I’m trying out a social network in my ENG101 and ENG102 courses this spring. I’m trying to make English fun, but there are also some very useful features built into the Ning social network. So far I’m loving just about everything but the adds. I’m not ready to fork over cash to get rid of them, but if I can make a compelling enough argument, make my division chair might consider picking up the tab. We’ll see.
One thing that is really neat is that the students just naturally pick up on the fun things there are to do in there. I instructed that there were only two required parts: discussion forum and personal blog posts. Everything else they do is just for fun and up to you if you want to participate. Well, it didn’t take long for them to fill up the site slide show. It’s neat to see all their faces and their families too!
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I’ve been using it to post my weekly podcasts too. It has an embeddable player that I can add mp3s to. I can either upload to the site or upload via a web link. I like to upload my content on my own servers and then link to it. This will save me later with having to deal with bandwidth and file size. Here’s our podcast player from the network.
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In case you’re wondering, most of the content in our class network is private, so content that students create for the class and a grade is private – only members can see it. But adding photos and videos is optional, not class related, and acknowledged that it will be public because it shows up on the front page. I could make the whole site including the front page private, but then my announcements won’t have a RSS feed and I won’t be able to subscribe and feed them into Blackboard or offer email subscriptions. So I leave the front page public, and protect the rest.
I’ll post more about this experiment as we play with it more. So far we’re all loving it.