Sunday, July 19, 2009

Collaboration in Review- Nings in the Classroom

A very powerful and organic way to collaborate between classes around the world is through a Ning. For my multimedia classes, this was the "it" thing that hooked a majority of students. 

Starting at the Apple Learning Interchange
I searched for other teachers who were teaching with Final Cut and voila! Jim Billings was on the list. After a quick email and a couple iChat conversations we hit it off and both figured out our approach to collaboration. What was so great about working with Jim was that he is a very devoted teacher who is not afraid to try something new. He has an immense amount of
 knowledge with television production and editing, which was something I wanted to learn. I knew a few things about web 2.0 'stuff' which he wanted to learn, and honestly, I originally thought that it was I who would be getting the most out of this collaboration because Jim is such an expert in his field, and I didn't have much to offer. While this may be true on paper from looking at our experience, this is a common misconception among many educators. We each took away new knowledge and gained skills through sharing our experiences. If you are considering a collaboration using online tools  like Skype, iChat, a ning, Facebook or other tool, go for it! 

The Ning was a hit!
Students connected with it right away. Feel free to sign up here, and I'll approve you as an educator and you can snoop around to see the movies and products created by our students.  Some words of caution here: when you set up your own ning, don't allow students to have and much control as I gave them over their own pages or blogs. I would like to have a little more control in the admin settings to not allow personal page customization or allow them to comment on each other's home pages. At first I wanted to be more hands off with the ning and let it grow and change, but let's be clear- this was not intended to be another Facebook, and that is what some students wanted it to be. There were sometime upwards of 10
0+ photos from Photobooth posted for approval each day! We wanted a place to share videos and collaborate with on, not a social network. 
Expectations ahead of time are a must, which I will need to revise for next year. 

The Ning grows! 
We added an Apple Distinguished Educator colleague of mine from St. Catherine's, Eric Moccio, part way through the year. His students Skyped with ours and commented on videos we created. I look forward to working with the students from Eden High School next year. There are a couple other teachers who have expressed interest in having their students join the ning next year, which I would like to participate in an online Film Festival for our classes (Thanks to Jason Sand for this great idea!). 

Alternatives to The Ning
Could this be done elsewhere? Sure. Youtube could host all the videos on our own channel, but the security of the ning and login process keeps the videos relatively safe from unwanted outside views. This may or may not be appealing to you as an educator, so you'll have to balance your own need for protecting students online versus educating them and guiding them towards developing a responsible, ethical modus operandi while posting material. Students did like the control of uploading videos and watching their views and rankings increase.  For me the ning was a good solution because it was a one stop shop, and because they will go and post them to Youtube anyways when they get home. What alternatives might you suggest?

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