I just created a Ning social network for the faculty and staff at my school. So far 20 teachers (out of about 120) have signed up. I'm not sure if I should be encouraged or disappointed about that...
I think the big challenge is to show teachers that the network is a valuable and productive use of their time. If I don't do that quickly it is going to fade away. People are starting to post some pictures and I've started a discussion about how to use the network.
Do you have other ideas about how I can kick start my network to get it going. I know from my experience here, that once a critical mass of people really start using the space it will start to sustain itself. Any suggestions for how to get it going would be greatly appreciated.
Liz and Matthew,
I created a social network for the teachers of my district this summer, and got about 25 of 60 signed upover the course of the past two months, but most do not participate. I have tried to post a lot of short blog posts, lists of links, etc, but what got the most people interested was just the opportunity to be social with each other.
I have a network for literacy coaches. I should preface this by saying I already have a web site for teachers of the Open Court reading series. When I became a coach, I added a feature just for literacy coach which was my Ning network. I've had 250 teachers sign up in the first two months because they want access to the resources in the ning network. I post agendas from professional development I conduct and additional teaching resources. But I think coaches rely on me to post that stuff and don't yet post their own very often. I don't see any harm in people just being social and I'm sure that some of that goes on as well and that's great.
I think it was very much like the kids comment to each other on facebook or myspace. They were greeting friends in the other building, sending congratulations and teasing each other gently. Planning events has not worked yet, and I'm not really sure how much people read all the professional development material I've posted, although I did add google analytics to see how many people visit the site. The average time per visit is high, but that's probably only because of me. ;)
Matthew, you seem to be very successful with your efforts. I wouldn't say that our network is really "working" yet. Our district as a whole is very behind with technology, and I thought that they could gradually get used to the tools by using the ning.
I agree that the network will be self-sustaining once it reaches that critical mass - I'm using one for my music department - staff, students and ex students. I'm having to drive it still, with the help of a few other enthusiasts. A few things I'm trying - be provocative and contentious (if you can avoid being rude!) to kick start responses, have a 'hot topic' of the week and use the 'message all members' facility to tell everyone, uses forums rather than email to promote opportunities then mail non-members about the things they are missing by not being in the network. Look for success stories you can celebrate - like connections made or problems solved as a result of the network too. The more I use social networks, the more I have email!
Is it just human nature to focus on the one negative? Obviously the person knows something about technology, I wonder what the luddites are thinking! I've taught in a program for 25 years that "gets no respect". You get used to people not understanding what you do when you teach gifted kids. I feel your pain. :) N.
I have a network for people in my district as well as anyone that comes to a presentation or just finds us. You all are welcome to join.
It is dedicated to professional development ideas - and is slowly gaining ground. I have had some major family issues this Fall and haven't spent the time to "push" it along. But, things are better now and I hope to be more present there myself.
It is a real challenge finding the critical mass and "gotcha" for any new endeavor.
Come on over - http://newlearning.ning.com
Pete's ideas of posting articles that get people wanting to talk seems like a good one.
Think of Alfie Kohn and homework, for instance, or articles from the recent Educational Leadership which has the theme of teacher leadership, or articles on what kids are doing in the new digital age. Also, how about health stuff: articles on the benefits of tea, wine, chocolate! How about links to cheap airfare, community events and entertainment, local weather? Having a heap of tantalizing links all available upon singin may provide a "carrot."
Teachers who are techno-phobes often do well if they get one-on-one help from a student whose job is teaching teachers how to sign on, navigate, and participate.