eLatin eGreek eLearn

More wired than a Roman Internet café

Ninging in the Latin Classroom
Bob Patrick, NBCT-Latin
Parkview High School
Lilburn, GA

Under the extremely good guidance of Laura Gibbs, I decided over the Winter Holidays to set up a Ning for my AP Vergil Class and for my Latin 3-Honors class which is beginning a venture into Roman Comedy which will stretch into their Latin 4 year. I had heretofore used Blogs with my upper level students in AP Latin Lit and Vergil to have students do their essay writing. Sometimes our blogging would be simultaneous so that students could see what they each were writing, and other times they were all held in moderation until all students had posted. I graded them according to AP essay rubrics and this became our way of practicing essay writing for the AP exam, examining literary and poetic themes while archiving all of that material on a common place on the internet.

So, why change to the Ning? The Ning combines elements of a website, a blog, a discussion group, a calendar, email, chat groups and social networking all in one easy to set up place. Of supreme importance to me as an educator with students who are minors is internet security. The Ning allows me to set up a completely private space, and our rules for behavior are the same as they are in the classroom. “If you wouldn’t do it or say it or write it in my classroom, then don’t do it on the ning.” Students responded very enthusiastically to the ning. I took them to a computer lab the first day back from the holidays and introduced them to it, got their emails invitations out, and off we went. I have posted a copy of the syllabus to the ning; I put reminders for assignments in the Events calendar; I have set up blogs for two students to blog each weekend on a theme of their choice in Vergil (we will do this later in Roman Comedy). Those two students get a major test grade for their AP style essay. The remainder of the class must make a comment on one of the blogs each week, and they receive a quiz grade for the comment. It has allowed me to organize our multivalent work in a way that I can manage from any location, and done away with paper usage almost completely. I’m happier. The students are happier. Mother Earth is happier. It’s a trifecta of happiness.

I offer two technical observations. While my school system is becoming very anxious over social networking programs like Facebook and My Space, they have not blocked Nings from our school site. However that could happen down the road. If they blocked my Nings, I’d ask to have them restored. In the past, with good justification, they have been willing to restore sites being used responsibly. Second, Nings are free because they come with ads. Once you set up your ning, you can email the Ning folks and ask for an ad-free ning as an educator. You must tell them, however, that you teach students in grades 7-12. The laws that govern use of the internet with younger children apparently make the Ning folks unwilling or unable to accommodate elementary ed programs, even ad free, but they will remove the ads from your ning set up for secondary ed use.

Views: 211

Comment by Laura Gibbs on January 28, 2009 at 5:24pm
Bob, thank you for taking the time to write and share this VERY informative post. I am so glad you are having a good experience with your Ning. It is at the heart of what I do with my online college courses, and it is so exciting to hear that they work well for a high school setting, too!

There is, sadly, not too much traffic at eClassics.ning.com, because people are so used to using LatinTeach and email as their primary (only?) mode of online communication. Anyway, let's hope some people might find their way here and see a Ning in action - I think it's great posting about your use of the Ning here at a Ning, so people can see exactly what you are writing about!

Although my course Nings are closed, I have an open Aesop Ning, which I am really happy with. I hope very much that students and teachers who might be using my Aesop book to benefit from this Ning as a place to share questions and ideas about fables, proverbs, Latin, all that good stuff! Here's my Aesop Ning: http://Aesopus.ning.com

I sure wish someone would create a Vergil Ning. I'm not a big Vergil person myself, but that would be such a boon to the AP teachers and students out there!!! :-)
Comment by Iustus Viator (Justin Bailey) on January 28, 2009 at 11:32pm
I, too, am excited about the possibilities for using ning in the classroom, and was one of the first to join SCHOLA (schola.ning.com). I used SCHOLA and eclassics quite a bit in my classes last year; alas, this year, ning has been added to our school's list of blocked websites. I am still working on convincing the higher-ups to reverse this decision!
Comment by Laura Gibbs on January 29, 2009 at 7:50am
Wow, Justin, that is so frustrating about your school's decision. Have you contacted Steve Hargadon to see if he has any ideas that could help you, or talked to any of the folks at Ning? (There is a HUGE community of folks over at the Classroom20.ning.com who might have some ideas about how to win the administration over to your side!) I hope you will be able to get your Ning unblocked!

There is this bizarre irony that at the university level, we are free basically to do whatever we want with educational technology (nothing is EVER blocked)... but very few university faculty are making use of these exciting and powerful new tools. That gives me a lot of admiration for all the K-12 folks I have met online who are finding ways to use these tools with their students, despite a lack of support from their schools and sometimes even downright opposition.

I really hope you will find a good solution!!! It also frustrates me to think that the Aesopus.Ning.com that I have built to help people using my new Aesop textbook will not be able to access on their school computers because of a blanket Ning ban. Very sad indeed!!!
Comment by Robertus Patricius on January 30, 2009 at 8:45am
Justin, I second Laura's suggestions. Steve was very responsive to my request for help in making my nings ad free. Honestly, I am not telling my admins about my ning. I will find the right time and place to SHOW them one. It seems to me the main issue is security, and ning makes a private ning possible. Remove the ads, make a private ning, and there is no more secure vehicle on the web.

Bob

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