useful and specific help relati ng to your area of doubt.

Let's now continue to add some more stuff into our profile, with profile icons.

Profile icons

Profile icons bring your profile to life! They are the first thing that people see about you when they are interacting with you in different areas of the site.

Mahara allows you to upload up to five different profile icons. This becomes very useful when you are making web pages out of your stuff . You can present yourself to different audiences in different ways, simply by altering your profie icon. For example, you can display a serious passport photo to your professional work colleagues, a more informal photo to your closest work colleagues, perhaps an avatar for public groups where you would like to be a bit more anonymous, and a picture of you having fun at a party for some of your more social interactions.

Time for action – uploading your profile icons

Let's get a few different profile icons online.

  1. Click the Profile submenu button called Profile Icons.
  2. Click Browse to find the profi le icon you want to upload from your computer or USB stick (or wherever).
  3. Don't forget to add an Image Title for your profile icon before you click the upload button.
  4. You are allowed to upload up to five profile icons and you can delete any icon at any point. You will need to choose one of your icons as your default profile icon which should probably be a fairly sensible one. Janet Norman has already uploaded two profile icons:

What just happened?

You have just uploaded a profile icon to represent yourself in your Mahara site. As we saw in the Time for action section, Janet has uploaded two icons. One of these is an avatar of herself and the other is the company logo. She plans to use the company logo in places where she would like to appear more professional, whereas the avatar will be used more generally.

Make yourself an avatar!
An avatar is simply a character or cartoon representation of yourself. If you don't want a passport photograph as your profile icon, an avatar is a good alternative. There are many websites that help you create your own. A few of the most fun include the Simpsons Avatar Maker (http://www.simpsonsmovie.com), DoppelMe (http://www.doppelme.com), and Mr Picassohead (http://www.mrpicassohead.com).

Editing your resumé goals and skills

No longer will you need to trawl through ancient hard drives trying to find the resumé you last wrote five years ago. Instead, you can keep your resumé information within your Mahara system and update it when you make changes. How impressive will you look when you show your resumé to your prospective employer as a web page rather than on a piece of paper.

There are three tabs remaining in the profile submenu that allow us to add stuff to our site. The remaining things we can add are:

  • Resumé information: You can record your career and educational achievements.
  • Goals information: Here you can set ourselves personal, academic, and career-related targets for your future.
  • Skills information: You can record for yourselves what you perceive to be your personal, academic, and work-related skills.
Mahara 1.2 E-Portfolios: Beginner's Guide Create and host educational and professional e-portfolios and personalized learning communities
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Time for action – editing your resumé goals and skills

  1. Click the My Resumé tab on the Profile submenu.
  2. The first two text-entry boxes ask you to type in a cover letter and also some information about your interests. Type in some information here to get you started. Don't forget to click the Save button immediately after you have entered your information.
  3. Now scroll down to see the contact information that has been carried across from the Contact Information page you edited earlier.
  4. As you work your way down the page, you will be prompted to fill in your personal information, employment history, education history, and so on. Fill in the sections that are relevant to you.
  5. Click into the My Goals tab and write your three different types of goals.
  6. Click into the My Skills tab and write your three different types of skills.

What just happened?

You just edited your resumé, your goals and your skills. This information is now stored in Mahara. The beauty of this of course is that you need to go through this process only once, then in the future you will only need to make updates depending on changes in career or skill sets. This is much better than having to update a word processed document!

You should regularly pop back and update your profile information. Also, you should think about using different e-mail accounts within Mahara for different purposes and audiences. Mahara encourages you to do this so that you can receive similar sorts of messages from similar groups of people in separate places.

Mahara asks you to set up a Blog Address as part of your contact information. Perhaps you could use Mahara itself to create a web page that collates your public-facing blogs. You could then enter this page as your blog in your contact information.

Most of all, we encourage you to use Mahara to become a reflective learner. It is not only a useful self-developmental process to use blogs to articulate, capture, and refine your everyday thinking processes, it can also be a useful self-developmental process to:

  • Set yourself concrete academic, educational, and career-related goals that you then strive to achieve:
    It is all too easy to just roll on from one year to the next. Mahara is encouraging us to be a bit more proactive with our lives than this. Why not push yourself? Set yourself some forward-looking targets and then strive to achieve them.
  • Honestly, openly, and critically self-evaluate your skills:
    It is as important that you are able to identify what you can do as it is for you to be able to identify what you want to be able to do or achieve. Use the Mahara Skills section to see if you can be honest and open with yourself about where your own skills and strengths actually lie. Are you intellectually and emotionally mature enough to actually be able to identify what you are good at? Many people aren't. Using Mahara can help you to get better at doing this.

