I used Ning last year with my 6th graders and they loved it. The only problem was at the time I could not keep it totally private. They are so smart they figured out how to create their own accounts and then it just kept growing and I could not keep up with it. Does anyone know if that has changed. Can I keep it totally private just for only those that I invite? I see so many changes that I am hoping perhaps that may be one of them. Thanks to any information that anyone can share.
Jackie, As I've always said here and in other discussions there are too many nooks and crannies in Ning--you are cruising for potential trouble if you use it with kids under 13. I'd hate for something untoward to happen (bullying, inappropriate pics or videos) and you will be blamed for not abiding by Ning's terms. I'd shut the whole thing down or not try it again with underaged kids. I personally wouldn't use it with middle schoolers either unless you had the time to be ever vigilant. Many middle schoolerd don't use real good judgement.
This is why a discussion forum is a really good alternative. Access, moderation, and publication privileges are almost infinitely configurable and it can be as simple or as complex as you like. It would certainly accomplish much of what Ning does.
This is a frequent request. And Steve never tires of answering it :) .... I had the same question not so long ago when I was doing a flat classroom project. I teach middle school and so had mostly under 13eens. Although NIng is still blocked at my school, my hope is to get it unblocked for specific projects. And then the 13s will participate and the younger students will "watch" the participation, like I will be watching and supervising as a "teacher." This will give me a chance to prepare them for when they can fully participate at 13. I am hoping that in the mean time, someone, Ning or otherwise, will create a "ninglette" model where kids can participate in the experience without going "public."
I'm always trying to introduce new tools to keep children motivated and able to develop more language, since I teach Spanish to very young ones. Sometimes I find quite difficult to use certain tools, I thought ning will be great, but too many risks, so I am keeping it simple with a normal forum :)
Don't hold your breath for a "Ninglette." The problem is not whether the "Ning" is public or private, it's about collecting personal data on children under 13. To comply with the law, they would have to get verifiable parental consent and keep it on file. I very much doubt that they want to expend resources on such and expose themselves to such scrutiny. Even for kids 13 and over, I don't think we can ethically require students to provide their personal information to a private commercial entity.
Solutions exist for nearly no money that require nearly no expertise. I am puzzled by the tendency to expect a free solution delivered into one's lap.
I know "discussion forums" are not considered a cool "web 2.0" tool, but they really are and have been important social web tools for well over a decade. They are free, robust, and very easily configured. The only expense is a web server which many schools already have. Failing that, webhosting can be had for very little money. In fact some will give you as an educator a small piece of server real estate for free. All you have to do is install the software which is as easy as setting up a Ning account. From there, you set up your forums and permissions.
Don't hope! Don't wish! Go out and do something! It is not onerous.