Students are doing it for themselves.

(sing the title to the Pointer Sister’s tune!)

I haven’t updated of late about the Year 9 Ning running across our four classrooms at Toorak College. Mostly that’s because life has been crazy for me and I haven’t had time to feed it to the extent that it needs in order for it to be a rich environment. One of the things I’ve learnt is that a Ning needs a leader to constantly drive momentum. It can’t survive with just a leader, the community needs to be plugging away too, but leadership is an essential component.

I wondered how things would go now that we are on school holidays. My prediction was that it would be quiet. We’ve been focused on assessment and end of term careers week and we didn’t get class time to prompt student involvement.  I figured this would translate into next to no activity.

Well, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. To start with, a fellow teacher uploaded a discussion about ‘Mid year holiday English fun’ and asked the students to reply to this;

What will you be up to during the winter break that is related to English?

* I’ll be curling up in front of the heater with a cat on my feet, cocoa with marshmallows in one hand, and a book in the other.
* I’ll also be visiting my local library to check out their new books
* I’m going to write in my diary
* I might go to see a play or a comedy show
* I’ll certainly be watching lots of movies!    

And yes, kids have been replying.

And then today, I got this email from one of my students;

My dad sent this to me and it is english related… i have also put it on the ning.

Now this is a student who was not particularly interested in the Ning at the start of the year. Here’ s what she posted as a discussion;

UP. A little word with a lot of meaning.



Lovers of the English language might enjoy this. It is yet another example of why people learning English have trouble with the language. Learning the nuances of English makes it a difficult language. (But then, that’s probably true of many languages.)

There is a two-letter word in English that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that word is ‘UP.’ It is listed in the dictionary as being used as an [adv], [prep], [adj], [n] or [v].

It’s easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP?
At a meeting, why does a topic come UP ? Why do we speak UP, and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report? We call UP our friends and we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver, we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen. We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car.
At other times the little word has a real special meaning. People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses.

To be dressed is one thing but to be dressed UP is special.

And this up is confusing:
A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP.

We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night. We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP !

To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP , look the word UP in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4 of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions

If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don’t give UP,you may wind UP with a hundred or more.

When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP . When the sun comes out we say it is clearing UP. When it rains, it wets UP the earth. When it does not rain for awhile, things dry UP.

One could go on & on, but I’ll wrap it UP , for now …….my time is UP , so time to shut UP!

Oh….one more thing:
What is the first thing you do in the morning & the last thing you do at night?

U P 

Well, it’s made my day. It made me smile and it made me realise that the kids are connecting with this forum. The fact that a student who was disinterested in the beginning, now makes the connection between something her Dad sends her and the learning environment we have created at school is pretty darned impressive in my opinion.

I’m feeling UP about the Ning right now. Let’s see if the Ning can remain UP at the forefront of my students’ minds over a three week break.

4 Replies to “Students are doing it for themselves.”

  1. Jenny, nings are easy to create, more difficult to set up, and hard work to really get going. I’m inspired by your ning. My year 7 English ning is still in the prehistoric era. I hope that we end UP with the kind of interaction and creativity that your ning demonstrates. I look UP to your efforts.

    1. Thank you Tania. Your support means a lot to me. Sometimes you feel like you are pushing uphill to no avail. Comments like yours really help to keep me going. : )

  2. I agree with Tania. It is easy to create but more difficult to set up. I have recently set up 2 nings, one for staff and one for students and it has taken me weeks to develop some content. I haven’t launched these as yet. I am planning to do so during Book Week. My nings are not curriculum based and not tied to one particular year level or class. They are similar to established library blogs. a mixture of library news, reviews, book discussions etc. It has taken me ages to set up, as I spent a fair bit of time determining if I wanted a blog, wiki or a ning. Then having chosen to go down the track of a ning and learning more about its features, I was (am) constantly revising the purpose and focus of the ning. I am trying to enlist the support of teachers to help me get the students involved, and naturally they are insisting on valid reasons – not simply because I want to embrace Web 2.0 tools. Of course, I would love to say its fun, albeit time consuming, but I know that in order for them to embrace this type of technology I need to be very specific as to why. Is it enough to say that I want the students to have a passion for reading and books, I want them to share this love with each other and to communicate this passion in a medium they understand. And I love the interactivity of a ning which is so much more than leaving a comment on a blog and more flexible than a wiki. Am I been too ambitious in starting a blog for the whole school population? Should I have restricted myself to perhaps a year level? Which may I say is hard when you are not a classroom teacher and depend on the teachers to embrace your passion and utilise a medium with which they are not comfortable.This is one reason I am starting a ning for staff – so they can be comfortable in interacting with other staff before they try anything with there students. I am going to have to market this one extensively for it to suceed. Have you found a lot of traffic and interaction on your library blog? Is it possible to compare your blog and ning in terms of usage? I know they serve different purposes audiences but can you gauge if nings would attrack more traffic and interest compared to a blog? Is this an unreasonable question?

    1. Lots of questions there Angela. I think it is perfectly acceptable to create a ning for the reasons you state. Our library blog doesn’t get a huge amount of traffic from within the school but it has received over 18,000 hits, in large part due to a post about Robert Pattinson. We need to work it harder; something we will have to do this term. The ning is operating really well at Yr 9 and is supporting our Yr 9 English curriculum very effectively in my opinion. They are two very different entities serving different purposes. I think the ning gives people an easier entry point and more interactivity. What is essential is leadership driving it; you can’t sit back and think it will run itself. Once you start it you have to constantly feed it and support the users.

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