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Nings in the Classroom and Networking Schools

Our school is one in a network of many under the Society of the Holy Child Jesus. Over the years, our schools have tried with varying degrees of success to connect with our sister schools. There have been student exchanges, trips, a week long seminar titled Global Conversations, pen pals.

I have been a member of the Independent School Educator Network ning for the past year. Though I periodically have read the site I did not fully embrace it's potential. That is until after the recent NEIT 2009 conference held at Mohonk Mtn. House in New Paltz, NY. For those not familiar with NEIT, it is the premiere instructional technology/librarians conference on the east coast. After hearing the truly inspiring Michael Wesch(click here for keynote video) speak on global communications and engaging students with authentic projects the idea of using a ning to connect the Holy Child schools became an obvious solution.

Upon returning from NEIT, I approached my Head of School who was extremely receptive to the idea. Thus the Holy Child Network of Schools ning was created. I have so much promise and excitement over what can transpire both in and out of the classroom as a result of this educational ning! English teachers creating groups and sharing about books or themes they are studying in their classes. Math teachers challenging students from California to Ireland with various math problems. History teachers comparing perspectives on global issues through the discussion forums. Art teachers posting images and videos. Holy Child schools are not just found within the walls of our individual schools but can be now be a shared experience for students and faculty alike.

The true potential lies in not just the faculty creating the dialogue and projects but in the students having the power to create their own groups and conversations. The Ecos clubs can discuss environmental solutions and community projects. The robotics clubs can film their robots completing tasks and challenge each other on robot tasks. Student government can create group and allow an online forum for suggestions and school spirit. The sports teams can post their latest accomplishments and encourage their sister schools' athletes.

With all this potential also comes many aspects to discuss. First is student responsibility and safety. We need to write a student code of ethics that must be adhered to when students post to the ning. Additionally, a conversation about how public the ning should be needs to take place. This is a wonderful opportunity to discuss with the girls online safety and Internet ethics.

Then faculty need to be inspired to use this tool not only as a method of communication but as driving force to examine their teaching methodology. As a laptop school for the past decade, we have focused much time and effort in inspiring our teachers to transform their classes into more student-centered experiences. Slowly we have made progress and this is yet another example that can perhaps encourage more shift in pedagogy.

Has anyone tried using a ning in a similar manner? I would love to hear more responses. As we continue I update you all on my progress.

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Tags: Holy_Child, NEIT_2009, Ning, collaboration, global

Comment by Laura Flynn on January 23, 2010 at 9:17pm
Michelle, this gives me lots of ideas. We too have sister schools and can benefit from a Ning network connecting us. I'll check out your network!

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