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