This is all so disappointing to read... I would love to get a ning happening with my grade 5 class too. I even ran it by them this afternoon and let them talk to me about how they think it could be beneficial. They were so excited at the prospect - now I need to tell them they can't because of age limit :(
My biggest problem though is that I have a very restrictive IT committee when it comes to downloading software so my solution to this is to seek online options. I guess that nings will need to wait for a bit. I am happy with what my kids are doing using the tools in google apps so I will keep developing this area.
The solutions I am talking about are online. Does your school have a web server? If so, there are many options that the school could host itself. I actually got our district to rent some inexpensive server space (<$10/mo) which has allowed us to install a wide variety of Free and Open Source Web 2.0 applications.
If you were so inclined, you could rent a little server space yourself for ~$60/yr and do the same. You could have a discussion forum up and running in a few minutes with almost no technical expertise. A few clicks and keystrokes and you are done. From there, you'd just need to set up your discussion areas and populate it with your students.
Hi Marcela and Everyone,
I sure have used ning with elementary students. Had the best thing going ever, online network and F2F combined, learning and sharing 24/7, extremely dynamic and positive.
Now I can't use ning anymore, and am desperately searching for a replacement. I'd love to gather suggestions, new systems to investigate. I'm using Moodle now, but it just isn't the same. I'm not looking for a course management system, but a network! They are different.
If anyone has ideas, please share. Steve, I'll look into ELGG some more. Other ideas? Gathering them up. I've got to have something going by September 09--that's my goal. I can not do without a networked classroom anymore, have seen the light, the power of it.
I believe Elgg has great potential in this regard. The release of the much improved version 1.5 is imminent. I am also in contact with K12 people that are interested in Elgg around the world. The core developers want to create an Elgg K12 think-tank group.
There is also BuddyPress which is a set of plugins that work with WordPressMu to create a social network.
Mahara is similar to Elgg, but I believe it is less flexible. It has a decided pedagogic tilt.
I sincerely believe that having something together by September 2009 will be achievable.
Thank you, Steve. Which one do you think holds the most potential for being able to be set up like a ning?
I like having forums as a central base, love flexibility, want things to be fairly intuitive. Want to include blogs, sharing of multi-media producations with the ability to comment on everything. Oh--students need to have the power to set up their own fourms, need to be able to be the drivers.
Really appreciate your suggestions! Thanks, Marcela, for starting this!
I believe Elgg will prove the most flexible as it has recently been rebuilt from the ground up as a social network engine. I do not yet know of a constellation of plugins that will place forums at the center as Ning, but I can't see why it couldn't be done and rather suspect that it will be done. Now that the code has matured, I anticipate a proliferation of new modifications.
As it stand, all users are capable of creating groups and each group has a forum, file repository, and pages, a collaborative writing component. Bookmarks, multimedia, and blogs are there. Each individual has a blog, a private dashboard, and a public profile page. Comments and tags are part of the default system.
BuddyPress, which is part of the WordPress/Automattic sphere will undoubtedly present a viable option. At this point, however, installation and configuration is not for the feint of heart--especially the integration of bbPress, the forum element. That being said, once it gets out of beta, I believe there will be a proliferation of mods that only the WordPRess community can muster. BuddyPress also gives each user a full featured WordPRess blog. Users can create groups with forums.
Mahara is intended to serve primarily as an eportfolio and has many of Elgg's options, but I haven't visited it in a little while.
Of course, the demos don't reflect all the variations and modifications that could be made to customize a given installation.
Lastly, it seems that all platforms are moving toward integrating social networking features. I wouldn't be surprised if you could configure a discussion forum such as phpBB or SMF to perform much as Ning with custom configuration and by adding some extensions.
Right now, I'm going to concentrate on Elgg, but I already use WordPressMu, so I keeping an eye on BuddyPress.
Have you tried www.parentella.com? It is specifically built for parents and educators to connect around classes the kids attend. You can post homework, class news, share events, field trips, start a discussion and keep everyone in the loop.