Yesterday I taught a workshop at the University of New Hampshire’s Cooperative Extension in Concord. I thought you’d enjoy seeing the slide deck from it.
I opened with a discussion about how decisions involving education and youth are made. We discussed that while decisions about online tools and activity should be made with logical factors in mind, like cost, usefulness, utility, education, learning encouragement, and more, they are often made from an emotional place of fear instead, causing both the educators and the kids to lose out.
We discussed some practical issues of regulation in the education industry, minors online, and basic internet safety to consider in the classroom, then quickly moved along to the meat of the class: bringing these tools into play and using them in forward thinking ways. We also discussed how they may not only help the classroom, but the administration of the school, and any associated alumni groups, causes, organizations and non-profits. It was a fun and fully engaged class, and the educators in it were already thinking about how to use RSS, Ning and other technologies to continue to collaborate on the ideas in it after the fact (in fact, they already had the start of a Ning group going when I arrived, and were floored at the other ways they could be using the simple tool).
Part of what makes the Internet fun is the ability to band together with other people who share your interests in large scale group events. Since the advent of Web 2.0, that has become even easier. You may have heard of the seemingly crazy NaNoWriMo, where people sign on to write a novel in the month of November. In response to NaNoWriMo, one blogger decided to have a little fun and create NaBloPoMo – write a blog post a day for the month of November.
Fussy’s idea caught on like wildfire in the blogosphere, with bloggers everywhere forwarding her link to each other and using her comments section to sign on to the challenge. As NaBloPoMo grew and evolved, she added a page on her own blog to try and organize it better, provided prizes and participation buttons and made things more “official”. It still wasn’t convenient to sign on to participate, but participation continued to grow.
Enter Ning, a social networking site geared toward group causes like this one. With just a few mouse clicks, Fussy was able to use Web 2.0 to streamline her idea. This year she is already over 1500 participants and counting, all because she tapped into the power of Web 2.0 to grow her movement. You can see the NaBloPoMo Ning group here.
This is a real world example of the power of Web 2.0. By making applications that are simple, elegant and fun, more people are using the web in more ways. Fussy posted her Ning group less than a month ago, and that simple act quadrupled the number of people who wanted to participate in her idea. If the web can grow a basic idea like NaBloPoMo that fast, think of what it can do for your idea or favorite cause.
I was also pleased with the Ning interface. I had not yet heard of Ning when I got the heads up that Fussy had moved the NaBloPoMo logistics over there. It was extremely quick to set up a profile and be part of the group, and even quicker to customize the profile to look more like my personal blog (I will be participating in NaBloPoMo myself, of course. Feel free to add me as a friend there).
With Ning I can add pod casts, blog entries, notes, comments, videos and even music to my group profile page. I especially like the music feature – it lets people know what I like to listen to while I write, and they can play the songs themselves. It integrates with iTunes to import the file right onto the Ning server. The music importer is fast, too. I was impressed at the short amount of time it took to upload a long song like Wreckless Eric’s “Whole Wide World”.
The whole Ning interface is simple to use, and easy to navigate to find new friends in your group. It’s like having your own MySpace orFaceBook that you design for your specific needs. I can see uses for Ning in the business world, in alumni associations, self help groups, reading groups, activity groups – the possibilities are endless. Plus, because they have limited the amount of customization you can do, you get a “personalized” page without clogging their band width, so the site stays fast.
My original version found at Profy site.