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Ning and Synthasite

Andrea Vasquez

Description: One reason an interest in Ning was born was the fact that I have always been intrigued by the success of Facebook and Myspace and wondered what possibilites were available if I created my own network. Ning gives you the opportunity to manage and piece together a custom network! I picked up the idea from the Wiki that Margaret had created.

Ning allows you to:
-Create your own social network on any topic
-Manage and update the site
-Select from numerous templates and designs
-Ban and add friends
-Blog
-Upload videos and pictures

Synthasite is also a set of wikipages for creating a website. See my example where I have developed my website in Synthasite and created NING site for the cadre.

Cadre Gift Demo: http://andreavasquez.synthasite.com
Link to Cadre Gift: http://pepperdineomet.ning.com


Reflection: When I began this program, I had no idea what tools were out there. The only tool I was accustomed to was my basic Gmail account from Google and I was a bit nervous when it came to teaching others about online tools. My learning circle provided positive feedback and reassurance and my spirits were lifted. I began a surprisingly productive and challenging learning quest. I did not know how I would present my tool because it was difficult to get our learning circle together because of our busy schedules. I decided to teach myself a new tool that would allow me to present my tool and record the presentation for sharing purposes. The new tool had to show the interface of Ning and be able to travel to other pages with me. Jing, a tool that Matt discussed at Virt Camp, was foreign to me but I was willing to play around with it. I managed to produce a video using Jing and was able to create a demo with instructions for my gift! Jing allowed me to create a video of exactly what I was doing on Ning.com. I was able to give my learning circle precise directions to the challenge. Using Jing and learning it on my own time was exhilarating because I conjured up several ideas for the application of Jing in my own classroom. Children need lessons delivered in short bursts; if a teacher talks too long, children will tune out. Jing will allow me to deliver quick Mini-Lessons to reinforce concepts already taught. In learning about Ning I was prompted to search for other tools for help and I found Jing to be more powerful than the Cadre gift I personally selected. Problem solving and leadership skills were highlighted and exercised in this seemingly “simple” exercise. I initially selected Ning so that everyone in the Cadre could informally gather and discuss assignments and readings and It took initiative and leadership to convince everyone in the Cadre to sign up for my gift and I am not necessarily accustomed to taking leadership roles; this developed a sense of accomplishment and confidence. I have built a great deal of confidence in applying these tools and I am noticing that I am taking a proactive role in my education. I am not the passive learner I was in my undergrad days.

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NING - Social Networking Tool
- Joella Crosby

INTRODUCTION

Ning is a social network platform used to explore, discuss and share one’s interests and pursuits in an on-line community. Ning with only two years of existence has over 1.3 social networks and 30 million registered members. Ning is used by artists, as well as organizations bringing together their fans, consumers and members building relationships.

FEATURES
Ning has several appealing features; I have listed a few below.
Branding & Visual Design Freedom
Ning allows you to choose from 50 unique themes or create your own design with custom CSS. You can also add tabs and sub-tab to pages and external links.
Unique Member Profiles
This feature allows you to create your own profile questions for incoming members. Once profile questions are created for your members, a customized advanced member search feature will allow you to search by a question, such as a member’s location. Members of Ning can customize their profile pages with their own design, choice of widgets and OpenSocial profile applications. Customize advanced member search based on your social network's unique profile questions, such as location.
Moderation & Privacy
This feature will allow you the option of making your Ning site public or private for members only. You can monitor members before they join, their photos, videos, groups, chat and events before they're posted. You can set up several layers of administrators; prohibit members from your Ning Network and allow members to lock their profiles.

Invitations & Search Engine Optimization
You can invite members to join your Ning site or invite people to events. Inviting is made easy by using your address books from other e-mail applications as well the use of .csv file importing. There is also a search engine your social network's information: tagline, description and keywords.
Latest Activity
To keep up with happenings on your Ning site, it offers real-time, dynamic activity feed of everything happening across your Ning Network. This feature can be viewed on your main page or every page of your site; you choose the activities to display.
Photos and Video Feature
Members of Ning can upload and share photos and videos. Upon your members creating their profiles you can give the option to embed their photos and/or videos anywhere on the web and have them linked back to your Ning site.
Chat, Groups, Discussion Forum
Members can chat with each other by seeing whose on-line in real-time. Groups created on Ning can include images, memberships, comments and discussion forums.
Blogs for Every Member
You can have a blog spot for every member of your Ning Network. The monitoring capabilities of Ninga will allow you create a tab for blogs or have certain blogs displayed.
Other features of Ning that you may want to explore on your own are: Custom Text & Widgets, Events, RSS Feeds In and RSS Out, Recommended Social Networks and Social Network Activity Feed.

Educational Purposes:

Ning is being used for educational purposes in the classroom as a tool for various outlets. In Virginia, the Northfield Middle School’s newspaper and Media Club are utilizing Ning. Their social network site The T-Bird Times serves as the central point of collaboration, for the students keeping them abreast of their school’s activities. Another school’s English Department has adopted a Ning site (107 Voices), to use for debates, comments and discussions. As my Learning Circle partner, Mike A., has stated, Ning is also a tool that can be used by educators as a training tool through videos. Ning has been introduced into the classroom as a very useful web tool, to gather students for discussion, participation and sharing. I believe as more educators challenge the learning process, we will see Ning and other “social networks” more prevalent in the classroom.

Problems/Issues
Ning is a “free” social networking platform. Cadre 12 has had several discussions regarding “free” sites with the question asked “How are these sites financed?” Ning is supported by ads. From an educational standpoint, here lies an issue. Educators who are using Ning and those who would like to use Ning have reservations due to the ads. Their concern is regarding the appropriateness of the ads for their classroom. Ning’s offer of resolution: a $24/per month fee for a non-ad site. Although, this may seem like an insignificant amount, but with budgets very tight this may not be within reach for some schools.
Reflections
From my first contact with the Ning site, I liked it. I enjoyed created the site and learning about it’s many features. The monitoring and privacy features were especially appealing to me. I felt much more comfortable move around on the site then I do with other “social networking” sites (ie. Facebook, Google Groups, MySpace). Maybe it’s the familiarity of a traditional looking website…hmmm??? While creating the site, I thought how the Cadre might like this site as opposed to another. I’m hoping they will. (I just might get my wish with the disappearance of Google Groups.J) As for an educational tool, I agree with my Learning Circle partner, Jason, ANY tool, if taken the time, can be appropriately used in the classroom. As for the ad issue, there was a suggestion to even use the ads as a learning vehicle. I agree, look for the learning opportunity, it’s there.