By now, most people have heard of social networking. Whether it’s the evening news with MySpace stories or you’ve been barraged with Facebook invitations, social networking is one of the real hot topics in Web 2.0. The problem, however, is that the popular social networking sites expose our students to some safety issues that concern many educators. While these tools may be great assets to our classroom, I think the negatives of Facebook, MySpace and even Twitter out-weigh their educational usefulness.
Ning (found at www.ning.com) is a unique social networking platform. Not only can you create private networks for a class or a hobby, you also have the ability to choose which features can be included in the network. Want chatting? Want blogging? Want discussion forums? Each can be added easily within the Features section found under the Manage header. The really great feature is that Ning stores its own videos and audio files within a network. This would be useful for having students share podcasts or digital stories they have created as assessments for a class. Or consider pairing the video and blogging features and having students reflect on teaching demonstrations they’ve shared in a Ning network. It’s reflective practice for the 21st Century!
With all of its features, Ning can be a powerful supplement to a class, without opening students to the safety issues that are inherent with Facebook.