A teacher’s evaluation of ning

“The real problem is not adding technology to the current organization of the classroom, but changing the culture of teaching and learning”.
Alan November in “Curriculum21” by Heidi Hayes Jacobs (found on Flickr in Great quotes about learning and change)

I want to share with you a teacher’s evaluation of a ning as learning and teaching platform for a Year 12 English class. Although Catherine has only been using the ning for a couple of weeks, she has used the features of ning to their full capacity, enhanced student learning, and created a real  learning community. It’s a shame that the ning is private – otherwise I’d show you what it looks like and how it’s working. Instead, read Catherine’s excellent summary and description.

A couple of weeks ago I began a ning with my Year 12 English class. After their initial disappointment that this ‘wasn’t facebook’ and once they worked out how to post a blog and replies to discussions, the class began to embrace their ning, and I have been thrilled with the results!
Our ning contains the following:
1. Photos of our class. Once a week, I bring a camera into the class and the boys take turns with being the ‘class photographer’. They capture moments from the class and ensure that everyone in the class has a photo. We have also added photos from college activities such as the Athletics Carnival where all the boys dressed up. These photos have been placed in albums in the ning and have been great in inspiring a sense of class spirit and unity.
2. Videos related to the text: I have been able to upload a number of videos related to the text we are currently studying – ‘Maestro’ – at the moment there are videos of Cyclone Tracy, Wagner, Peter and the Wolf, and Vienna.
3. Notes: I am able to write notes that highlight upcoming events / work that is due etc. I have arranged the format so that this is the first thing the boys see when they log on.
4. Groups: I have made groups for each of the texts we are studying, so all of our comments, quotes and resources can be located in easy to find areas.
5. Discussion Forums: Each group has discussion forums. At the moment our discussions are taking place in the Maestro group. As a class we have decided to pool all the quotes we find into these areas so that when writing a text response, everyone knows where to find the resources.
6. Chat facility: this enables everyone in the class to be online at the same time in the evenings and ask questions that everyone can contribute to, if they wish.

At the moment my class is preparing for their first text response, and I have found the chat facility to be extremely useful. A number of boys over the long weekend asked for help with their introductions and were able to place their work on chat and receive feedback from other students as well as myself. It was wonderful to see students help each other, as well as to see the particular student edit and re-edit their work. We have missed a number of classes in the past week due to public holidays and college activities, so it was wonderful to be able to assist students in this way in the lead-up to their assessment. It has also been good to see students ask each other for help with specific quotes and to see other students provide answers.

The ning has given students a central place to go to, when finding their resources for English, and has also allowed questions to be asked and answered very quickly. One of the boys told me this afternoon how much he loves being able to use the ning and how helpful it has been for him. I have also enjoyed seeing boys who never contribute in class, feel confident using this technology to voice their opinions. One boy in particular has become a ‘guru’ when it comes to knowing specific quotes in the novel, which has been wonderful for his self-esteem. However, without a doubt, the best part of the ning is the fact that students are discussing and analyzing the text outside of school hours – of their own volition! What more can an English teacher ask for?!

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5 Comments

Filed under 21st century learning, Web 2.0

5 responses to “A teacher’s evaluation of ning

  1. Thank you Tania. This is a fantastic review of the benefits of ning in an English class. I had a similar experience where following @jennyluca’s lead I started a private ning for year 9 students to study the novel Huckleberry Finn. I have had similar comments from the students and would like to congratulate Catherine for using it in Year 12.

  2. Thankyou for dropping by, Jo. It’s a pity these nings are private because I think that if more teachers could see how the ning functioned, more would realise the fantastic potential. Catherine is honing students’ love of online interaction to provide something much richer than learning limited to classes.

  3. Jenny Gilbert

    Hi Tania – this sounds much like what I have dreamed of with my NING for VCE students. However I have found students don’t make as much use of it as they could – a bit like my experiences in groups on facebook- 100’s of group members but only a few active participants. maybe I need some lollipops to hand out to those who do make good use of the site – or red frogs 🙂

    I like your idea of groups for texts – I might do that. I also backup my NING with the more static ‘wiki’ resource site for all my students – it has links to resources for texts.

    I have made my front page public – perhaps you can too so maybe we can at least see what is going on. You should be able to see the first page here http://sjcvceenglish.ning.com/

    Is it possible to share the video links/videos you found useful for Maestro? we are doing that in semester 2.

    The best experience I have had with the NING was on a sick day – I was not well enough to be present in the classroom – but was able to book students into a computer lab, ask them to go online and I used the chat feature as a means of helping them complete tasks set while I was at home. From memory a SAC was coming up so there were lots of questions. The students appreciated that I was able to help them from home as a result.

    Yeah for NING!

  4. Your ning looks very good, Jenny. Yes, I have an English wiki to support. I also have art and maths wikis. They work well as resource supports. I wonder if I gave you a link to my youtube account, would you see them? I just favourited the videos which are included in Catherine’s ning.
    http://www.youtube.com/account?feature=mhw4
    and then click on Favourites.

  5. Pingback: Using Ning in the Year 12 classroom | Bright ideas

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