On this page you may go to: Introduction , Related links, Ripe environment, Potential pitfalls, Nitty gritty details


A social network is a web site that provides users with a variety of tools to help them construct personal home pages and locate and connect with other users with similar interests and backgrounds.

Ning (“peace” in Chinese) is a free, web-based platform for creating, extending, and customizing a social network from scratch. Although Ning was not created specifically for educators and students, it is a popular platform for creating educational networks. (See Related links below for examples.) Other web-based social networking tools include Ectolearning, Elgg, and Think.com (for elementary contexts).

For a basic introduction to social networking, watch the first video by Common Craft. The second video is an interview by Darren Draper with Steve Hargadon, founder of Classroom 2.0, one of the largest and most dynamic teacher social networks:

Related links

Ripe environment

Do one or more of the following preconditions describe your school culture and/or your school-based mentoring program? If so, then a social network may be an appropriate intervention:
  • Annual staff turnover rate and/or large staff population limits communication and collegiality.
  • Teachers want a safe and secure virtual home in which to try out new learning and skills.
  • Grade level teams, committees, and curriculum groups need a way to communicate, collaborate, and share resources asynchronously due to time constraints.
  • Mentoring team needs a quick-and-dirty way to upload, archive, and share documents and other resources to support their program.
  • Mentoring team wants to publish news and announcements about their program, to essentially create a quick-and-dirty home page.

Potential pitfalls

  • Ning networks (and other social networks) tend to be blocked by Internet filters. Check with your school's technology coordinator.
  • Lack of awareness of the educational validity of networks may limit the adoption of networking into teacher professional practice.
  • Network moderation should be a shared responsibility; some training may be required.

Ning: the nitty gritty details

  • Installation: none required (web-based)
  • Registration: simple and free, with option to create a member profile
  • Design/user interface: basic three-column layout with a variety of templates and numerous customizable options
  • Tech support: help index, network creators' forum, Ning in Education support community, and tech support via email
  • Cost: free but subject to advertising, which costs $20 per month to remove. Ad-free student networks are available but must be certified.
  • Scalability: unlimited users and file uploads. In private networks, up to 500 mb of content is allowed.
  • Reliability: slow page downloads and occasional server outages
  • Usability: scored 4 out of 5 on a usability scale at TechCrunch.com; similarity to other large networking sites is considered a plus by some
  • User features: secure login with privacy settings and passwords, content moderation by network administrator(s), membership directory with thumbnail portraits, file uploads and content sharing, groups, customizable profile pages, keyword search, messaging/comment board, RSS, and email notification.
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