It has taken me weeks to get to this point of understanding the true use of Mahara and to 'get around' the site. It took a very long time to buffer the clips on how to use Mahara, and I waited ages for my PowerPoint Presentation to upload - I am not looking forward to my movie maker clip.
Mahara is a file storage system that also acts as a resume builder, RSS Feeder (like Google Reader), and a social site - similar to Facebook. It took me a long time to get used to the layout and all of the links within links on Facebook - so I guess that I will gradually get to that point with Mahara.
So far, I can see that you have a profile about yourself, that you can add personal information like goals to - which makes it a more personal experience. You can add and search for friends and form groups, hence the comparison to Facebook. It provides a large amount of file storage for $5/annum, which can be upgraded for a small fee. You upload your own work (artifacts) and then create a view, based on what you have uploaded. You can then choose to share what you want with your friends - a great source of collaborative teaching! I am part of the CQU Moodle group, we are creating a large; collaborative piece of work, and, it has an authentic focus (our future) - what an excellent way to get us thinking and using the engagement theory without even realising it!
Mahara gives the user many options, and as a student, I have slowly begun uploading my 'good' work that I have created for my classes. This gives me a safety deposit box for my creations, and the ability to share them with my friends. As a teacher, Mahara acts in the same way - but I am honestly unsure of how to use this with my students?? Possibly as an e-portfolio of their work? I will have to do more digging and discovery.