The Sky is Fall-NING

The Sky is Fall-NING

Okay, it really isn’t fall-ning, but this last week you would be hard pressed to convince my Personal Learning Network of this.

The following NINGS (and many more) are poised to cease and desist.(Details coming May 4, 2010) Well, I haven’t officially heard this, but we are planning to give up the sites as long as NING continues to move on and not offer FREE use of their NING site for educators and students.

Here are examples of some educational NINGs on the chopping block.
A SEEDL-NING Alice Barr, Bob Sprankle and Cheryl Oakes' Seedlings NING
2010WJHSourspace-ning 8th grade Ning
Images4educa-NING An incredible online class by Carla Arena
and feel free to add yours to this list in our comments!

I have great respect for all Web2.0 businesses populating the Internet, offering their products for those of us intrepid folks looking for new and useful sites to share with our students. How else are we going to keep our students engaged and motivated when they have spent all evening and outside of school time in interesting places? So, we try out Flickr, Picasa, Photobucket and are rewarded with great opportunities to share our images with others, and to use the images of those who keep them in the public arena with creative commons licensing.(Nevermind that Bubbleshare disappeared in the past year, although with great warning.So, is this a sign of the times?)

We spread the word through Twitter and Facebook, struggling with privacy issues and spam all the while learning and sharing our new found information with our students. We are always trying new sites and comparing them to our standards which include free hosted space, no spam, some unobtrusive advertising if we must, and lots of options and gadgets. NING was a great find! But how did we arrive at NING?

Which leads me to purpose. What is the purpose for creating nameyoursite?While looking for a website to create an online presence for our eighth graders we chose a NING for the following reasons:
we could get a free educator site without ads
we could keep the site private if we wanted to
it was easy to teach teachers how to use
the students knew how to use the site from their experiences with social networks
this site promoted our goals for collaboration, communication and creativity
this site was a platform for teaching about a digital footprint, netiquette and copyright information
this site was available at school and from home 24/7
as site admins we had a lot of control over the site and could add features as necessary
did I mention FREE?

What was not to like about Ning, in a matter of 10 minutes I was able to set up a site for 100 eighth graders and their teachers to delve deeply into a book by Chris Crutcher, Staying Fat for Sarah Brynes, where our students took their mission seriously. Chris Crutcher even stopped by and engaged in a conversation with the students one day! Choose a character, respond to profile questions in character, add your comments to forum questions as your own character, plus, make your avatar depicting what you imagine your character looks like, then choose an astrological sign, music and quotes your character would espouse to.

As educators we were able to focus on the goals and outcomes and not have to worry about the details or cost of using this Web 2.0 tool. But now with NING falling out of the sky, I am worried. How will I explain to our students and staff that we need to either move our site or pay up to finish our year? Our schools have frozen budgets through the rest of this year, we hear that next year will not be any better in terms of finances. I know that this project has benefited our students, however, I have not planned this as a budget item for next year, so will I be left to find another FREE site and recreate the project, or I will have to pay to keep this going.

By the time this post is made, the Elluminate session with Steve Hargadon will be an archive and, John McDonald
VP, Advocacy , from NING will have possibly closed the survey he posted for educators. However, leave your comments here or send a message to NING, let your voice and the voices of your students be heard. Hopefully, we will find that NING is not falling out of the sky.Resources:
For the latest information from NING, check out their NING site with this post by John McDonald, Mythbusters: Three Things we are not doing on May 4th

Leave your comments and join this conversation. I will make sure it gets back to John McDonald.