Originally uploaded by st0nemas0nry

This is a screen shot of my online social network that I’m using with my stonemasonry apprentice students.

Geographic spread
I set up the Ning stonemasonry network in July 2007 to keep in touch with students between classes. Most of my students do not live in Brisbane – they are spread along the eastern seaboard of Queensland, with a few in northern New South Wales and Darwin. They attend four “blocks” of training, each five weeks long during approximately three to four year duration of their apprenticeship.

Why Ning?
I chose Ning after experiencing other online social networks such as MySpace and FaceBook. I decided that Ning had the best capacity for images, and was easiest to customise to a work-related setting.

In addition to images posted to the site, Ning has widgets (web objects) that allow greater interaction between members. I particularly like my Flickr RSS feed widget. I’ve customised it so that anytime anyone posts an image tagged “stonemasonry” to Flickr, a thumbnail is displayed in the widget. Other RSS feed widgets display my Twitter and Twiddeo timelines. I’ve also embedded various SlideShare presentations that operate as small versions on the homepage, and link to the full screen SlideShare version.

Member pages
Anyone can join the stonemasonry Ning, as long as they first complete a profile page. I designed the profile questions so that members tell a little about themselves in a work context. Recently, some Russian women joined without details other than a “dating” web address. While they were a welcome sight visually, I eventually blocked them after they failed to respond to my questions about their intentions. I didn’t want my students distracted.

I ask each member to provide a photo avatar so that the site is humanised.

I’ve seen that each student group interacts differently, possibly due to web accessibility. Recently, I’ve received messages asking me to check administration procedures that are delaying payments to students. This is probably due to changing departmental and institute admin practices. Currently, one former apprentice is working in the UK and travelling through the Middle East. He updates his page with photos and messages about his travels. Otherwise, the stonemasonry Ning site is convenient for students to virtually meet one another between classes.

I continually stress the importance of apprentices interacting and presenting themselves in an appropriate manner. This fact is evidenced by the placement of a ClustrMap on the main page. Students are aware of the fact that the site is a portal to the global stonemasonry community, and that their interaction is viewed by potential employers, employees and clients.


TAFE Queensland does not support access to any sharing sites. I look forward to the time when sharing sites approved by the department will be made available to trades-teaching staff and apprentices.


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4 Responses to “stomas_ning”

  1. Robert Michel Says:

    I just stopped by your blog and thought I would say hello. I like your site design. Looking forward to reading more down the road.

    Robert Michel

  2. alexanderhayes Says:

    Great blog and great use of Ning mate….I would like if you’d come and speak with our MECaT guys down here about the same thing…..they are burying it all in Moodle which suits course developers but not the world.

    Perhaps you’ve got something to add to our inititiative also to set about building some useful guidelines for open education using networked ICT’s –

    “I look forward to the time when sharing sites approved by the department will be made available to trades-teaching staff and apprentices.”

    I bet you do….meanwhile what “risk” are you running at ? how do you explain yourself ?

    Would love to hear from you sometime on the phone.

    Look for details via my website –

  3. Rob Abbey Says:

    I am very impressed with the breadth of your pioneering thinking and your openness to the new technologies. I tips me lid!

  4. cafechat Says:

    Thanks, Rob. I’d love my students to engage in the online community a little more – I’m constantly trying new ways to make this happen, so I guess it looks a bit rambling from the outside.

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