The Ning adventure begins - in my class

This week I started using a Ning network with my English as a Second Language class.

It's an exciting, challenging time for me working with a group of students with vastly differing levels of ICT knowledge. Some have studied in the field while others have had very little experience with computers.

My big lesson this week is Model, model, model and small, small, small. In the excitement of it all, I think I tried to get too many things going on the Ning forgetting that most didn't understand the purpose/reason for many of the features, have a reason for doing so or know how to approach such. So this week, we'll do some shared writing via the Forum and the Blog to introduce those features to them. I also need to find ways to encourage them to read and engage with others writing. I should also mention here that we did manage to get everyone logged on - YAY. Major achievement there. I kept the Network private but allowed anyone to join (for a limited period). That way eliminated having to send invitations.

Lesson #2 Use one main tool. I had been using a Wiki and Ning. The switching between the two was proving a turn-on for many. So I've just added their weekly tasks to the Ning via a text box. I'm also giving them a sheet to tick off for completion of tasks. They appear to respond to the more 'traditional' approaches amidst the many new things we're doing.

Lesson #3 Use short, sharp instructional videos. This year I want my students to create more interesting videos. I want to expose them to the discourse of making movies - of filming. I guess I'm talking about design. Keeping this in mind, I showed them some short videos from Atomic about Visual composition. They learnt a number of different techniques: the 'Rule of Thirds' (dividing the frame into thirds), how to place people within a frame, and how to shoot people walking. They then created storyboards (for a short introduction to themselves) for the first time using this filming knowledge. It was a series of firsts here and it really highlighted to me the power of video, structure, and language.

There was some resistance to the storyboards with many feeling that they weren't good drawers. This was despite my modelling that artistic efforts weren't required. I then began to coach them in describing their storyboards, modelling the language to describe each shot. I'll continue this process so that they become more skilled in explaining what how they're going to film.


We worked really quickly as I stressed this was just practise. The main aim was to be able to create a more interesting and appealing look to the video. It really surprised me how they did take on board what they'd seen on the videos and there was little of the stand in front of the camera in the centre shots. They tried walking shots, different angles, panning. Key Lessons:- the importance of access to discourse - seeing what is possible and high expectations (from the teacher).

That's my first two days. It'll be interesting to see what next week brings.

If you'd like to drop by our Ning (bearing in mind it's early days), please let me know. It'd be great to have some teachers who could give some helpful feedback to the students. Plus I'd like them to become more aware of the reach and importance of their voice on a grander scale.

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