Monday, September 28, 2009
If we ask our students if they are part of an online community, probably ninty nine percent of them will say they have an account in orkut. Orkut is a wonderful social networking site and is a way to connect students with things they love doing and with people they like to share things with.
However, orkut as social networking has its limitations. It works more like a message board and it lacks features that can really connect students in a more meaningful way. Not only that, it is also public and does not allow you to control its features and decide who joins the community, what questions you can ask joining members, and so on.
I have been using ning for some time and have found out that my students really enjoy using it.Up to now, I had used with more advanced levels. However, most recently, after unsuccsessfully trying to set up a wiki in pbworks for my Juvenile 2 students (aged 11 to 13), I decided to give ning a try. To my surprise, it worked really well and students loved it. I also got rid of the problem I was having with pbworks that seemed to heavy to load.
Let me summarize some of the features of ning that in my opinion make it the perfect social networking site for learners from basic to advanced levels.
- Chat - ning has a chat feature that can connect the whole class. Besides having a group chat with your class in the computers lab, you can also schedule a chat session with your students at any time. Not only that, but you can also have a guest to join in and chat with you class.
- Videos/photos - your students can add videos of their own or pictures to their albums.
- Forums - you can create forums to discuss any topic.
- Music - the music feature allows your students to add their favorite music.
- Customization - Your students can choose colors and pictures of their favorite soccer teams to customize their pages.
- Blogs - you can create blog posts and have your students to create theirs with pictures, tags, etc.
- And some others that you can explore by yourself.
How am I using ning?
I am now using with my 12-year-old juvenile 2 students at Leonardo. I always write step by instructions in Portuguese on how to join the community and how to customize their pages. I first set the community sign up and open to anyone and public so that the ones joining in do not need any approval. I later change the settings on that to avoid unwanted members.
I take the whole group to the computer lab for the sign up and they generally get very enthusiastic about it. I also let them have a group chat. The chat feature is the one they like the most. I frequently catch them chatting with each other in the evenings from their home computers.
I have just started and now I am teaching them to blog.
If you decide to give Ning a try, I would be more than happy to help you set up your community.