“Ningin’ it up”

April 9, 2009

To see the front page of our Ning to see how it’s being used for yourself, CLICK HERE or HERE.

First, let me say I am aware of how infrequent and inconsistant my posts are; I’m working on it!  This last two weeks has been brutal, though I won’t get into it here.  Now, I’m on Easter break and still not feeling like myself, but vastly improved.  And now, back to the purpose of my post!!!

How I use the ning for my class:

  1. Students post a “reflective” blog over their reading once a week (Note: not a summary; students are to reflect on what stood out or take a stance that might facilitate a conversation.)
  2. Students must respond to FIVE blog posts by commenting each week. They are actually responding to last week’s discussion so all blog posts are available for comment.
  3. Students also post questions and responses on the forum boards for points. This category is flexible, allowing students to choose to participate only in dialogues they find interesting or believe they can contribute. There’s a rubric with a total of 100 points available for participation over the entire unit.

Additionally, students are doing a semi-on-the-side research based “paper” in the form of a “formal blog post” (is there such a thing?).  For now, it consists of researching a controversial scientist, writing an introduction to the paper, a paragraph of dry facts (here’s what he/she really did), and then taking a stance on whether the contribution was positive or negative, ending in a well crafted conclusion.  Yes, it’s a bit formulaic, but it’s only a 1-2 page paper and I want them to get right to the point!  I hope it goes well, as I would like to continue having blog posts requring MLA format to give them the opportunity to practice!

Here’s what I LOVE about the Ning in my class:

  1. Students who are too shy to state their opinions in class finally have an opportunity to “speak” up and I am very pleased to see them sharing their thoughts!
  2. Students will have a built in study guide for the essays and tests rather than asking me to provide their thinking for them.
  3. It offers students the TIME needed to express their thoughts more clearly.  While I still love having Socratic seminars and other fun circle discussions, you have to be really quick to keep up.  Some less aggressive students struggle to get a word in at the times that they have something fabulous to contribute.
  4. Students have the opportunity to make the space their own by personalizing pages not only with colors, but also pictures, music, videos, applications, and so on.  This seems to make them more likely to contribute!
  5. As a total control freak, I cannot help but love the features available!  I approve members, the features described above, the posts and comments.  Even though I cannot control every single thing, I do get email notification of all activity, so I can check in on them around the clock. (Literally, since I receive these emails on my Blackberry. Yes, I’m addicted to checking my email!)
  6. I have even begun holding the blog posts in moderation until all are submitted so that students must come up with their own ideas, rather than mimicking those of their peers.  This not only require more thinking on the part of students, but it also *hopefully* encourages more diversity of thoughts and opinions to respond to!

I’m sure there are plenty more!  We’ve only been on Ning for 2 weeks so far, but I’m very pleased with the progress.  What are your thoughts on the benefits and shortcomings of using Ning as an extension of the classroom? And/Or are there any fabulous ways you are incorporating the Ning that I (anyone else) should be considering?


3 Responses to ““Ningin’ it up””

  1. Liz Davis Says:

    Thanks for this great post. Your Ning looks great and you have done a wonderful job of summarizing the best features of Ning in the classroom. I have had a lot of English teachers use Ning and I’m always trying to explain what I like about it. I will definitely be passing on your blog post and your Ning link.

  2. I think the work you’ve been doing is fantastic! One way I have been interested in seeing Ning used in education would be in the recording of classes or lessons and using those videos to ask students/colleagues to comment on pedagogy. I started using Ning with a 6th grade class earlier this year, but, lo and behold, they were too young! (13, apparently, is a magic social network number…) Thanks again for posting your work.

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