Posts Tagged ning

Global Poetry Project

This tweet came across the screen tonight and I just thought: YES.

Now I’ve joined the Global Poetry Project Ning.  I figured tonight was as good a time as any to post a poem in a new place and this one promises ‘a space for members to expand upon their cultural views through the writing and reading of poetry’.

I penned this poem last week.  I’ve been reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and that’s where the title and some of the inspiration came from.

The project aims to provide “a safe and open atmosphere for all visitors and contributors alike” and has many student contributers.  So if sharing your poems and reading the work of others in a supportive environment appeals to you, why not consider joining the project, friending me and adding a poem of your own!

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Hit Refresh!

Last weekend I attended the English Teachers’ Association Annual Conference in NSW, which was held at the University of NSW on Friday 27th and Saturday 28th of November.  The conference theme was ‘Hit Refresh!’, so it was apt that this was the first conference we have run that had an officially constructed online aspect, using both Ning and Twitter to engage presenters and participants in discussion and networking before, after, and behind the scenes of the conference.

This (longish) post is a report I wrote on the success of these online tools at the conference.

Many educators by now have heard of ‘blogs’, ‘wikis’, and learning management systems such as Moodle, and hopefully we are fast approaching a time where the these strange names and terms are accepted as useful (rather than childish) jargon.  In the meantime, jokes about the ‘Ning-nang-nong’ and Twitter users being ‘twits’ will abound.  But while these tools might sound goofy, they are anything but. is an online tool that is fast gaining popularity with educators.  It combines many other features for writing and connecting online – such as being able to have a personal profile page, make ‘friends’ with other members of the Ning, write blog entries, add to discussion forums, and join sub-groups – and for that reason the term Ning was coined to describe the NetworkING that occurs on the site.  For our conference we created a Ning a few months ahead of the conference (, set up all of our conference workshops, presentation, keynotes and plenaries as ‘events’, invited presenters (first, then later, people who had registered for the conference)…and waited.

The response was slow but sure.  Before the conference had even started we had 70 people who had joined as members of the Ning.  ETA committee members and presenters who were keen to explore the Ning started adding discussions and material right away.  New presenters felt welcomed and included in the lead up to conference, and could ask questions and establish contacts with others before arriving on the big day.  On the Thursday before the conference, the number of members had grown to 130.  Many more joined up during and following the conference, and the count currently stands at 230 members.  Some presenters used the Ning directly in their workshops, getting participants to add their own questions, ideas and resources.  Many people were glad to have an easy way of contacting and keeping in contact with other members, and as many people did upload information about themselves, including a photo to their profile, there was a definite sense of familiarity and closeness at the ‘real life’ conference between Ning users.

As well as establishing a conference Ning, the micro-blogging service was used to ‘tweet’ short, 140 character updates from the conference, in particular from the Saturday morning panel on National Curriculum.  This allowed attendees to create a ‘backchannel’ at the conference, communicating with others from around the globe, as well as other members at the conference, about events as they happened.  Before the conference I blogged a description of a backchannel, which was used at the conference to explain the concept.

As this was our first attempt at using a backchannel, we decided not to display the tweets live on a big screen behind the speakers – though this is something that is occurring frequently now at many conferences that use a backchannel.  For our own, and the speakers’ peace of mind, Darcy Moore and I fielded questions and comments that came in via Twitter at the same time as chairing the panel and the real-life questions from bodies inside the auditorium, and integrated these into the plenary.  The response was very positive, and people (speakers included) only seemed disappointed that we didn’t display the tweets on the big screen!

So, next year we are bound to do this again, with the screen on live display.  Using technology this way can be risky of course, as there is far less control being exercised when members can publish their unfettered thoughts for all to see.  But the benefits of this far outweigh the risk, and the message from members was ‘bring it on!

Increasingly, educators are connecting online in very powerful ways.  This includes English teachers.  As online tools become easier to use to connect, communicate and collaborate with colleagues they are being seen as more of a joy (and a time saver) than a chore.  I heartily encourage other professional associations to consider adopting online elements for future conferences and events, and would be happy to share ideas and advice with anyone who is going in that direction.

