“Oh, it’s so Ning to be with you”

“Oh, it’s so nice to be with you, I love all the things you say and do…” Gallery   Eid+Mubarak+-+%D8%B9%DB%8C%D8%AF+%D9%81%D8%B7%D8%B1+%D9%85%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%B1%DA%A9

I was first introduced to Nings through Joyce Valenza’s TeacherLibrarianNing (2430 members). I have to confess that I found the interface quite confusing for a while.  However, since joining that Ning, I have joined several others and have become accustomed to the way Nings work.

The Ning that has excited me the most recently is the SCASL Ning.  I’ve attended three SCASL (South Carolina Association of School Librarians) conferences in the past and have been impressed with the enthusiasm and creativity of other media specialists in South Carolina.  The current leadership of SCASL has made intensive efforts to involve our association with Web 2.0 through blogging, podcasts, and even a webcast. 

Now, thanks to Julie Putnam, South Carolina library media specialists have their own social network.  As of today, 235 people have joined the Ning.  Great ideas are being shared and new friendships are being formed. 

I want my teachers to experience the professional development that Nings offer, so I thought I would find several to recommend.  The numbers in parentheses after the title of each Ning are the number of members in the Ning as of the date of this post.

English Companion: Where English teachers meet to help each other (594)       This Ning  was created by Jim Burke, author of many books including the namesake of this site, The English Teacher’s Companion. 

Classroom 2.0  (15,559) Winner of the 2008 Edublog’s Award for Best Use of Social Networking. This Ning focuses on introducing teachers to Web 2.0 tools and how they are being used to enhance instruction. 

Smart Board Revolution (750)      The members of this Ning share tips, ideas, and lessons for using Smart Boards in the classroom.

VoiceThread for Educators  (248)      The members here are participating “to create, build, and keep resources” for those using VoiceThread in the classroom.

So, You Want to Start Your Own Ning?

Ning in Education (3229)      This is a Ning on how to use Nings in education.  It’s a great starting point for anyone considering developing their own Ning.  If you want to start a Ning for your secondary classroom, be sure to investigate the offer for an ad-free site.

Image attribution:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/49512158@N00/1638001945

MySpace: Learning the Ropes






 Elgin Community College offers social networking class

Many public schools block social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook to protect their students.  I know that this is going to sound far-fetched, but to me this is the equivalent of purchasing a gun and locking it up in cabinet so that your children can’t be harmed by it.

What happens to those children if the cabinet is left unlocked or they decide they just have to see the gun and break into the cabinet?  If they have not been taught how to handle a gun, then the consequences can be dangerous.

Same situation with MySpace and other social networking sites.  As educators, we are supposed to prepare children for life beyond (and just outside of) school.  Many have access to the Internet at home, a friend’s house, or public library.  What they post can be detrimental to their future employability, but we can’t effectively communicate this to students when it is “off limits.”

It is sad that students have to graduate from high school before they are offered classes that teach them how to safeguard themselves and their future when using social networking sites. 

How to change this?  First, we have to do the research needed to support our belief that teaching in the safety of the classroom is better than having students explore when unsupervised.  (Hmm, this sounds familiar.  Sex education classes?)  Research which shows that employers often look at these sites before hiring a potential employee will help underscore the necessity of teaching students what is acceptable to post.

Then we have to familiarize educators with the social networking sites that are most frequently used by our students.  We have to provide positive examples to shake the negative stereotypes commonly held by many educators. Then we must share examples of non “R” rated sites which push the limits and jeopardize the creator’s future employability.

What else do we need to do to promote responsible use of social networking sites?  Your ideas would be greatly appreciated as I go to bat for my students.