Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

SINGing the Praises of NING by Dawn Danker

These are my notes from Dawn Danker’s presentation “SINGing the Praises of NING” at the Oklahoma Technology Association (OTA) on 11 February 2009. MY THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS ARE IN ALL CAPS.

My heart is with kids and with educators
– background as an early childhood educator,
– helping shape human beings for the future

I am currently director of operations for Oklahoma A+ Schools

We believe in creating the environment in every school where you would want your child to attend
– we are not another thing to do, we are HOW you do it
– it does not cost anything to join our network, it requires a commitment

Ning has opened up a wonderful Pandora’s box for us in A+ Schools this year
– Ning is an online platform for people to create their own social networks

a social network is people connecting, collaborating together, with the same goals but perhaps different contexts
– like small communities

Why did we start a Ning?
– we were looking for ways to collaborate
– we are all about networking
— 52 schools across the state
— collaboration is one of our “essentials”

– we have lots of research which points to the benefits (which does include raised test scores) when people

Proof in other NING partnerships

We wanted benefits from collaborating

Remember the person Will talked about in his keynote (Kansas political candidate) who raised a lot of

Purposes of OK A+ Ning
– networking
– common purpose
– collaboration

We heard lots of responses
– why do that?
– it is just going to be another thing we have to do!

Clear goals
– celebrate the network (gives everyone a chance to share and pat others on the back)
– online professional development (asynchronous PD)
– establish a PLC (professional learning community) across the state

Collaboration may sound great, but there is often a lot of apprehension about it

We created the A-Team for Oklahoma A+ Schools (teachers would receive a new MacBook laptop to use if they agreed to the following things. We had 10 teachers say yes, we had 10 Macbooks to use)
– participate in at least one training session per month
– contribute to team plans and ideas toward developing new workshops
– commit to two hours per month for personal study and research to contribute at monthly meetings
– providing at least one professional development workshop to A+ schools

hosted PD is very expensive for us: travel, food, hotels, supplies, etc.

A-Team Objective 1:
– to explore, understand, and apply Apple computer software and Web-based applications

A-Team Objective 2:
– to develop training and workshops to provide to the A+ network

Technology foci: Google Docs, Ning, iPhoto
– had some initial, preliminary training face-to-face
– even basics of password tracking, protection, and recovery

Then we gave teachers 1 month to play with their MacBook and then got back together
– let the teachers showcase what they discovered
– we had everything from the Finder file structure, to someone who actually posted an original podcast online
– now we had a classroom with

Asychronous learning
– kept things as broad as we could without being too specific, because we didn’t want high-end users to feel like things were being too watered down

– post integrated unit information into Google Docs
– collect at least 5 photos of the A+ Essentials in practice, correlated to your integrated unit(s) as you identified in the Google Doc
— use a digital camera or the photo booth on your Apple MacBook
– Utilize iPhoto to enhance/improve each image
– In the Ning, resond to discussion 1: What techniques did you use in iPhoto to enhance and improve….

we only jumped in when no one responded in 24 hours in discussions

Another hiccup
– in some schools the IT and superintendents in the district had the Ning website we created blocked

If you have a Ning website used by teachers and students in school environments, you can ask to have the ads taken off your Ning site
– you can pay to have ads removed from your Ning site, then, in about 24 hours


We still had some people say we are not going to unblock it
– understand a Ning is NOT the same thing as Facebook, has a different purpose for the Ning we’ve created
– our Ning is being used as an educational platform

In many situations in education we are using umbrella statements to try and cover all situations

– what is it like at recess? How do you handle playground bullying?

with a Ning you are able to moderate groups
– like you do as a classroom teacher, being a facilitator for learning

liability concerns
– we have to exercise due diligence to investigate if there is a question about bullying and it being tied back to schools

– how is a predator going to get on your network that you have to give people permission to join?
– it is very unlikely that a predator is going to get onto your network?
– bigger question: how do we protect our kids from predators?
— we talk about stranger danger
— we have dialog with our children to help prepare and protect them

– both an be our friend in many ways

CIPA simply says protect your children / students from pornographic images
– it does not mean block your students from the entire Internet

we have made CIPA into this BIG overarching conversation
– bandwidth is not part of CIPA
– neither is email archiving

We need to educate ourselves on exactly what the law says
– then make sure your AUP backs that up
– AUP is in place for consequences based on user behaviors

Teachers need to be treated like adults
– they need to be trusted more than students on the network

If teachers or students violate the AUP, then there needs to be consequences
– here is the layer few people thing about: if you deny a teacher access to the Internet if they violate your AUP, how will they submit grades? Do attendance?

