Phil Macoun (@pmacoun), a far-seeing teacher at Aspengrove School, and I are taking different approaches to creating Nings for our schools. Phil says he’s letting a couple of keen teachers create their own Nings around their subject areas. He expects others will follow when they see what students can teachers can do with a Ning. At Island Pacific School, I’ve created a single Ning and made a group for each of my classes. So far, I’m the only one using the school Ning, perhaps because my staff and I are putting more time developing a school wiki.
It’s not yet clear which approach works better. It may be that there is no one best approach. Aspengrove teachers and students can bring the full power of a Ning to organize a community of learners around a specific subject. They have the advantage of knowing that all the material in the Ning is subject-related; no need to rummage through history and English videos to find the science shows, for example. But the information in those Nings is not easily shared with those outside. My class-groups have fewer tools–really, a group is just a nice looking discussion forum. But because the staff and students must put (and tag) their videos and photos in the general pool shared with everyone, I think this will create more opportunities for sharing, cross-fertilization and inter-disciplinary work.
Phil and I are going to Skype again soon to compare notes. I’ll post more data when we have it.