Anyone else care to share their experiences or tips?

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ETA Conference: The Backchannel

Friday morning will see Darcy and I braving the stage prior to the opening of the annual English Teachers’ Association conference ‘Hit Refresh‘.


Because for this ETA conference, for the first time, the conference is going web 2.0 – we’re stepping up the interaction, participation, and networking by providing some seriously cool online spaces for teachers to wet their toes in, and hopefully also dive right in to!  So, we’ll be getting up (in our awesome Twitter t-shirts 😉 ) to show the folks at the conference how to get involved in communicating with others, and how to use the backchannel.

What is a ‘backchannel’?

You know when you’re sitting, watching a keynote or presentation, and if you know the person in the next seat you might make the odd remark in their ear?  Well, a backchannel is like doing this on a mass scale – it’s like having a silent ‘channel’ on in the background for anyone who wants to make comments or ask questions that the rest of the audience can see, and if they want, silently respond to.

It’s like passing notes for grown-ups.  Ones that you know the teacher can read too if they so choose (so you can be critical, but must also be polite!)

From wikipedia:

The term “backchannel” generally refers to online conversation about the topic or the speaker

…it is the practice of using networked computers to maintain a real-time online conversation alongside live spoken remarks.

What are we using?

The most effective way of paticipating in a live backchannel during the conference is to join Twitter, and post short 140-character messages called ‘tweets’.  Anyone who ‘follows’ you can see your comment or question – and some people might also respond.

Do I have to have a lot of followers for this to work?

(or ‘yikes! but I’m not that famous yet!’)

If you are new to Twitter, never fear.  If you tag your tweet with the ‘hashtagETAConf09, then the comment that you tweet will also be seen by anyone who has searched for that tag – not just the people who follow you.  This means that even if you have NO FOLLOWERS, you can add to the backchannel discussion, and people can tweet responses to you.  Here is an example:

Wow! I thought Kelli and Darcy did a great job explaining the backchannel! #ETAConf09

To which another user might reply:

Does anyone know where I can find the video they showed at the start? #ETAConf09

You see the potential here?  And it’s easy!

What’s this I hear about a conference ‘Ning’?

‘Ning’ is the cute name that the people over at made up to describe their online site that is used for NetworkING.  It’s a very easy site to use, and a great way to introduce yourself to online learning if you haven’t already.

ETA members (all of you – whether you are physically at the conference or not) can join the ETA conference Ning and add comments and questions there too.  Darcy and I will be monitoring the Ning as well, and it is another place that a kind of backchannel will likely spring up.  It’s probably less likely that this will happen during the sessions though.  I imagine a lot of people will be logging into our Ning on Friday and Saturday night, and for awhile after the conference, to send comments to friends, colleagues and presenters, and to share ideas and resources.

For the most effective participation in a LIVE backchannel, I seriously recommend you use Twitter.

Any questions?

If you have any questions, you can post them here as a comment, or ask them on Twitter.  You can find and follow me at, or Darcy at

See you in the Twitterverse!

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NING tip for teachers

Of all the online teaching tools (edublogs, pbwiki, wetpaint, voicethread, twitterfacebook!) I have used in the past couple of years, I would have to say that the most successful (and my favourite) was the general purpose, customisable networking site, Ning.

I have used Ning now to coach debating teams, and to provide online homework/study support for my classes.

Here is a tip:
(it is one of my FAVOURITE things to do, because I would have loved this as a student!)

Turn on the photos section of your Ning.  At the end of important lessons, take a digital photo on your camera or phone of your whiteboard notes.  Post them up as photos on the Ning…really helps those who remember notes visually 🙂




P.S. An excellent example of how Ning has been used by educators for profressional learning and networking is The English Companion Ning, created for English teachers by Jim Burke.  Another I have come across more recently is The Educator’s PLN, a Ning created by Thomas Whitby to support the Personal Learning Networks of educators generally.

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