Why we’re paying for Ning

It’s Inquiry Week for our Year 8 students, and we are using a Ning to support the students to communicate and archive evidence of their research. We collapse curriculum for a week, and allow our students to investigate in groups a topic in depth around the idea of Triumph over Adversity. We first used a Ning two years ago, when they were free for educators and it was a dynamic learning environment then. What was great was that our students could form groups within the space and use the chat function at night to help them organise themselves for the next day. Last year, after Ning started charging for the service, we looked for an alternative. We used Wall.fm, but it was fraught with problems that I outlined in a post and not something I would use again. One of the stumbling blocks last year was the price Ning charges for a network that includes groups and chat. At the time, we felt that the $200 outlay was too expensive.

This year, our Head of Year 8 really wanted to run a paperless inquiry week. We had a wiki we used last year for the inquiry week, and we added pages that incorporated what the students would formerly receive in booklet form. When we discussed an online environment to support the project, I recommended that we bite the bullet and outlay what is now a $239.00 a year cost to run a Ning that has the features we needed; in particular, groups and chat.

I’m glad we did. I spent time last week in classes explaining the Ning environment and making sure the students were signed up so that we could hit the ground running this week. Yesterday the students went on an excursion and were asked to post a reply to a discussion prompt in the evening. Over half of them got something up last night, and those who didn’t were busily posting this morning. What has been amazing is watching it develop during today and this evening. Groups are formed, and the students have posted their topics and guiding questions within these spaces. This afternoon’s discussion prompt has seen over 100 replies this evening. These are from students, detailing what has inspired them about their topic, and replies from teachers who are encouraging their efforts. The chat space has been used this evening, and i’ve been pleased to see students suggesting that they move to Google Docs to work on their planning for tomorrow. (There’s some transference happening : ) They used Google Docs earlier this year in a Humanities project) The Head of Year 8 sent me an email late this afternoon and said,

The Ning’s like some living organism!

Here’s a screenshot of part of the front page from earlier tonight.

It is most certainly a living organism. It’s providing focus, encouragement, and transparency to our learning environment this week. Even though I’d love to see the powers that be at Ning work more closely with education and provide better pricing, our financial outlay is already paying off. I can’t wait to what it’s hosting by the end of the week!

5 Replies to “Why we’re paying for Ning”

  1. Hi Mrs.Luca,
    I am the student Cassie Giles from the EDM310 class that has been assigned to comment on your blog. I think it is amazing what you are doing with the students at your school. I am a mother as well and would love for my children to be able to make use of the technology the way your students are. I would also love to be able to implement some of these same things into my own classroom when I become a teacher. What a wonderful advantage you are giving these kids. In some sorts a head start for their future in an ever changing technological world. Yes the Ning may have cost you $239, but what you are giving these students is truly priceless.
    The use of Ning in your school is helping to enrich the learning environment of your students. You cant really put a price on knowledge and learning. I think the purchase was more than beneficial for your students and everyone involved.

    1. Hi Cassie,
      Thanks so much for leaving this comment. Hearing your perspective as a parent, and a future teacher, is very affirming for me. I strongly believe that what we are doing is important work; we are helping these students to understand new methods of communication that I think will form a necessary skill-set they will need in their future working, and social lives. Hopefully you will be able to make this happen for your children, and the children you will eventually be teaching.
      Jenny : )

  2. Dear Jenny Luca,

    My name is Zima and I represent Wall.fm. I am very sorry you have encountered problems with our service last year, and I fully understand your frustration. Let me assure you that a repeat of such situation is highly unlikely with our current operating structure. It is very unfortunate that we lost you as a client, due to miscommunication during the time Wall.fm was exiting Beta.

    To improve the situation we are now closely monitoring all customer-support interactions, and the response time does not usually exceed 24 hours (except for the weekends). Instigated changes also allowed us to significantly advance the software and service itself. Now we can guarantee a much better client experience.

    Once again, we are terribly sorry for any inconvenience this situation might have caused. Thank you for trying Wall.fm, and the best of luck with your future projects.

    1. Hi Zima,
      I appreciate your reply. Your quick response to this post certainly does indicate that response time has improved with Wall.fm. I do wish you well with your service. If you can provide a service comparable to what Ning offers, with quick response time and no ads and no cost, or a reduced fee for education, then I think the education community would use Wall.fm.

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