Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Creating A Studio Network on Ning

I've become intrigued with the possibilities of using social networking tools in my studio after attending a workshop presented by Mario Ajero and Courtney Crappell at the MTNA National Conference. I was a bit reluctant at first (See this post - scroll down), but I'm now really excited about my new studio network on Ning.com. Ning allows you to create your own page with a dedicated URL. Members sign in with a password and can post status reports, blog posts, text, photos, and video. You can even create events with an RSVP feature - useful for recitals and festivals. It's free. There are ads, but they're fairly unobtrusive. I believe you can pay for an ad-free site.

Last week, I videoed portions of some students' lessons and then uploaded the clips to our network. I sent the parents invitations to become members, and now those students and parents can access our videos from home. I love being able to keep them accessible only to my studio members since these aren't polished performances but works in progress. I think that using video this way is going to be very useful. As Rebecca points out, a picture is worth a thousand words. When students can see and hear the problems that need to be corrected, they catch on more quickly. So far, I'm only using Ning for posting video, but I believe its usefulness will expand as we explore all the possibilities it offers.

I also posted some YouTube videos of pieces that my students are working on. For instance, I posted a clip of the U.S. Military Band playing "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" for one student who had never heard it before, and a video of a little girl doing a fine job of playing Bach's Minuet in G for another. The Bach clip had an extremely tasteless comment right underneath, but by posting it on Ning, my student can access it without having that comment visible. I like having a place to link to the videos I deem "worthy" rather than having my students waste time on all of the unworthy material on YouTube.

Another thing to consider is that using technology such as this adds value to your studio and helps to create a buzz in the community about the innovative things you're doing. Word of mouth is the single most effective kind of advertising and this gives folks something to talk about! I had an interview recently with a parent of a prospective student and was telling him about how I've begun to use Ning and video. "Wow!" he said. "Piano lessons sure have changed since I was a kid!"

So, Mario and Courtney, in spite of my reluctance, you've converted me!

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