Has anyone tried using Ning with students as a social networking/writing space? I would be most interested in knowing how it went, if it has happened, as I am considering this platform (along with Elgg) for a big online writing space for middle school students. The past two years, we have used Manila blogs and, uhhh, too complicated and didn't do what we wanted.

So if you have used social networking with students, could you give me some advice?

Thanks
Kevin

Tags: networking, social, socialnetworking

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Andrew: See the post earlier in the discussion about using a single gmail account with the "+" sign. Seems like a good solution.,
Can I point out another advantage? If you set up the accounts to also send email for any private messages, you will be able to monitor ALL private messages that students send to each other, or if they are forming their own social networks, etc. because the confirming email is really your gmail account. The only downside is ads, but if you pay, you could have a blank space. I think I'm going to start with a class blog next year, but if things are smooth with that and my new administrator, I my expand to ning or some other solution.
I know with our blogs, we told the children not to give out their own e-mail addresses but to use their blogsite URL instead for connecting. However, I know for me personally, I love giving my e-mail out to people. It's a much easier way to connect. So perhaps next year, we'll try the g-mail account or see if we can set up a fake student in our district e-mail program. Then all the children can use that e-mail account but it will all come through me and I can forward it to them.
Hey, Lisa
Have you looked into gaggle for student email? There's an ad-sponsored free version but your district may reimburse for the subscription service. Jeff Utecht called it one of "tools of the year" over at the Shanghai American School (along with box.net for remote storage): http://www.thethinkingstick.com/?p=205
See ya!
Gordon
Thanks for the reminder of Gaggle. I had forgotten to look into that.l
And as for Box.Net, I use it all the time. Wonderful storage space and sharing for my podcasting efforts.
Kevin
Not sure why it happened, but when we added on Gaggle the thoughtfulness of students' comunications eroded dramatically. Moodle was going strong, then putting on Gaggle just took over things. Kids became exclusive and catty; an underground network of negativity developed. Administrators over the account had their hands full. (Gaggle was added it on for 3rd to 8th graders.)

Moodle had an entirely different feel. Now that I think about it, Moodle had a "context" of class work and assignments, kids responding to and setting up forums, kids having fun with profiles and blogs. Also, classes and students who learned Moodle first went around to teach other teachers and students, so that may have given it a good, connected spirit. When Gaggle got added, the "context" of a school community got lost, and kids were swimming in random cyberspace, unguided, unlinked. It eroded Moodle, too.

These occurances may have had little to do with the applications, and everything to do with how they were presented.
Just some thoughts.
Interesting, Connie.
Maybe it was the difference between a classroom setting and a social setting -- which is something we need to find ways to bridge between, I think, if we want to be effective.
Keeping the "school community" feeling is important.
Thanks for sharing about your experience.
Kevin
This has to do with Elgg, and not Ning, but still useful.
This was created by a friend in the National Writing Project:

Great video it covers many topics and concerns that I have with student accounts for email and social networking. I share the same concerns that I have read about in this forum about saftey, logistics, and collecting friends. I experienced a similar problem with a science website last year. Students were to make choices, and then collect cards as they learned along the way. It quickly turned into a card collection contest. Many students did not get to the "create and submit a project part" because this was during computer club and were not receiving a grade.
A couple of thoughts:
Build more accountability for students in regards to a social network and other projects. eg. Use the network to team up to find different solutions to problems posed by the teacher.
If the friends option cannot be blocked, it can be a motivator. How about limit the number of friends until certain stages of projects are completed. Limit the number of total friends.

I will use web 2.0 tools to update my projects this year, and I appreciate learning ways in this forum. I am checking out Pageflakes mentioned here and another one that Susan shared http://www.imbee.com
Check out Student Pageflakes accounts if you might be looking into introducing social networking experiences for students. They are free and can be customized. They can also be kept private easily with only approved friends allowed in. What I like best is the default structure focused on student tasks and needs. You can see and set up your own practice student pageflakes account by going to http://student.pageflakes.com. Students do need an email address. Fortunately many already have AOL, adelphia, Yahoo, or GMail accounts.

"Flakes" is another word for widgets/modules that can be added, deleted, or moved around on one's personal page. I envision student pageflakes with potential to serve as a students' personal staring point on the internet. If we are worried about student use of online social networks, we must learn more about them and teach students how to use them responsibly. If schools move into this area, students will more quickly learn web skills as the technology emerges.

You may have more personal fun setting up your own adult Pageflakes account. I think that URL is http://pageflakes.com.
Thanks for the pointer to Pageflakes, Shawn.
I have used Pageflakes myself (as a way to keep track of blogs of participants in workshops that I give on blogging and podcasting) but have not yet ventured into use with students. It has potential but I don't think it is quite the experience that I am looking for. However, I will go back and look at the options.

Once again, email for access becomes an issue, as I can't expect that students in my project will have email (many come from rural and urban centers).

I appreciate the input, though.

Kevin
I am putting together a collection of AP Language and Composition so that they can interact with each other throughout the school year. Last year, we did it in house and use Wikispaces to host it. That was no big deal for our teacher and our students. This year, we would like to incorporate other classes from around the globe, and I don't know how well the wiki would fit that. Would a Ning work better?

I have been following this discussion as it has progressed, and it seems like everyone has high hopes for this platform. My questions are of safety--is there any way to prevent students from receiving random friend requests or from venturing out and creating Nings of their own. Personally I have little problem with that, but I am just imagining a student creating something that blows up in the teacher's faces.

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