Saturday, August 11, 2012

Fourth Grade Social Media

A snapshot of our Team 15 NING

While Edmodo and Kidblog are two popular social media sites for elementary school, I still use NING. I like the graphic design and application of NING.  Essentially our class NING is our virtual classroom for the learning community including teachers, students and families.

Instead of having students sign on to NING, I ask families to sign on with one or more emails.  I ask parents to manage their child's NING and to alert me if there are issues.  I also ask colleagues who work with our class to join too as that creates professional checks-and-balance.

Our NING protocols are simple and straightforward:
  • Use polite language and images.
  • Notify a teacher or parent if you read words or see an image you think is inappropriate.
  • When possible, have an editor edit your writing before posting.
In years past, I've been too quick with our NING introduction and use.  I didn't spend enough time teaching digital citizenship and how the NING works.  Therefore, those who caught on quickly made good use of it, and those that didn't were not able to reap the benefits.  This year I'm going to slow down and teach all aspects of NING with care, and help every child and family access the tool by hosting parent-student tech mornings, introducing NING to parents at Curriculum Night and giving simple assignments that provide students with coaching and the chance to try out each aspect of our virtual classroom. 

There are many benefits to having a virtual classroom including the following:
  • Family members, teachers and students have 24-7 access to classroom links, activities and communication near and far. Hence if students travel during the year, they can easily follow the classroom program.
  • English Language Learners (ESL/ELL) have online access to classroom conversations and lessons which they can look at repeatedly to gain meaning or use translation tools to access if necessary.
  • Students have a ready place to share their thoughts and ideas.
  • Students are able to create a photo album of meaningful photos that they can later use in stories, movies and other multimedia compositions.
  • Students learn about each other and communicate with each other.
  • NING gives the teacher easy access to editing so I can delete something that is inappropriate and use it as a teaching point.
  • I send out newsletters to all quickly and efficiently.
  • Students are writing often for an audience which builds fluency and voice.
  • NING is a closed social network, a safe place to learn about social media without the commentary and disruption of the global audience. 
Guided social media with the use of platforms such as NING, Edmodo, Kidblog or ePals educates children about how to use social media in effective, productive ways.  Do you have a virtual classroom for your class?  If so, what is it and how do you introduce that platform at the start of the year?  If you don't, I recommend you try one as that's one way to prepare students for the world they will be living in as teenagers and young adults.

Note: I thought NING was an ideal platform for a virtual school at the elementary level, however, due to under 13 access rules, our school system was not comfortable with its use so we no longer use this platform. We know use a Google website and docs instead in a somewhat similar way.