Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bring on the Ning!

As many educational technology writers like David Warlick, Will Richardson, and others have pointed out, when students write for an authentic audience they not only grow as writers but as thinkers as well. In his book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, Will Richardson explains how the collaborative nature of Web 2.0 encourages students to "read more critically, think about that reading more analytically, and write more clearly. And, they are building relationships with peers, teachers, mentors, and professionals..." (21). In publishing their writing to the web through platforms like Nings, students "become active participants in the design of their own learning, we teach them how to be active participants in their lives and future careers" (129).

Joyce Valenza, a library information specialist and writer, expands on the advantages of using the Read/Write Web with students, specifically the advantages of using Nings. On her wiki page, Top Ten Reasons for Using 2.0 in Learning, Valenza suggests that Nings:
  • open up opportunities for students to write for larger, authentic audiences

  • create class environments for interaction and media sharing

  • promote, support, and model creative and innovative thinking and inventiveness(NETS*T)

  • engage students in exploring real-world issues and solving authentic problems using digital tools and resources (NETS*T)

  • promote student reflection using collaborative tools to reveal and clarify students' conceptual understanding and thinking, planning, and creative processes (NETS*T)

  • allow teachers to customize and personalize learning activities to address students' diverse learning styles, working strategies, and abilities using digital tools and resources (NETS*T)

  • promote collaboration with students, peers, parents, and community members using digital tools and resources to support student success and innovation (NETS*T)

  • advocate, model, and teach safe, legal, and ethical use of digital information and technology, including respect for copyright, intellectual property, and the appropriate documentation of sources (NETS*T)

  • promote and model digital etiquette and responsible social interactions related to the use of technology and information (NETS*T)

But what the heck is a Ning?
According to their website, a Ning is a social network that "...empowers people to create and discover new social experiences for the most important people and interests in their lives. Ning was started with a simple premise: when people have the freedom to create a new social experience online, uniquely customized for the most important people and interests in their lives with no effort, no cost, and infinite choice, the world is a better, more colorful and certainly more interesting place in which to live."

What can teachers do with a Ning?
  • Create a discussion board where students can respond to your questions and to each other

  • Post assignments or link handouts

  • Enable each student to create a blog

  • Encourage students to respond to one another's posts or blogs

  • Link files, images, audio, and video files

Check out what these teachers are doing with Nings:
  • I created this Ning for my 10th grade students, but am also using it to help introduce other teachers to using Nings - msward.ning.com

  • Mr. Siegerman and Ms. Ward created this Ning to connect upper and underclass students - alookahead.ning.com

  • Mrs. Follis has been using a Ning to help students reflect on their reading of Frankenstein at mrsfollis.ning.com

  • Ms. Nash has her Benton High School students use a Ning to explore topics in zoology at nashzoology.ning.com

  • The wiki page Social Networks in Education offers a huge list of teachers using Nings.

Ideas for using Nings in the classroom:
  • Check out this great resource produced by EduCause: 7 Things You Should Know About Nings

  • Suzanne posted this blog entry about using a Ning with her high school students. Check out the comments, too. Some great ideas!

  • Mrs. Follis offers some wonderful reflections on how she has used the blog portion of the Ning to help her students better understand Frankenstein.

How to Create Your Own Ning:
  • First, head out to Ning.com to sign up. Then use the linked tutorials below to help you set-up your Ning network.

  • After you set up your initial page you will be able to make changes using the “Manage” tab in the upper right of your Ning page.

  • Liz B. Davis has put together a wonderful presentation on how to set-up your own Ning. Find the directions here.

  • These embedded tutorials walk through the basics of setting up a Ning:


Tips for Creating Your Educational Ning:
  • Get the ads removed from your educational Ning site by following these steps

  • Liz B. Davis, an educator and writer, has a wonderful blog reflection on using Nings with students. Check out her post "Doing the Ning Thing"

  • Jenny Luca, a teacher in Australia, also offers her reflections on using Nings with students.

Cool Nings for Educators
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