Ning in my classroom

Students in Croatian high school have three hours a week of the first foreign language (mostly English), but at my school we offer them an extra lesson, called Elective English, where we usually do tons of reading/listening/writing/speaking exercises as a preparation for the unified school leaving exams. This year, however, I decided to try out some of the web 2.0 technologies as part of my elective English class. Both the principal and the ICT teacher were entirely supportive of this idea and even offered to put me on the computer lab reservation list for the whole school year, which will probably make my fellow teachers frown on me, but I can live with that as long as I can use the lab with my class.

As I couldn't make up my mind on whether to use Ning or Moodle for my first e-learning class, I decided to try out both, which turned out to be an impossible task. The first problem we encountered were the students' electronic identities and passwords which were given to them when they first enrolled in our school two years ago. They hardly ever used these accounts set up by the Croatian Academic and Research Network (CARNet) and only a couple of students could remember where their passwords are stored. It's usually no problem for the ICT teacher to get the new ones, but unfortunately, as Croatia is having a completely new e-education system implemented, there have been delays and the students still haven't received their new passwords which they would use to log in to Moodle. So Ning was our only option.

My students fell in love with it instantly. They started using it from home as a tool to communicate with their classmates. What I'm most proud of is that they readily accepted that the language of communication is English only, even when they know that I'm not around. Out of 25 students, only two don't have a computer with Internet access at home. It turns out that they are the lowest-performing students in this class. However, they don't come from the low social backgrounds. I know they have their facebook profiles, but I don't know when and from where they update them. I think I'll talk to their parents, although it's kind of a delicate situation: if their families can't make ends meet, how can I ask them to buy a computer and pay for the Internet access? It seems these students will have to make do with one class a week in the school's computer lab, which is certainly better than nothing at all.

Anyway, while I still haven't figured out how to do tons of things on Ning, I can't stop wondering how my students managed to change their Ning member pages by using their own photos or why a song begins to play when I visit them. I know, I know, I'm only a digital immigrant in their world. But isn't it amazing that it was me who first told them about Ning? And now they can teach me some of the tricks. But I'm a life long learner and I don't mind. On the contrary, I enjoy it.


nashworld said…
I applaud you for your use of Ning in creating a classroom environment. It really does afford us some amazing things for free in cyberspace...

Here are a few I have created for reference:

Keep up the good work.....

That's brilliant Arjana,

I like how your students are teaching you stuff - that's always the best part of teaching I think, when students take something and then give it back to you in double.

I am using Ning with adult business students and although our actual physical classes don't begin until mid-October, I have them already registered in our Ning as prep for the course.

I'm already amazed by how active they're being and how many questions they're asking - and they've watched the videos and read things I've posted already!

Ning is a great platform for autonomous learning.

Chiew said…
Hi Arjana...

That's something on my want list: to get the computer lab at least once a week for all my classes! I envy you! :-)
Good luck!
Hi Arjana,

What a good idea! I look forward to hearing more about your, and your students', experiences of using Ning as a learning platform. It sounds as though they are already taking to it like a duck to water.

And as Karenne said, it's great that you are able to learn from them too :-)

Marisa said…
What a wonderful experience, Arjana! How resourceful of you to find a way of making your students communicate in English! Your experience is an interesting way of taking advantage of the little time dedicated to English.
chickensaltash said…

I totally agree think Ning is great and the other day although I have used it lots teh students surprised me by embedding animation videos from Dvolver moviemaker onto their homepage - I didnt even know you could do that! - I blogged about ning a while ago too have a look at my blog:

I enjoyed reading the blog thank you!
sinikka said…
Hi Arjana

A blessing in disguise that you couldn't try Moodle, I think. I have experience of Moodle, too, but once I changed into Ning I haven't wanted to go back. Just like yours, my students love Ning,especially the many options to personalize it, and why not, since it increases their motivation for the studying parts, too. We have a joint Ning with several partner schools in many countries (our project from last school year:

Just like you, I am also learning new stuff from my students all the time, which is great. Rather than being the know-it-all teachers we can become learning partners with them.

Wishing you all the best with your great elective English class and I look forward to reading more!
Janet said…
Hi Arjana

I was really interested to read how you are using ning as a learning platform with your students. It sounds as if they really like it and it engages them. It's great that your students have adapted naturally to the ning - It's a wonderful learning process for everyone.

All the best

monika hardy said…
my class is loving ning as well. i have both ning and moodle - moodle was developed last year and used a ton. this year - all are swinging over to ning.

great post...
arjana said…
Thank you guys for your nice comments and wonderful links.

I'm only at the beginning of my ning story, but what you're doing with ning in your classrooms is absolutely amazing. You have given me a great boost and I'm so grateful for it. Please keep me posted :-)