It’s Inquiry Week for our Year 8 students, and we are using a Ning to support the students to communicate and archive evidence of their research. We collapse curriculum for a week, and allow our students to investigate in groups a topic in depth around the idea of Triumph over Adversity. We first used a Ning two years ago, when they were free for educators and it was a dynamic learning environment then. What was great was that our students could form groups within the space and use the chat function at night to help them organise themselves for the next day. Last year, after Ning started charging for the service, we looked for an alternative. We used Wall.fm, but it was fraught with problems that I outlined in a post and not something I would use again. One of the stumbling blocks last year was the price Ning charges for a network that includes groups and chat. At the time, we felt that the $200 outlay was too expensive.
This year, our Head of Year 8 really wanted to run a paperless inquiry week. We had a wiki we used last year for the inquiry week, and we added pages that incorporated what the students would formerly receive in booklet form. When we discussed an online environment to support the project, I recommended that we bite the bullet and outlay what is now a $239.00 a year cost to run a Ning that has the features we needed; in particular, groups and chat.
I’m glad we did. I spent time last week in classes explaining the Ning environment and making sure the students were signed up so that we could hit the ground running this week. Yesterday the students went on an excursion and were asked to post a reply to a discussion prompt in the evening. Over half of them got something up last night, and those who didn’t were busily posting this morning. What has been amazing is watching it develop during today and this evening. Groups are formed, and the students have posted their topics and guiding questions within these spaces. This afternoon’s discussion prompt has seen over 100 replies this evening. These are from students, detailing what has inspired them about their topic, and replies from teachers who are encouraging their efforts. The chat space has been used this evening, and i’ve been pleased to see students suggesting that they move to Google Docs to work on their planning for tomorrow. (There’s some transference happening : ) They used Google Docs earlier this year in a Humanities project) The Head of Year 8 sent me an email late this afternoon and said,
The Ning’s like some living organism!
Here’s a screenshot of part of the front page from earlier tonight.
It is most certainly a living organism. It’s providing focus, encouragement, and transparency to our learning environment this week. Even though I’d love to see the powers that be at Ning work more closely with education and provide better pricing, our financial outlay is already paying off. I can’t wait to what it’s hosting by the end of the week!