Pop quiz – understanding your profile information

  • How many profile icons can you upload to your profile?
  • In which section of your portf olio should you be adding career related targets?
    • Goals
    • Skills
    • Contact Informati on
    • My Resumé

Have a go hero – doing more with your profile information

You saw in the last section that you can add links to your messaging addresses in your profile information. Mahara is encouraging you to play with some live messenger and audio/video conferencing clients such as Skype and Jabber. If you are not using these already, visit www.skype.com or www.jabber.org and sign up. You can also add your MSN, AIM, or YAHOO! accounts. You can now share this information with other users on your profile page as we'll see in the next section, so people have a different way of getting in touch with you.

Your profile page

Now for the exciting bit, your profile page. Before we start, let's introduce a bit more Mahara terminology. Throughout this article we have been hinting that all the 'stuff ' you have been uploading as profile information can be added to your own web pages. Mahara still uses a special name for these web pages—Views. Be prepared though, in the near future, this name seems set to change to something like web page or just page.

One of the most important Views you create in Mahara will be your profile page. Whichever of your other Views other people look at, they are likely at some point want to come back to your profile page to find out exactly who it is writing and recording all the fascinating stuff they are reading, listening to, and watching. All they have to do is to click your name or your profile icon wherever they see it and they will be taken straight to your profile page. Let's get our first look at your profile page.

Time for action – viewing and investigating your profile page

  1. View your profile page by clicking on the View Profile Page tab.
  2. You will find this under the Profile button on the main menu. If you entered information into the About Me page, you will noti ce this is showing in your profile.
  3. Scroll down the page and look at the different sections. You probably won't see many more sections filled in as you're only just starting. Can you see the sections for My Views. This is probably empty at the moment but as you start adding Views, they will appear here.
  4. Janet Norman from PI–Inc's profile page looks like this so far:

  5. Have a look at your Wall. Try typing a message directly into the box in the Wall section and click on the Post button. If you are just playing around with it at the moment, it might be best to check the little box Make your post private, so no one else can see it.
  6. Go and have a look at Derrin's Mahara.org profile page. This will allow you to see what a more populated profile page can look like (you won't need to sign in because Derrin's Mahara View is toggled to "Allow public access"):

What just happened?

You just viewed your profile page for the first time ever and learned a bit about how it is initially organized. Let's look at a few of the new things we just encountered.

When you add your personal information, Mahara remembers it all and uses it to automatically enter details to save you time. Information from your profile is autoloaded into diff erent sections of your profile page

At the moment, your profile page will be looking quite empty. You probably noticed that there were sections in there for groups, friends, and Views, but no information shown. This is because we haven't even added any groups, friends, or Views yet!

The profile page wall

We just found out how to post on the wall on our profile page, but what is the profile page wall and what is it used for?

The wall gets used as a place where people post messages that are directly and publicly aimed at you (as opposed to messages in forums that are aimed at closed groups of people and system messages that are privately sent to you). Anybody who visits your profile page will see what has been written to you on your wall. This means you have to think carefully before writing on someone else's wall, as it is open to the world.

We also touched on the idea of making your own post private. This essentially turns your wall post into a message as it can't be seen by everyone. A private wall post will be viewable only by the user whose wall it belongs to.

To see a good example of a Mahara wall being used, visit the former Mahara core developer Nigel McNie's wall at http://mahara.org/blocktype/wall/wall.php?id=12.

Some more profile page examples

Having a look at some other people's profile pages can give you ideas on content and construction. If you go back to http://mahara.org/user/view.php?id=106 and click on some of Derrin's friends, you can see some more profile pages. Many of them have made their Mahara profile page open to view by the public in just the same way that Derrin has. Other people require you to sign in to Mahara before you view their profile pages.

You can do much more with your profile page, though. So, let's start by looking at something we can add.

>> Continue Reading: Set up your own Profile in Mahara: Part 2

Mahara 1.2 E-Portfolios: Beginner's Guide Create and host educational and professional e-portfolios and personalized learning communities
Published: February 2010
eBook Price: $23.99
Book Price: $39.99
See more
Select your format and quantity:

About the Author :


Derrin Michael Kent

Derrin Kent describes himself as a cross between a trainer, a manager, a linguist, and a geek. Managing Director of TDM (http://tdm.info), Derrin has a Master's level teaching qualification from the University of Cambridge (DTEFLA) and is also a Linux-Certified professional (LPIC). A jack-of-all-trades in open source software, Derrin has extensive Moodle experience (already a reviewer of two Packt books on Moodle) and speaks both Spanish and English at home with his Peruvian wife and two bilingual children.

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