The Elgg environment that I have been making extensive use of is essentailly a buffet of technology - with personal profiling, blogs, wikis, group creation, access restrictions, folksonomy tagging, notification, eportfolio and soon openID - I'm trying to model it as a course tool that morphs into a community as required and dips into formal and informal situations like a spaceship docking at a space station, taking on connections and resources and readying for the learning flight to the next waystation but carrying its own connections and resourcese throught the connectosphere.
I have three projects going on now - as a collaborative/group work course tool for a distance course, which hopefully will evolve into a cohort community, then a community of practice as the students graduate and continue/go back/begin worklife and can then dip back into formal or informal learning; as a community of practice for career teachers working grades 9-12; and a lifelong learning community for 3rd age learners taking educational vacations.
But you know of course that if you build it, they may not come, or they may go elsewhere. My Elgg install was slow, so of coure my students flocked over to facebook - a social netwrok thay are already on and are familiar with. Of course privacy issues, content ownership and who's watching your entries (CIA, etc)didn't deter them. For the career teachers I've held workshops at their conference, even had a list of teachers supplied by the faculty of Education and had workshops and pizza ready to go - total show of 4 people over all 3 workshops. And this is just to get the people familiar enough with the toolset to join in and become a seed group.
Bent but not broken I continue on. Issues still keep plaguing me beyond actual membership (even if no one shows up I need a plan). I'm still grappling with a number of pedagogical issues - control vs. autonomy, organic growth or planned growth?, user experience vs. user autonomy, stewardship vs facilitation/moderationx, am I creating communities of practice or "communities for practice" as Christopher Sessums describes. More questions - when time allows I'll expound on these.
I am looking to incubate a web-based community of practice where educators