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NetworkING in a school community

August 13, 2009

Change is a slow process in the field of education.  There are active users of educational technology, but for the most part, teachers are not readily accepting of technology.  If teachers do choose to integrate technology, it is initially used as a tool for presenting content as opposed to a tool that is integrated with the curriculum for the benefit of students.

The video below, created by Jon Leister (n.d) describes three phases of technology integration into the classroom:

From the video, you will see that there are three phases of technology integration.  Leister’s website, which explains the three phases indicates that the first two phases include dynamically presenting information from a variety of resources in a multimedia situation (presenting notes using PowerPoint or presenting a science lab on an interactive whiteboard) and the second phase includes accessing information using technology (using search engines, tracking stocks, completing web quests).

It is Leister’s third phase where technology really begins to re-shape what is occurring in the classroom.  In the the third phase, students are asked to engage in the creation or production of an end product (movie, discussion with students from another location, podcast, vidcast, writing in a blog).

I am going to use Leister’s third phase as a framework for introducing a new technology to my colleagues at the school that I teach at.  As part of the EDES 501 course that I am taking at the University of Alberta, I have been asked to blog about the tool I would introduce to the staff I work with that would help to support technology integration in my school.  The item that I have chosen to introduce to my school staff is the social networking tool Ning.

Why choose Ning?

I chose to present Ning because it has a number of features that Ning possesses.  The specific features that lead me to want to present Ning include:

  • Blog feature – third phase tool
  • Forum – third phase tool
  • Video sharing – second phase tool
  • Photo sharing – second phase tool
  • Event posting – possible third phase tool

The video below is a quick overview of Ning and some of the features it has.

For more tutorial type videos, see the YouTube user Kristi Gott.  She has numerous tutorial videos on using Ning.

It is my personal belief that when professional development occurs for teachers two things have to happen:

  1. Teachers need to participate in an activity that is related to the learning they are doing.  For example, if I am learning about using Notebook software for the SmartBoard, I need to be able to sit down and practice the skills as I am learning them.
  2. When teachers have completed a PD session, it can not stop there.  There must be some sort of follow up activity that will allow the teacher to continue to be engaged, continue to learn, and to have support for their learning.

With these two beliefs in mind, a Ning is a tool that will help teachers to engage their students in technology in the classroom and continue to receive support through a Ning that is developed for teachers to share their experiences and continue to be engaged in learning.

The Learning Process

The first step I would take with teachers is to present Ning.  I would conduct a presentation of Ning in our computer lab and walk teachers through the process of developing a Ning.  This would include:

  • Creating an account
  • Creating a Ning
  • Developing layout for Ning
  • Choosing applications (photo sharing, video sharing, blog, forum, etc.)
  • Using specific applications (uploading video, uploading photos, writing a blog, etc.)
  • Changing security profile

Once the initial learning had taken place, I would introduce the teachers to the Ning that I had created for them.  The HR Teachers Technology Network is a Ning that allows the teachers in my school to share their successes, continue their learning about Ning, and begin to learn about other technology applications that can benefit learning in the classroom.

HR Teacher’s Technology Network

I have placed some information on the HRTech Ning to show how it could be used by and for teachers to help in their learning.  I will identify the information I have added and will indicate how it could be used.

Discussion Forums

I have included 5 discussion forums to start the Ning.  Each one is an opportunity for teachers to share links and resources with each other.  As an added request, in each post, teachers are asked to indicate the grade level, subject area, and if the link or resource has been used in the classroom and with what sort of success.  There is also a forum for the sharing and uploading of Notebook files.  This will allow for further integration of our SmartBoard technology which was recently introduced into our school.

Another discussion post is an academic reading post.  Here, teachers are encouraged to post articles related to educational technology that are written for academic journals and not only as online content.  Journal articles often have more weight in discussion because they are peer reviewed.

The final discussion topic that I have included is a Twitter address posting.  I have found Twitter to be such a wonderful tool to get new ideas, share ideas, and create a network of like minded individuals.  In the past few weeks, I have gained so many rich ideas and #edtech resources, all because of Twitter.  So, while I am not discussing the merits of Twitter in this blog posting, I think it is something that my colleagues could definitely benefit from.

