Our ever-diligent website blocker has already blocked Ning, adding it to Myspace and other such sites. What to do? It makes sense that Ning poses a threat since people can create sites for all kinds of content (and a glance through the existing social networks does turn up networks devoted to sex, tantra love, and "naughty girls need love."). This does pose a problem, however - how do we reconcile the need for safe surfing at school with the desire to incorporate social networking?

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Get Tech support at your school to unblock the specific URL for this site and for the School 2.0 site and any other sites that are legitimate and safe. They should be able to do this without any real trouble. If they won't do it for you get you're administrator to ask them. I hope this helps...


William Bishop (Bill)
In the past they've told me that they can't unlock a specific area in the site (e.g. classroom 20...) without unlocking the whole domain - but I'll see if that still holds true. I guess I'm just wondering in general if other people are having issues with reconciling encouraging students to use social technologies and the need for Internet security.
I've corresponded with Ning about this issue, and let them know that I think schools will not allow access to Ning because of those kinds of networks. I am interested: I upgraded to the domain account--if you use the www.Classroom20.com URL, are you still blocked?
I just ran into this same problem. We are not blocked but we asked another school to join a network we created and they are blocked.

Our district has altered their blocking policy and now they block staff and students differently. That has been helpful so that we can access tools like this.
I really appreciate any help you can offer for this because ours is blocked at the district level as well and I think that many educators would be interested in using this. Thank you Steve, for looking for alternatives. I'll be checking in a couple of hours!

William, we use TwoTrees/Shelterbelt and I know they can unbock specific sites, but have been told that due to other nasty possibilities for students, I'd have to access another site at home. This was a couple of years ago (I was looking at ACT/SAT prep sites); I didn't have access at home. They told me to go to the library. I stopped asking our IT gatekeepers anything at that point. I think this is a common frustration for many of us.
For me, www.Classroom20.com says that it doesn't exist at school, but it does work at home. Any suggestions for my tech guys?
Here in CT our filtering is done at the state level, but it can be fine-tuned by individual districts. Earlier this week I found the site blocked when I returned from a week's vacation. I contacted out tech support staff in district and the opened the specific URL. They are very accommodating in that way and we are lucky here.

Check out Steve's posting about the Wired article extolling the virtues of social software's use in education. In some places the trend is moving toward opening up to its possibilities. This includes MySpace and Facebook and the other Big Scary Places, as well as the lesser known Elgg and Ning! You might consider using it as a basis for making the case for openness.
Our network administrator was able to unblock this site without unblocking ning in general. It looks like it's working the way it should.
Good news.
So, I've corresponded again with Gina Bianchini from Ning on this topic. She's going to look at it again, but Ning is not likely to enforce a set of standards on their other social networks that would be acceptable for schools, and just the nature of how user content is posted at Ning will always make it an unknown.

Gina did ask if I had any suggestions for what to do. Does anyone have any ideas, aside from my already getting the www.Classroom20.com domain set up?
To start with, place a little blurb somewhere that says "is Ning blocked at your school?" with instructions to ask the network administrator to unblock classroom20.ning.com while still blocking the general ning domain. Sometimes you just have to be firm about it - I know that my experience with our network people is that they like to take the uber-secure (and admittedly easier) route, but that when I was insistent this morning that they could unblock the specific URL, they did it.

Perhaps we need to look at a self-regulating system, where users understand that the content needs to be school safe. It moves the burden of security to the social network administrator (as opposed to tech support and keyword-driven firewalls). It actually is a really interesting issue and one that's relevant to the whole Web 2.0 arena: how do we encourage and nurture social networking in a classroom environment while still maintaining security?
I have been fortunate enough to have open access to the web at school. Classroom20.ning.com will load into my browser but if I try to get anywhere in the site, it will crash firefox and opera, and display blank pages in IE. I think the proxy is kicking out something that the filter is allowing. I don't have these problems from home or other networks with the same computer. I haven't tried the new url yet (vacation this week) but I suspect it won't work as the problem likely lies in a redirect somewhere.



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