The Ning is private, so only invited or accepted members may be privy to everything we do.
I chose to use the following Ning apps:
- instant chat
- my page
The moment my kids got on, they gravitated to the instant chat and spammed the hell-out-of everyone with emoticons, LOLs and other drivel such as "I like cheesecake."
While some spammed the instant chat, others were busy uploading America's Funniest Home Video clips. Yes, some were funny, but more and more were being uploaded.
While the spam was frustrating, it was anything but a surprise - I anticipated such an event, so I wrote my first blog post on the Ning about Spam:
After World War II, Britain suffered greatly. Their country, including their farms and economy were in ruins from the war.
An exorbitant amount of canned luncheon meat was imported from Argentina to help with the lack of food, and so the meat soon became infamously known as Spam.
Soon, Spam came to be known as anything of low quality done over and over again. When people send low quality messages such as "LOL" or "I like cheesecake" over and over again as messages, this is called spam.
In order to have a productive online experience that focuses on real learning, how should we deal with spam?
The next day, we talked briefly about spam. This kind of technology typically is outright banned or ignored by schools (either purposefully or because of a lack of money, equipment or know-how), and so it should be no surprise that the kids have developed little to no real skills in using instant chat kinds of technology; after all, they've had no guidance from anyone but their peers.
To get started, I uploaded and shared this video with my students, and then asked them to use the instant chat to discuss the video:
The moment the video was over... more spam. More emoticons. More drivel.
Did I get mad?
Instead, I saw this as a teachable moment. It's not that these digital natives were given an inch so they took a mile - rather, it's more accurate that these kids are not digital natives. Frankly, I'm not sure there is such a thing but that's an another post.
To model some productive chat, I posted a question: "Does school sometimes turn kids off of school?"
And still I didn't get much more of a response than: "Yes"
So I posted a few more questions.
So I waited.... and then it happened. Chase typed something different - something no one had done yet: "this video reminds me of my cousin."
I stopped the class and we talked about how what Chase said was different from spam or one word responses. We talked about how his comment could actually inspire a response from others.
Then it happened again. This time Jayla asked a question: "why is there space in this video?"
We stopped and talked about how Jayla's question could inspire others to answer her question or even ask their own.
Finding and posting interesting content is less than half the challenge. The real challenge is in artfully guiding students to thinking and discussing the content in a productive manner. But you'll notice I didn't instruct them on how to do this. I didn't provide them with a list of rules to follow. Rather, I provided them with an opportunity to make mistakes and construct their own understanding with each other for how they should best use the Ning.
This all takes time, but it's worth it. I can already see kids reasoning with themselves and others how we can use this Ning to support our learning.