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.

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Hi Liz,
I'm a graduate student at NCSU and I'm very intrigued by social networking. I'm focusing a current research project on social networking and, in particular, looking at factors/strategies that promote participation or collaboration. In browsing around the Classroom 2.0 Ning, I came across this threaded discussion that you initiated over a year ago. I'm curious how your network is going now and what strategies you found to be most effective in getting people to participate?
Hi Sherry,
I am at a new school this year and am planning to introduce a ning network here, but haven't yet done so. I will be trying it out soon. I'll try to check back with you and let you know how it goes, or get back in touch with me if you don't hear from me (comment on my page or add another reply to this discussion). There may also be other people out there who are now doing this successfully. Try starting a discussion and asking.

I have had a lot of success using closed private nings in classrooms - particularly English classes. The teachers have loved using it for book discussions.

Sorry not to be of more help.
Thanks Liz!
Hi Sherry,
You could check out http://firesidelearning.ning.com
We've got some good collegial learning going on there. Networks take a good deal of nurturing. Steve and I are doing presentations on networking for professional development this week at the Independent Schools conference.
Liz--how's the new school going? Want to say that your Power of Educational Technology Blog is vastly inspiring to so many of us-- I know that my colleague, Rob, runs down the hall at school to say, "Hey, Liz has another blog entry--check it out!

So, thanks! And thanks to Sherry for starting up the question--

Connie you are too nice. Isn't Carol Dweck speaking at the Independent School Conference? You will have to report back on what you learn. The school psychologist at my school, Michael Thompson, will also be speaking. He is going to talk about teens and technology (I'm going to help him out with that a little). Always nice to check in with you.
Thanks, Connie. This is really encouraging to get replies to my post. I'm beginning to see the advantages of social networking! I checked out Fireside and joined.
In establishing Fireside, what strategies did you purposefully employ in the beginning to get people to participate? I'm trying to understand what the carrot is that pulls people in and keeps them coming back.

Our school staff ning had a rebirth this fall when the curriculum coordinator chose to use it for a discussion forum for experienced teachers holding a book discussion group. A number of new members, a new group with a little activity, but not much more movement. As a matter of fact, that is just about it. It would be letting the members of that group skip some after school meetings if they post, but they aren't following through! As the school librarian, I don't have much clout to try to get them to do it, either.
I understand, and trying to get teachers to any kind of staff development is a challenge. One of my responsibilities at the University I teach is technology staff development for faculty in the College of Ed. It is next to impossible to get them to attend. I can't even get them to read a short email with resources included that might be useful to them. I I would love to use Ning, but I suspect they would not participate in this extremely useful tool. It might take them 10 minutes!!

As teachers we expect our students to put in the time to learn new things, but as professionals we don't practice what we preach very often. Those of us participating in this, probably do for the most part, but .....

If anybody has any ideas on how to get through to College of Education faculty and get them off their high horses, I would love to know!! Frustrated in Kansas!!!

I am in the same boat with my k-12 teachers. It is so frustrating. I spend hours finding tools that would be helpful, but they can not be bothered to read an email or attend a training. I have started just targeting certain teachers. My plan is to get one or two teachers going per campus and hope that the others will start following. Maybe some parents will start to question why student A got to be in a Video Conference and their angel was left out. This plan may fall flat too. Then I am off to Plan E....or is it F. I can't keep up anymore.
I feel your frustration. I teach in a special ed program for gifted kids (top 1%) so I'm not in staff dev or tech but I spent almost 10 years touting technology integration in the classroom. I gave hundreds of workshops in my district, state and presented at NECC for 5 years. About 4 years ago I threw in the tech towel. I couldn't stand the resistance--it's only gotten worse, at least in K6, with high stakes testing and scripted reading and math programs.

I figured I knew enough to keep my kids active and learning new stuff until I retire. I, too, thought my kids' enthusiasm would carry over to the regular classroom--it didn't. We use blogs, wikis, video, digital cameras, Moodle, Animoto, Mnemograph, GPS, handhelds, Google Earth, Flickr, Tikatok, Mindstorm Robotics, and dozens of other tools and they go back to the regular classroom and sit. Oh well, I've got the best job in the world.

About ning--sometimes it seems all my school's teachers do is complain (which they'd never put in writing), I don't know if they could come up with anything useful to discuss on a ning!
Hmmm. This is very interesting. 20+ years ago, I was the "computer coordinator" for a K-8 school and I ran into similar challenges trying to get teachers to use computers. Different technology, but same problem. So, what do you think it is? Are there certain characteristics of teachers that make them more or less likely to embrace (or even consider) new technologies?
I have lots of opinions--generally it's a time issue. I have had periods of time over the years when I spent 40 hours a week outside of school surfing, designing webpages, writing online curriculum, researching, looking at new sites, and applications, etc.(Google Earth is my latest "deep dive".) I spend at least 2-3 hours a day everyday reading about technology and coming up with ways to integrate it.

I also don't think there is a big push at the college level, our young, new teachers are in the dark as much as the veterans. Then if they student teach with a non-integrator the cycle is perpetuated.

Also the emphasis on state assessments cause the refrain "If it's not on the test, I'm not doing it".

Mostly, I wonder if it's a temperment thing--many classroom teachers are not risk takers or change agents, it's just as easy to do it the way it's always been done and the way they were taught to do it. BTW, I'm 60 and about to retire--I didn't grow up with this stuff but what a wonderful journey it has been.



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