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.