I have been using a Ning with our PreAP US History students in 8th grade. Each student chose a person from US History to represent. Their Ning actually belonged to Ben Franklin or whomever their choice was for a historical figure. Everyone from the class invited each other to be their friends and they all began conversations that could have taken place during the time period. They discussed issues and problems....Dolly Madison even threw a party at the White House! Their teacher (Martha Washington) and I moderated the discussions and it really turned out to be a wonderful project that we will do again.
Go to www.ning.com and sign up for a free account. When you and the teacher(s) have decided on a lesson, email them explaining your idea and they will take off the Google ads. You may have to go to Ning in Education to find the person to email. They are very helpful, but do ask that you give them a description of the lesson. I then set up an email account through gmail, which was just a generic email account geared towards our school name. We did not want the students to give out personal email addresses at the middle school level for this project so I had to get creative and resourceful! I found out that we could have one email account such as email@example.com and add in firstname.lastname@example.org and the email will go to the gmail address. Each student must have an invitation from me in order to join the Ning. When they log in to get their invitation, I accept them to the group and they begin creating their Ning. This Ning was based on 8th graders pretending to be a historical figure. They could invite other historical figures to be their "friends" and they had to use language and talk about events of the time. It was amazing! Their picture was of their historical character, not of themselves. Each person's screen name was something like George Washington aka John D. They added in videos they found online along with pictures. They created events such as a party at the White House and invited everyone to attend. I have taken the Nings down for the summer, but we'll start it sooner (around Christmas) next year.
Unfortunately I took the Ning down after school was out last year as a safety precaution. I do have some screen shots I can share, which are attached. We are going to do it again in May. The only way you would be able to "view" the ning is if you are invited. I like that security. It is a really cool thing to see unfold. I highly recommend trying this Web 2.0 activity with your students using the above directions.
I had my students create a book review wiki. 4 students per group, they then wrote a summary, a review, found a published review on the net and copied it into the wiki (and cited it correctly) Each student then picked one character and wrote a paragraph about the strengths and weaknesses of that character. Next year I will give access to the wiki to my incoming 6th graders as a way to help them pick books for the LA teacher's book reports.
I also had my 8th graders create websites about a book, more 1.0, but still pretty cool.
Using our Moodle Course Management System, I set up a discussion forum for our two 6th grade classes. After showing them the YouTube video “Amazing President Facts” by Zach Scott, I challenged the two groups to verify the statements in the video using the web and book resources we’d studied about this year. They also have to successfully cite their sources.
With a forum the teacher can go in and comment on the posts from the students, reminding them to add quotation marks if they cut and pasted something or point out problems with their citations. It is a very “real time” experience and the kids loved it. The students can also comment, help, suggest back and forth to each other! The two groups could not see each other’s work, which was essential because I promised the winning team ice cream! I keep challenging them with reminders that it may come down to which team has been the most thorough, found the best sources, or found more than one source.
At the end of the school year I started a ning page for my Librry. I tested it out with a few students and they seemed to like it, but then school was pretty much over. I also teach an elective class and we had a VERY interactive page with student blogging, journaling, networking, writing poetry. Feel free to look at the pages: www.ortizlibrary.ning.com and www.ortizavid.ning.com.....I plan to do some videocast of booktalks in the fall. :-)
We use delicious and wikis with kids at the moment. The social bookmarking is so useful for group projects that require a group to research on the Internet. And wikis are excellent for group work as well: organization of team roles, status of group progress, questions to ask outside of class, etc. We're also using a wiki to communicate with a school in Costa Rica that we'll be visiting in April.
So far, it's been fun to use the tools. As I think of other tools we use or that I'd love to use but have questions about, I'll send them along.
I have had a blog in place for my Library for about a year and a half, Most of the posts are created by the language arts teacher and myself, but there are also student book review posts and podcasts. Mostly the students leave comments. We used the blog as the central meeting place for a county-wide book club for Twilight, and there are LOTS of student posts there with quite of few examples of the students interacting with one another. I also use it to facilitate a book project that I collaborate with the LA teacher on that involves student blog responses and creating book videos as a culminating project.