Hi all,

I have a Ning Site which my School pays for and I am very grateful. I use it to document student discussion and to keep tabs on how they are travelling as far as completing set tasks and homework. Each year a new student body will join the site and continue adding to the tasks. I hope that when preparing for the HSC the students will log in and use it as a study resource.

The other day my year 12’s asked if I was going to delete their work and were happy that I said no because they had a wealth of knowledge regarding the subject that they are studying. This can be added to and used as a study aid.

To improve the site I started renaming the tabs to make it more user friendly and I discovered a couple of things:

I can embed Prezi’s! Its not that hard to do and it allowed my students to have the notes I made in front of them when I was delivering them as well as refer to them later. Also if a student was away they could log in and follow the notes with reference to the text.

Then I discovered Smallworlds . Smallworlds is a mini Second Life which promotes a safe virtual environment. The major difference is…ITS FREE! I am in the process of building a virtual world using Opensim but Smallworlds has been embeded into my Ning and I am able to set it up how I want it. I have created Blaangs Virtual Classroom and as you can see from the screen shot there is computers to post responses to questions/tests/exams and we even have a lounge area so that we can meet and discuss any issues outside of our normal timetable class. We had a meeting the other night and the students (surprisingly) were completely focused on the topic of discussion.

Smallworlds has a number of advantages:

  • Ease of use
  • Free
  • If anyone does anything innapropriate you can report/ban them
  • You can earn money easily to buy things (such as computer and chairs)
  • Its adaptable
  • I don’t have to be in the room to monitor a students progress
  • Rooms can be members only
  • You can buy more room if you need it
  • If a student is absent they can log in a check/discuss our lesson

Its a very big learning curve and the students appear to be enjoying it. They even wrote their own policy on acceptable use in the classroom which is adapted from Google’s policy of “Don’t be Evil“.

At this stage it is a learning curve to see what we can do with it. At the moment there hasn’t been any hiccups but no doubt there will be. Once they are discovered it will be up to the class to resolve them.

So if you are interested in setting up a virtual classroom and dont have the money or the infrastructure I do recommend you give Smallworlds a try!

Thanks for reading.