Web 2.0 and Emerging Learning Technologies/Ning

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Since it was first launched in October 2005, Ning has been an online platform for creating private or closed social networks. Unlike other social networks which are open for any user of internet to join, Ning allows to create private networks for a particular group of online users. Gina Bianchini, Ning co-founder, stated that Ning is a platform that provides creative freedom, that is, the ability to have more control over the user experience and data. In this respect, platforms are a step above social networks such as MySpace or Facebook in that they are programmable and give people control. A Ning network can be kept as private or as public as the creator desires, and each member can be granted different permissions and given different roles in the general running of the network. Overall, Ning is more open than other social networks in terms of the flexibility it gives users, and it serves a different purpose than Facebook and other social networks; this is shown by the increasing use of Ning in the educational field as both a tool and platform for collaboration. Users can opt to either take part in other members' social networks or create a network from scratch of their own.

Its name comes from the word "ning", which means "peace" in Chinese.


Main characteristics of Ning

  • Users can create social networks around specific interests with their own visual design.
  • The features and member data for a particular topic or need can be customized.
  • The platform offers the templates of website, photos and video combined in a single application, enabling anyone to easily create their own social network.
  • Safety options such as selecting who is allowed to edit the network, inviting or banning people, etc., can be customized by the Administrator.
  • Various levels of viewability and membership are customizable by the Administrator. Ning networks are subject to Children's Online Privacy Protection Act regulations.
  • Ning is free by default. Paid options include premium services such as control of the ads or lack thereof, extra storage and bandwidth, and non-Ning -URLs, in exchange for a monthly fee.
  • The social networks within Ning are programmed with PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor (an open-source server-side scripting language, widely used for the development of dynamic web pages). Ning platform is built in Java (a technology developed for machine-independent softwares)


Gadgets

  • A series of Tabs organize the access to: My Page, Members, Videos, Events, Blogs, etc. On My Page, you can also access your Network's Private Messaging.
  • The network's discussions can be found in the Forum page.
  • Photos, videos and blog posts can be add as content; Photos by uploading the actual picture files, videos by embedding their code, from YouTube, TeacherTube or Vimeo.
  • Each person can have his/her own blog on the network, and blog posts will appear both on the Main Page and on My Page, the personal page of the person uploading the blog.
  • A synchronous chat room can also be included on the network. It may be opened and closed at any desired time, or it may be left open. It always keeps transcripts and requires members to be logged in to participate.


Teaching and learning possibilities

Ning networks have been a widely used tool for teaching. Its extensive use in education lies on the basis of the safety of a private network, shared by those who have been specifically invited and approved. Teachers are working with Ning into their classrooms not only for their students, but for collaborative work with their colleagues also. Examples of these uses can be found in university, secondary and even primary education level.

The teacher, as an Administrator, can provide students or colleagues with material and also encourage them to respond to it, allowing them to upload the material they create or find. A very useful measure, in the case of inappropriate content, is the teacher's editing or deleting of a piece of material. The security settings are of utmost importance if you are planning to use Ning with young learners.


Example links


WEBTAS Learning Community webtas.ning.com

Mary Hicko is a teacher who uses Ning for her campus learning community, which consists of staff, faculty and administrators interested in web teaching, in web 2.0 and in providing academic support services using these tools. They use Ning for all sorts of applications in teaching, academic support, tutoring, conference planning, and this enhances their professional development. Quoting Hicko, "It's such a flexible tool that even the critics seem to like it." We have chosen this example through the forum "Ning in Education", where Mary Hicko replied to a comment we posted.


Ning in Education FORUM **http://education.ning.com/forum

We want to share this website, not as an example link itself, but as a source of example links. This is an excellent forum, in which people from all over the world experiencing with Ning for educational purposes share and exchange problems, experiences, opinions, and keep a constant feedback on each other's work, in a very kind and collaborative way. If you are planning to include Ning in your curriculum, this is a website that will be most useful to you.