I am in the midst of helping my building move forward through the use of personal learning networks (mostly RSS feeds for now). I have pitched this idea to my principal as a quasi-PD opportunity and he thinks its great.

I feel like "getting" information (via RSS) is only the first step towards making a lasting change. A logical second step is providing an avenue for educators to discuss/share what they're reading. This is where Ning comes in to play. I have setup a Ning for the staff to use to share resources, discuss ideas, etc. With this "setup" in mind, I have a few questions for the Classroom 2.0 community:

1) Has anyone else tried this sort of approach? If so, how has it been going so far? We're off to a slow start as far as "sharing" goes...I'm guessing this is pretty typical.

2) What do you see as the pros/cons of using Ning as a collaboration tool? (We had tried wikispaces previously, but it was not very user-friendly for the discussions we were looking to take place). What type of changes would you make to Ning if you were able to do so? In other words, what features seem to be missing from Ning that you wish you had...or that discouraged you from using it in the first place?

Tags: Ning, PLN, RSS, pd

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I set a Ning network up for the staff in my school, too. It sounds like I've had the same experience as you- a core group of staff members signed up, but the vast majority are lurkers at this point.

I've used Yahoo groups before but access to them is now blocked at school via Internet filters. Though I like many features that NIng offfers, I wish it also had some that Yahoo groups have. For instance, members of Yahoo groups who don't want to check the activity at the Web site can elect to use the individual or digest email delivery options as communication tools. That is, they can send their response back to the group, or start new discussion threads, via an email. I also like the separate sections in the Yahoo groups archives where databases, files, and links, etc., are stored.
I've tried Yahoo Groups, Google Groups, and another platform. I have to say that I love the Ning model the best. The features are excellent. (More on this in a reply further in this discussion thread.)
Hi, Matt. Google "Some things I've learned about building effective social networks," by Steve Hargadon. I think you'll find it useful in discussing engagement of your colleagues. Cheers!
I have had a Ning trial running this semester with a select group of math teachers. It has been very slow getting them to participate. Most of the activity has been sharing of student work through photos and their responses to forum discussions that I have begun.

I see the Ning as an excellent opportunity to bring the 250+ teachers of high school mathematics in my district together. The Ning honors them professionally by giving the choice to participate with others. I am frustrated though.

I am at the point now through my Daggett reading that I have determined it is my responsibility to give them the WHY for participating. I can't just roll out something I think has merit and tell them to participate. WHY do they need to participate? What are the benefits? How will it make me a better teacher? .................
Hey Matt,
Our's has been up and running almost all semester and was started by a wonderful teacher, Jonathan Chambers, who is on our schools PD committee with me. . It was officially launched along with two PD days where the theme was Teachers-Teaching-Teachers. It's usage has embed and flowed but I would stay that it is off the ground and will only grow stronger. Also some department heads like myself have started discussion threads for collages to continue sharing and collaborating. Here is the link.

Good Luck,
Elizabeth
Matt,
Love this idea! You mentioned "What if EVERY professional development session was catered to your interests?" That line resonates with me. I just recently wrote a few blog posts about Creating your Own Professional Development. (http://lifelonglearning20.edublogs.org) We have been having discussions similar to what you speak of at our school. In response, I just recently launched a Ning for this purpose.

While I was expecting a slow start, I am surprised by how well the staff is receiving it. It's as though they finally have a platform that they feel comfortable using to connect, and they are beginning to contribute and collaborate within the Ning. It gives me chills just talking about it.

Just this week, I helped two teachers create a similar model to what I created using Ning, for their teachers. They plan to launch theirs on Monday. I plan to write a few blog posts soon about the development and progress taking place. So I don't take up all the space here, you can contact me if you want to talk more. If you would like to chat further to share ideas on encouraging participation, share tutorials/docs, or discuss pros/cons further, feel free to contact me. You can add me as a colleague, send a message, gmail or skype.
I've been sort of "sketching out my thoughts on PLNs" and professional development A LOT lately too. Enjoy the discussion. My school is really, really at the beginning stages with maybe only 3 of us blogging (out of 140 teachers). We've had workshops twice a month on web 2.0, blogging, wikis, etc. It just has not taken off. However, the Ning I just started for them a few weeks ago has truly jump-started everything. You should consider trying it. :)
I tried starting a ning for my school. I spent a lot of time on it to make it fit our school. I only got people to sign in but that's about as far as it went. I keep posting PD info & experiences for discussion but no one seems to be joining in. I sometimes wish I could start a school from scratch. Then I could invite teachers who are tech savvy and are outgoing with their implementation of technology for learning.
I organized a NING site for a group of 13 independent schools in Northeast Ohio only last Monday. I went to a terrific workshop session where Alan November spoke (www.novemberlearning.com) and encouraged us to add content that will solicit a "reaction". So, I posted a few youtube videos on the site that are somewhat of a wake-up call to faculty regarding what's on the near horizon. The first video is called the Sixth-Sense, developed through research at MIT, and the other is called Social Media Revolution (excellent). I don't know if this will help anyone, but thought to mention this sort of "startle the audience into a response" kind of approach. Hah! We will see how it goes....
My school... and most recently my school district have been working with online networks via the use of Ning. Rather than boast about the benefits, I'll leave it to you folks to given them a scan and see what you think compared to other online PD efforts in schools. I'd certainly love the feedback.


Sean
Amazing! Where are you located? I like how each school has its own group, too.
I am in Saint Joseph, Missouri..... SJSD.

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