Best way to provide a controlled social network is to use a Ning
– you can control access by invitation, or moderate

35 teachers in Wellston, Oklahoma
Oklahoma City: 79 different campuses
– regardless of size, we need to be collaborating


discussion in groups about the value of collaboration just within your school
– someone talking about collaboration within media specialists within Oklahoma City Public Schools
– it is almost impossible to get everyone together at the same time, in the same place

Teachers like everyone else need a goal and a timeline
– we need deadlines and being tied to a deliverable date

Some of our reactions at the end
– we had started to use the Ning in our office
– some didn’t see the value because there were not any defined objectives
– when we turned that loose on the “A Team”
— they never want to be in the room with us again!
— they are dying for their next assignment

A new group is now coming on board
– those educators who have been equipped and been in the network are creating lesson plans, ideas, videos, [AND OTHER DIGITAL MEDIA ARTIFACTS] which can be used by everyone in the network

Web 2.0 tools
– are so very important in education
– many of us listened to Dr. Scott McLeod at the OU K-20 Midwinter conference
– what did he say he saw coming for education: eventually the door will be opened for us to really use these tools in education (our excuses will be removed)

discussion time
– we are excited about netbooks!
– perhaps we are NOT too far away from realizing the potential of using these tools in our schools

Web 2.0 tools can be overwhelming
– Scott McLeod said at K-20 Midwinter “Our kids have tasted the honey”
– after eating lots of bread and butter sandwiches, our kids are now craving the things they have tasted digitally
– kids are powering down when they go to school, they are powering up when they go home

There are so many advantages of using the environment which students

same stones are obstacles
– bullying
– predators

I mentioned a Ning to our youth minister at church
– it took 15 minutes to setup a Ning and groups with images
– now the preacher is blogging there, and his podcasts are being updated there

Here is the New Bloom’s taxonomy

how do we support creativity?
– letting students collaborate and work in groups

Book “The Element” by Sir Ken Robinson

mentioned Sir Ken’s video on TED:

“If you are not prepared to be wrong — you will not come up with anything original. People are being educated out of their creative capacity. We do not grow into creativity, we grow out of it. As far as education for children, we need to educate their whole being. Picasso said “All children are born artists.” – Sir Ken Robinson

How do we remain artists as we grow up?
– discussion


– don’t let fear hold back your imagination
– play
– hard fun (that is the way to get kids attention – Dr Seymour Papert)

Action steps
– how can web 2.0 tools help you become a better teacher
– how can you connect to teachers with similar issues
– how can you work smarter not harder

push back on PLC movement: I don’t have time
– this can integrate well into our busy lives, it can be near-realtime

Get a network!

Get a professional network
– Twitter
– TeacherTube: make an account
– follow people
– sign in to make a blog, it doesn’t have to be a school-based blog

Begin building your PLN (professional learning network)
1- Join a professional social network
2- find and follow blogs
3- join a microblogging network
4- Lurk for awhile

Join the ISTE Community learning community

Subscribe to blogs and podcasts using tools like Google Reader or Bloglines

Microblogging is a great way to start blogging on Twitter

Story about twitter and the tornados/storms last night
– the allstate

We want to know what the pulse of education

In closing
– why should we?
– why would we? (put is Dawn’s blog


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On this day..







6 responses to “SINGing the Praises of NING by Dawn Danker”

  1. Chad Bruns Avatar

    I absolutely love Ning!

    I started using it this school year and both my students and I really like it. I would recommend it to anyone. It just bring so much collaboration and communication to the table and all for free!!

  2. Chad Bruns Avatar

    By the way, you can click on my name to see my Ning page. Let me know what you think.

  3. […] Original post:  SINGing the Praises of NING by Dawn Danker […]

  4. iryna Avatar

    First of all, I love Sir Ken, he is hilarious! On a serious note, sadly, he couldn’t be more right about our education system educating students “out of their” creativity. By the time that they are in middle school, our students are taught to follow teachers’ directions, not to ask too many questions, and be quiet. “Getting it right” is the name of the game, and making mistakes is frowned upon. As a teacher, I had students who were afraid to participate in a lesson because they were afraid of making a mistake and be made fun of. Those students just wanted to get it right, please the teacher, and “not get in trouble.”When asked to be creative or “think outside the box,” those kids would literally panic. And the worst part about that was that because I taught high school, by the time they were in my classroom, it was very difficult for them to unlearn that thoughtless compliance.

  5. andrew Avatar

    ning is cool. i am in at least one ning group. thanks for all your thoughts

  6. […] digital natives.”  Great minds with great ideas, such as Will Richardson, Wesley Fryer, and Dawn Danker, who gave compelling cases at the same OTA conference, do a much better job than I can. […]