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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Hey All,

I love this conversation and thanks for letting me join in. First, I would say that security, especially of students is incredibly important to us. So is enabling people to create networks for lots of different purposes.

The balance that we've sought to strike is allowing individual networks set their own rules and norms via a set of flexible mechanisms and controls while protecting other networks from the rules and norms of other networks.

This describes how we approach privacy and moderation. And I'd love to hear what we can do to help ensure that schools don't unilaterally block us because we offer a platform for social networks. It seems a bit like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. :-)
I don't think blocking protects students, because there are hundreds of ways around the filters. And they know them. And they write blogs posts on how to get around filters. They actively work, network and communicate to spread the word on how to get around our filters. Now that's an impressive use of technology. Filters do however do one important thing: give adults piece of mind. It is a false sense of security, but unfortunately one we fall victim to all the time.

Now for a tougher question: is it ethically sound for a teacher (let's say me) to use a workaround to the filter to get to this Ning site from school?
This conversation reminds me of my posting about Alan November's comments around his 17 year old son being forced to "leave all his best learning tools at the school house door".
This is a very important topic - how can we teach students to use the tools of the present (let alone the future), if the attitude is to just block them? I have seen many creative teachers become frustrated with the difficulty of access, and I am ready to start a crusade. Look how large our community is becoming - read how the US legislature's Education Committee is finally considering a push for using Web 2.0 in NCLB - perhaps people are ready for a change. Do all countries have this same problem?
I agree that you can never be too safe, unless of course you work for a school and want access to the internet. At our school, pretty much everything not .org or .edu is blocked. Well not everything, but I can only check my school email account. If I want access to something that's blocked it depends on the mood of the tech coordinator that day. So I just keep trying, and watch his moods when I really want access.
I might be speaking too soon as we got a new firewall over the summer but as of the end of school, we didn't have ning blocked. For just this reason, some of my teachers have set up a ning network devoted to exploring Self Directed Learning. http://lttsdl.ning.com/ Fingers crossed that as we get back to school all will be well with access. At this point, we haven't used it with students but hopefully as my teachers see how cool it can be for collaborative learning and conversation, we'll see some student networks set up at school. Ning is great because we can make a network private and keep a pretty tight reign on who can be part of our disucssions.
How about training for teachers and administrators on how to be safe and efficient in their searching so that they can teach this to students?
This just out...
These are the stats that drive us crazy:

* 84% of school districts have rules against online chatting in school
* 81% have rules against instant messaging in school
* 62% prohibit blogging or participating in online discussion boards at school.
* 60% prohibit sending and receiving email in school
* 52% prohibit any social networking sites in school

Meanwhile, the article reports that 50 percent of kids using social networking sites are using it for educational related activities (such as getting homework assignments from other kids), although how accurate that number is and does it cover such things as, well, "borrowing" the answers, is up for grabs (it would still be using a site for school-related activities, after all).

Thanks for the link
We could access ning last school year. I hope it isn't blocked once we've gone back to school. :(
Didn't mean to steal your thunder on this. Saw your post after I created a new forum post on the same study results. Am very curious to see the actual study, and to get responses on it.



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