So, how’s that ning going?

Some of you who have been reading here would be aware that I started a ning for the Year 9 English students at my school. When I started I told you I’d be checking in every now and then with a progress report.

So, here goes.

All told I’m pretty happy with the progress. Very nearly the entire year level is signed up; we’ve had hiccups with one class but they should be resolved next week. The students don’t all contribute, but we have some active users and some of them have continued to start forum topics with no prompting from staff members. 

One of the most popular forum topics relates to the novel Twilight. One of our teachers started it and it’s been popular with a wide range of students. It’s certainly been a means of forming the community. I like the fact that the students can see that we as staff can relate to their reading interests.

Certainly the staff involved have adopted it and are embedding it into their practice. When we meet as a team we discuss how we can use the ning to support our learning outcomes. In the coming weeks we intend to upload our issues topics as forum discussions and will encourage our students to post their opinions. We can see that this will offer students access to opposing points of view and will probably assist those students who are struggling with ideas.

Having YouTube videos easily accessible in the ning has been wonderful for just in time teaching moments. When we were discussing teenage pregnancy (a feature of our novel study of Bye, Beautiful)  I was able to flick into the videos page in the ning and show relevant videos that demonstrated the thinking of 1960’s Australia. I’ve been locating some music video clips that relate to Romeo and Juliet in preparation for our text study next term. You can see how many views each video has had which is useful in tracking student use of the ning. It’s clear that students have accessed these videos out of class time which is really pleasing.

The students like the fact that they have their own pages and can change their profiles. Latest activity in the ning often indicates they are leaving one another messages or updating their profile. I like the fact that you can open a student’s page and see where they have made input into the ning. I’m figuring this is going to be useful to use in parent conferences.

Just having an opportunity to read some of their reflections from across classrooms is very powerful. The fact that I can comment of the reflection of a student I don’t teach is wonderful I think. I’m able to support my colleagues and that student to understand that teaching can be available to you from others in spaces like this; you aren’t restricted to the one classroom, one teacher notion that pervades most school systems.

Certainly the flurry of activity that was evident in the early stages has slowed down. You have to work a ning. You need to be adding new content all the time to keep it fresh. But I think we’ve seen adoption. In the last couple of weeks I’ve heard the word ning used at a school assembly and the Principal referred to it in his newsletter item for our school community. How many schools out there would be using this term – not a whole lot I’m betting.

I presented our Yr 9 ning to our English faculty this week and was excited today to hear today that our Yr 12 teachers have started a ning for their English students. A staff member told me how impressed they were with what was happening at Yr 9 and how they thought the discussions that can be generated in  ning would be helpful for the students. I was thrilled -this was exactly the message I was hoping to convey in my presentation. The fact that adoption is spreading is testament to our involvement in PLP (Powerful Learning Practice). I truly believe we would not be making the leaps that we are without the impetus this program provides.

I’m hopeful that we are going to have one of our PLP cohort schools involved in our ning. The school is a boy’s school from the United States and we have invited them to join our ning to engage in forum discussions with our girls. This is a means of bringing male voice into our school – we are an all girl’s school, and while I believe there are advantages to single sex education, I do think exposure to  a male viewpoint is important.  Having them join the ning will be a means of addressing this issue for both of our schools. The girls are certainly excited about this possibility so I hope it pans out for us.      

Do I think it’s been worth implementing?

Absolutely. No question. And I think my students would agree. I do feel a real sense of community, a feeling that we are in this together and we are there to help to one another out. There’s no doubt it’s not the forum for everyone, but it certainly is a powerful tool and one that I feel is worth the investment of time.

9 Comments

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9 responses to “So, how’s that ning going?

  1. librareanne

    Hi Jenny,
    It’s exciting to hear the successes of others with web 2.0 tools. We have been using a ning with our kids to encourage their reading and commenting on the books in the Sakura Medal reading program we are participating in here in Japan. We have kids from Grade 4 – 6 involved as well as teachers. They love it and as with yours were very engaged in the beginning with activity tapering off a little now. You are right we need to keep it fresh. I love the way we can utilise video in the ning too I have found all kinds of author talks, book trailers and promos relating to the titles that they are reading. Because of the age of our students I keep the ning accessible only to members. The front page is public. I am exploring new ways we could utilise nings in our library/school and it is always so good to hear about the positive experience of others in these relatively uncharted waters! Thanks for your informed and encouraging post!

    • jennylu

      And thank you for adding to the conversation and sharing the great things you are doing. Your ning sounds fantastic; really approprite for a reading program. Makes me think of ways we could use a ning for our book club. Looks like more work coming my way Leanne thanks to you.

  2. steveshann

    Great to read about what you’re doing with the Ning. And an all-girls school? We’re an all-boys school, and I’m using a ning with our Year 10s (studying satire) and our Year 11s Extension class (text-culture-value). The boys are excited to have people from around the world looking at what they’re doing, and I’ve written to the parents to invite them to have a look. There was good feedback. Like you, I’ve found that it needs constant freshening up and lots of teacher involvement: encouraging links, suggesting discussions, responding to the students’ blogs etc. But the efforts worth it, isn’t it! You can sense, reading your account of it, your infectious enthusiasm, which your girls no doubt really love.

    • jennylu

      Thanks for the comment Steve. Much appreciated. Your suggestion via Twitter of our classes linking in some way sounds like a good one to consider as we move forward with our ning. Your nings look great- it certainly looks like you have created a community of learners. I love how you have a text box operating as a daily notice for your kids. I’m assuming it’s a text box you’ve inserted? Am i right? Or is it something else you drag into the ning’s appearance. I’d love to know of you can fill me in.

  3. steveshann

    Yes, it’s a text box. I think you can have as many of these as you want. (I’m learning as I go, and just scratching the surface at the moment.)

    I’m not sure what I had in mind about a possible collaboration. Initially, maybe, it would be good to find another Prelim Extension class somewhere in NSW running a Ning and making it and my ning open to both classes, just so the students could see what others were doing and join in on discussions as they wanted. So, a low-key start, then see what might grow from there.

  4. V Yonkers

    I have found that my students have become much more independent and I spend less time in class answering the same questions over and over. I recently had one student contact another when I accidently handed back her paper to the wrong person. This meant much less time for me to relay messages.

    However, my students are university students. Do you find this creates greater self-regulation even with the younger students?

    • jennylu

      I think we need to get them more comfortable with the space Virginia. At the moment I’m finding for the majority of students we still need to point them in the direction of the ning. Our early adopter students are the ones who are creating their own self directed learning opportunities within it. As familiarity with the forum increases I’m anticipating behaviour similar to that of your university students.

  5. It’s certainly true that Nings are getting to be almost commonplace nowadays! It’s so different now – so many bloggers talking about their Nings. I remember back in early 2007 when I first introduced this idea to CEO schools I was working with, and Dean started using Nings so successfully – while others hadn’t even heard of blogs, wikis, nings or anything. So it’s fabulous to have so many links and so many people discovering this tool. We’ve got lots of Nings happening at Joeys and I love the variety of ways they are used, in so many subject areas. I think our PLPer Gary has the record number though – one for every single one of his classes. Welcome to the fantastic world of Ning! Congrats on the work you’re doing with Year 9.

  6. It’s all good; I’m jumping on as well! Thanks for your modelling, advice, ideas and feedback, Jenny.

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