I'm using Ning.com, which is a site you can use to set up your own social network on any topic. I'd give you a link to it, but it's set to private in-order to keep it to only my students and to allay any parent concerns about safety.
My Goals for Ning:
- Engage the students more with the material.
- Show students the power of Social Networking. Most of my students do some sort of social networking. Some may even know how to use it as a tool for learning. By the end of the year I hope all of my students will know how to do this.
- Begin investigating online portfolios.
- Engagement: Students today are online a lot. I want to leverage their interest in the internet and MySpace/Facebook. I'm hoping that by tying my class to a social network I may be able to excite them in ways I can't do in class.
- Power: I will be encouraging them to share ideas and ask questions through the social network. We are building a community of learning here and we can only do that if they are helping each other. Every day a student (from each class) will post a summary of the notes/activities for the day. This should help while preparing for exams as well as aid those students who are absent.
- Portfolios: Students can upload pictures and videos. I will be encouraging them to do this often. I'm not sure Ning is the right platform for a personal portfolio and I'm not sure I want to require a formal portfolio. That said, I will be asking students to document much of their work and to share that documentation through Ning.
Cool Stuff/observations tus far:
- On the first day (Aug. 30), while I was having students take my survey and begin setting up their Ning accounts there was a fun bit. During one class we all were so involved we did not notice what time it was. Suddenly the bell rang and there was an audible groan from the entire class. They were disappointed that they had to leave my class!!! Now I know they were just playing and we hadn't engaged with any physics material, but when they can associate fun with my class...
- A couple of students had questions related to a home-lab using trigonometry. They asked their questions in the comment section of my blog post. There was some discussion and questions were answered correctly before I ever saw them. I somehow missed the activity altogether until after the assignment was due. This is exactly the sort of activity I was hoping for.
- Most of my students have already personalized their profile pages. They've changed the themes to match themselves. When I look at the profile pages in the other Ning networks I'm a member of (Clasroom2.0 and MACULSpace) I don't see this. Very few educators seem to have personalized their profile pages.
- Many students seem to use the comment section on the profile pages as a replacement for a chat client and/or text messaging. While setting up Ning access I had one student tell me he never uses email at all. When he wants to communicate with others online he uses MySpace.