You can use a tripod if you want, but you need to get one with a panning head. Otherwise its not really neccessary since the shutter speeds are so high already.
As to what speeds you should take it really depends on the subject that you are taking, whether the subject is moving towards you directly, or its moving across your view, ie perpendicular to where you are taking.
Hi, you don't have to sweat it. Although I'm a newbie here too, I'm also learning. I've tried the panning technique while at the skating ring in Sunway Pyramid on a recent trip to KL. If you use a digital camera, you can experiment and try it out, as it doesn't costs you much on film. It does takes some time to get a good shot though.
So, first of all, you have to understand that in moving objects, you can freeze the motion or you can have a blurry effect where the object looks stationery but the surroundings looks in motion (done by panning). I'm not sure what other techniques are around.
In a freeze moment, all you need is a good fast shutter speed, like 1/2000 or 1/4000 sec or faster, depending on the speed of the subject. Aperture and shutter speed works in tandem. The faster your shutter opens and closes, the less light enters your camera. So, taking into account of that, your aperture have to be large (to some cameras, the largest you can go probably is f/2.8). Just remember that the f-number is inverse (the smaller number means that your camera shutter opens bigger, i.e. letting more light in, while the larger number is smaller). If possible, you will probably need fill-in flash to illuminate or give more lighting to the subject.
If you want to capture the movement or motion, than, panning is one of the techniques. I learnt it through the December PHOTOi mag. When I try it on the skaters at Sunway Pyramid, there were so many people in the ring. So, I purposely chose those with really contrasting color clothing (to be more eye-catching). As you need to move your camera, it may be better to handheld. Just set a shutter speed of 1/8 or 1/15 sec. If you don't want to think about the aperture, set the mode to shutter-priority and let the camera decides for you on what aperture to use. I didn't use flash because I didn't want to attract the attention of the skaters. So, choosing a corner of the ring, I position myself, set a timer of 3 seconds, aim at an oncoming skater with bright or colorful clothing, and holding my camera, I follow the skater (eyeing him/her on my viewfinder) along the corner as he/she passes by. Timing must be right. So, as the skater moves by, the shutter releases, and the result should come out to be of the skater in a fixed position (not really possible to get sharp image of the skater, but as long as you can recognize him/her, should be alright) and the surroundings are all magical colors of lights and motion around him/her. Spent about 2 hours, got about 30 shots, mostly bad, a few good ones. As I try it out, I experimented with longer shutter speed, sometimes slower one, etc. Try different white-balances to get the colors right, try different angles, etc.
At the end of the day, practice makes perfect (although I don't think I'm perfect yet).
It will be blur if you pan at a different speed from the subject. With practice, you can learn to pan at the same speed, and your subject will be relatively sharp, while the background will be blurred. The effect is rather dramatic.
The trick is the start following the subject for a couple of seconds *before* hitting the shutter. After the shutter has fired, continue following the subject. There is a mirror blackout (if you use a SLR), so you can't see the subject during that time but you should have no problems maintaining the movement if you had been tracking the subject before hitting the shutter. Follow through, even after the shutter has closed.
Practice is key. If you have a digital camera, better still, since you can review your results immediately and re-pan another shot immediately.
Am I making sense to you ? Maybe someone else can explain this even more clearly.