Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ning vs. Facebook: Which one for K-12?

Our district is in the process of adopting a Social Networking Policy to ensure the safe and appropriate use of all social networking tools by faculty, staff and students. The policy was created because of the demand by our teachers to have access to these resources (of which I think is awesome) and to ensure the district communicates its expectations on how these applications are to be used.

All of that to of the most popular requests we have had this semester is the use of Facebook. Teachers have created projects or other special assignments and asked to use Facebook as a means to facilitate the project. I personally have no problem with this and enjoy seeing our teachers embrace these tools as a means to extend communication and interaction beyond the classsroom. However, I have been asking myself one question over the past few days/weeks - can my school district get the same desired outcome with Ning?

Ning is an online platform that allows users to create their own social networks. The idea is a user has an idea / topic that they "create" with forums, events, photos, etc. It is customized and then launched, allowing others to join and connect / communicate within the Ning. Each user has the ability to customize their own page within that specific Ning.

The differences between Facebook and Ning are:
  • Ning allows full site customization including color, theme and elements. Facebook allows limited custom elements. Both allow pictures, videos and polls.
  • Ning gives an admin the ability to approve / disapprove membership, comments and discussions. Facebook allows admins to moderate comments and discussion, but not membership.
  • All Ning content is contained internally, where the content is viewable to the membership. Facebook content / information is viewable to all FB users.
  • Facebook conversations tend to be broad and generic. Even within groups, it is difficult to focus on a certain topic. Ning provides a more narrowed conversation, primarily because its members are moderated and approved for membership to that group.
Should K-12 environments look to Ning over Facebook? In my opinion, Ning allows all that FB does within a private system / membership and provides a more authentic dialouge.

Is your classroom or district utilizing one or both of these tools? What do you see as the Pros / Cons of either application?


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