Teaching is an extremely busy profession and is often done in isolation from the other staff in the building.  This discussion forum creates an opportunity for collaboration and sharing of resources.

Teachers are, of course, encouraged to add their own disucssion forums.  I would want the site to become the property of each and every teacher in the school.  Therefore, I would ensure that they felt comfortable enough in adding content that they wanted to see or asking questions that they are looking for answers to.  I envision a discussion on successes and areas for improvement in order to further the sharing that exists.

Blog

I have included the blog feature to the Ning site in order to share tips, commentary, opinion, and to challenge teachers to respond to educational technology discussion.

One of the blogs that I have put up as an example is a blog on the use of #hashtags in Twitter.  Hashtags are a great way to organize information on Twitter and to search content.

I would continue to blog to this Ning in order to keep up the momentum of the site and as a way to encourage teachers to continue to be involved with the network and as a reminder of the positive work they are doing in their classrooms.  I would also highly encourage teachers to add their own blog postings to the Ning.  This would be a great first step in them creating their own blogs outside of the Ning.  In fact, I would challenge each teacher in the school to post a blog a month.  When there is a goal and some expectation placed upon a teacher they are more likely to follow through.  This is one of the problems that I see with traditional PD practices.  Once the PD session is complete, it is very easy for teachers (due to the demands of teaching) to close the notebook on the PD and try to get back to it when things are a little less busy, which of course they never are.  By getting teachers to blog at least once a month, they are continuing the PD and practicing skills that will benefit them in the classroom.

Video Sharing / Picture Posting

I have included the video uploading and picture uploading to the Ning.  There is wonderful content on the Internet that is in the form of video.  There are tutorials, explanations, walk-thrus, and content videos that will enhance teaching in the classroom and professional development for the teacher.

I have uploaded a few videos to give an idea of the sort of videos that could be uploaded.

The photo uploading section is a way to share some funny comics or pictures that will serve as a point of discussion.

Events

The final area of the Ning which was added is the events section.  This allows for events to be shared with select members or all members of the Ning.  This is a great way to advertise internal and external PD opportunities.  Events such as in-house tutorial sessions on Twitter, podcasting, multimedia-sharing, and the like as well as external PD opportunities such as those offered by the Edmonton Regional Learning Consortium.

Conclusion

Technology is not going anywhere.  There are increased demands by school systems, parents, and students to introduce technology into the learning process.  Technology will not replace the teacher, but the teacher and students will be left behind if technology is not used to enhance the learning of 21st century learners.

As I stated at the beginning of this blog, change in education is slow, but in trying to affect some change in a school, that change can not happen at warp speed, there has to be a balance.  I think that the use of Ning can help to create that balance.  Teachers need not venture all over the Internet for resources, ideas, and support.  Rather, they are gaining information and support from the people who work across the hall or in the other wing.  That support is simply moving from the staff room to the Internet where conversations are sometimes easier, due to the demands placed on teachers.

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6 comments

  1. Dan, you are definitely right about technology integration in education being a slow process, and that the first impulse educators show is to use ICT for presenting content. Knowing that, however, I think that will necessarily have to be my starting point in sharing Web 2.0 with my co-workers.

    I appreciated your intro to Ning; it fetched my interest–one more thing for me to look into. Thanks.
    Lori


  2. Interesting post. Your description of Ning is very thorough. Ning sounds like it’s all the Web2.0 tools under one umbrella.


  3. Dan,
    Speaking from experience, PD is so much more beneficial and practical when the focus is able to be practiced immediately or shortly afterward. So much of what is done, looks & sounds great, but is lost because of lack of follow-up. I think one of the greatest things PD facilitators can provide is time to practice & play with the new found tool whatever it may be.
    Good luck with your Ning! I’m sure it will be a hit, especially with you as the driving force behind it.
    Carol =)


  4. Dan,
    I appreciated the information about the three phases of teachers’ use of technology. It helps to clarify some of my thinking about the process. I also liked it that it is an overlapping process as each phases continues to be practiced and is part of the next phase.
    Ruth


  5. […] 2.0 is Blogtastic EDES 501 Blog – sharin' the learnin' « NetworkING in a school community The beginning to the end is the beginning August 17, 2009 A short 6 weeks ago, this blog […]


  6. Nice article, I had experience of this before but wasnt this is nice to know



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