It started with a call similar to one I get very frequently in my position, although taking an opposite tact – “Can you unblock Facebook for a class?” Usually I’m being asked to make sure it’s blocked. When I asked why the site should be unblocked, I was given one of the best explanations and classroom ideas I’ve had in a long time. While I wasn’t able to unblock the site, I was able to point the requester in a different, more appropriate direction.
Here’s the proposal…
A teacher at our Freshman Academy wanted her students to sign up for Facebook, BUT, they had to sign up as a character from one of the books that they were studying. All of their interactions on the site had to be from the perspective of that character. Think back to the “Hamlet as a Facebook Feed” that I posted last time, and you get a taste of the idea.
Instead of using Facebook, I suggested setting up a Ning.com network. Ning provides much of the same social interaction as Facebook, but can be more closely monitored by the teachers. It’s the perfect environment for a project like this.
So, last Wednesday I met with the literature teacher, Susan Miles, a history teacher, Sabrina Shuler, the school’s curriculum facilitator, John Ratteree, the school’s media specialist, Candi Vaughn, and the school’s tech coordinator, Sarah Cleveland. I gave them a demonstration of the system using several Ning networks that I had created or that I am a member of.
Right away they took the idea and ran with it. Susan was the teacher who wanted to do the literary characters. Sabrina wanted to set up a network and have her students become historical figures. Together they brainstormed several cross-curricular interactions, such as “How might Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. interact with a character from ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ in a social networking environment?” The possibilities are fantastic.
As the discussion progressed the group came up with more ideas for using such a social network outside of the original project. They suggested uses for other classroom Ning sites for homework help, etc. It was one of the most exciting, and encouraging technology meetings I’ve been to in quite awhile. I’ll be following their progress closely, and I hope they are able to sustain this excitement with their classes.