Sunday, May 27, 2012


Ning Protocol
I have been using NING for the past five years as my class's closed social network. I'm convinced that upper elementary is the best time to start guided social media efforts because it introduces students to the medium and the language related to the medium at an eager and open minded age.

Since the law requires students to be 13 or older to interact legally on the Internet, I ask families to join the NING rather than individual children. It is up to the family members to guide and monitor their child's use of NING at home, and I do the same at school.

These are many of the reasons why I employ NING:

Ning Twitter-Like Stream
  • It's a closed network that family members, colleagues and I manage. When children post an inappropriate comment, we use it as an opportunity to teach students about safe social media use, and the comment is quickly deleted.
  • The platform provides a great vehicle for teaching digital citizenship and Internet responsibility.
  • NING melds many social media venues into one site. There's a Twitter-like stream, Youtube-like video area, Pinterest-like image area, blog options, and information posting places. 
  • Students can easily contact the teacher and each other via NING whether they are near or far. Recently a student traveled to China for a month, and he was able to correspond with the class via NING. When students travel, they can easily post images of their adventures on the site as well. 
  • As the classroom teacher, I easily forward newsletters and updates to all members of our learning team via NING.
  • NING interfaces with other websites well.
  • Parents and students are able to check in on class events 24-7. 
  • NING allows me to share the classroom events with colleagues and our building administrator too. 
Ning YouTube-Like Video Area
Next month on move-up day, I'll invite families to join our 2012-2013 NING. As in years past, several families will join during the summer months and stay in contact throughout the summer. That really puts some children and families at ease about the upcoming year.  Others will join in September.  I'll have a family/student tech workshop to guide those that want help in joining early in September so that I'm sure that I have included all families.  

Ning's Image Center
Then we'll utilize NING throughout the year with other online venues to foster optimal creativity, communication, critical thinking and collaboration. Every year NING is used differently by a class, and that's okay as every class presents a different set of interests and needs. I let this medium act as a casual communication part of our classroom efforts while our class website serves as a resource center; the content blogs/websites serve as vehicles for targeted learning and endeavor, and Twitter lends daily updates and focus.  This classroom communication system has served the class well this year and in the past.

How do you manage classroom communication? What tools do you weave together to meet the many needs and interests that your learning community presents?  How do you foster facile social media understanding and use with upper elementary school students so that they are ready for responsible, effective use of social media venues in the years to follow? Thanks for weighing in on this topic as we continue to navigate the ever changing world of education and communication. 

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