|Jesus washes the disciples' feet (Photo credit: teawithlizzie)|
At one of our open learning commons meetings last year, our team brainstormed about how we could encourage community from a virtual capacity. Spread all over the province many of our families have shared in the past that they felt disconnected from the school body. Likewise our teens needed a safe space to gather away from the public glare of Facebook. Something was needed to create a virtual flow of life between students, parents and teachers. Where could our DL students play in cyberspace and develop community?
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples."
Enter the "Ning", a private social network that was designed to bring people of similar tastes and ideas together to share in professional development or community. We decided on "Ning", because it was fairly easy software to initiate, cheap and had very good reviews. The bonus for our grade 8 and up teens was that finally they had a hangout place, where they could debate, laugh, organise into groups and generally connect and encourage one another as disciples do:)
Our logo for our school is "discipleship based education". If we were going to embrace "Ning" we needed to do it with wisdom and discernment. After prayer and discussion our Learning commons team decided to stage the process that would allow people to register with the ning. As moderators of the ning we did not want to be overwhelmed with a huge amount of email. Everything gets cc'd to our inbox! So we started with parents, and a few teens and slowly, but surely the word spread that the ning was a "groovy" place to be. Our first intent was to teach social networking and we did that by showcasing one of our teachers, Ryan Johnston who gave an excellent webinar on digital citizenship.
To share how our teens are connecting is a wonderful blessing! As one of three moderators we check on our students, but yet have to speak into anything that has been discouraging or disturbing. Yes our students are debating topics such as abortion, evolution, creation, bullying, and personal struggles. Yes they might not agree with each other, but voice is being created and the fire has been lit. The ning is a place where everyone is welcomed and encouraged.
Groups that have started!
Prayer groups, Bible study groups book clubs, teen geek squads, poetry groups, sports groups, regional groups, music and art groups, GPP (which is Grad Prep Program grade 8/9) Heart groups which are grade 10-12 groups based on region, a new fitness funatics group , and the HCOS Running group which is encouraging our students to stay fit, running clubs.
Students and parents and teachers can create their own events and share them with RSVP details and other attachments like maps and websites. Last year a poetry competition was proudly shared on the ning with prizes for winning students. This year I would love to see a photography event and music event showcase our students gifts!
Much like media is shared on Google Plus and Facebook, students and adults can share photographs, create albums, share music and then also share on Twitter.
We now have about 400 participants with numbers climbing every day. Seeing our parents connecting and sharing with students is a wonderful and heartfelt blessing.
On October 22 I will be running a Ning webinar. If you are interested in joining please come and log on for a half hour introduction on using the ning for your purposes. Here is the participant link:
Participant Link: https://sas.elluminate.com/m.jnlp?sid=7345&password=M.157B3446A4C04509CB7AFC3DEB158D
So if you have not joined the ning, send me an email and I will invite you:) Welcome to an amazing community in Christ! Please let us know at any time if you have any concerns.
Pippa Davies and the learning commons team.