Monday, April 19, 2010

New Additions to the Digital Backpack - Social Network Platform Special Edition @courosa #edtech #edchat

A disproportionately high percentage of the edtech community has for the past few years used Ning as the platform of choice for creating and growing education-related social networks. Many of us have come to rely on Ning for it's ease of use and how accessible it has been. One of the biggest reasons so many of us flocked to Ning was it's cost. Ning offered a nice free option for small networks not needing the advanced resources and support that many larger commercial networks need. Last week Ning announced a new company strategy whereby they will be phasing out free accounts within the next 30 days.

This obviously causes a dilemma for many of us who have built networks on this platform. While it would be good practice to support a tool we like by paying for it I fear that the pricing options will be too high for many many valuable networks created for non-profit organizations and many networks created for personal learning. Essentially, the problem posed by asking free users to pay for premium service is those who have networks of under 100 members will be charged roughly the same as those who have tens of thousands of members. Therefore, it will be necessary for many of us to bail on Ning and find other options.

While I agree with Alec Courosa that for long-term sustainability networks need to be self-hosted (and there are a lot of great open source options for this out there) for those educators who do not have access to a server or who do not need their networks to exist forever self-hosting is not a viable option either.

Luckily, there are a plethora of options available for network creators who don't have the option to self-host or funds for premium services. Many of these options are openly courting our education community and nearly all of them have been working to find ways to make the transition from Ning as easy as possible. So, the following are new additions to the Digital Backpack that support free hosted social networks for educators:

  • - Create your own social educational network. (offers 10gb free storage, forums, group pages, integration with Google Gadgets, Wiki, file sharing, and RSS) Students under 13 must have parent permission to use this tool.
  • - Create your own social educational network. (offers 1gb free storage for photos, group pages, forums, and RSS)
  • - Create your own social educational network. (offers forums, group pages, Wiki, file sharing, and RSS) Students under 13 must have parent permission to use this tool.
  • - Create your own social educational network. (only offers 100mb free storage, supports group pages, & forums with threaded discussions and very robust WYSIWYG editor for posts) Students under 13 must have parent permission to use this tool.

Consequently, I have a handful of Ning networks I have created and maintain. I do not have any funds to buy their premium services. Therefore, in the next few weeks I will be migrating these networks to other services. Most of them will become networks since that platform offers the most short-term promise. (They also offer this handy Ning migration tool: If you are a member of any of my networks (iTeach Mobile, Minnesota Educator PD Commons, or Crosswinds Teacher Network) you will be notified shortly about this move. With any luck you will hardly notice the transition.

1 comment:

Mrs. Tenkely said...

Carl, thank you for compiling all of these alternatives. I am glad you are going with, it looks like the best option with the storage capacity. It is always sad to see our favorite sites change structure, but a great reminder about the changing nature of technology and "free" resources.