Alternatives To Ning

Tibor raised an important point in his recent email to us — it’s clear that moving to an online social (educational) network will serve us all better in the long-run. Obviously Ning is the ideal choice. Unfortunately, my District’s filters continue to block images from Ning, including the CAPTCHA that you have to copy in order to sign-up.

So, since I’m the “problem,” it appropriately is my responsibility to find an alternative.

Here are the alternatives I will be looking at:

Brica Box (it’s brand new this week and looks promising)

Big Tent

Spruz

Webjam

Snappville

Six Groups

Crowdvine (where I opened an experimental network for us a couple of months ago, and it looks pretty good)

All of them are free, and it only takes a minute or two to start a network. They all have most, if not all, of the same features as Ning. I think three of the main criteria I’m looking at are:

1) Are they unblocked by my District’s filters? Several are fine, though I still have to check on a couple.

2) Are they easy to use?

3) Can you easily embed slideshows and videos?

I’ll look at them more closely over the next month. If anyone else gets a chance to check them out please let us all know what you think.

Larry

15 thoughts on “Alternatives To Ning

  1. I’d like to add mixxt: http://www.mixxt.com

    which is also from Germany, same as sixgroups. But don’t worry, you wouldn’t have to learn German to use it, it has a full English version. And the Wiki and Event features give it quite an edge.

  2. Hi, Larry and everybody,

    You never get to know a space until and unless you make it your own…, at the risk of regretting it!
    I decided to try Ning with my students this year, and cannot tell you I´m delighted, precisely. Maybe with the passing of time I will, learning to appreciate features I have not used yet. But what I have seen so far leaves “some things” to be desired…:-(
    To start with, if you have all your students there, plus some “guests” in your “classroom”, i.e. people/ colleagues who have willingly joined your group, and you need to send a message ONLY to your stds, you cannot choose…., either you send the message to them all, or need to write email addresses one by one 🙁

    What´s still worse, I´ve found that when you invite your stds to join the space, they will “land” on the “main page”, and will start posting there. If you planned to keep your main page “for yourself” …, you are lost 🙁
    I sent a message to the “Ning” people –very kind, btw–, and they said they would consider my claim.

    So do not worry, Larry, if you cannot make it there. What I cannot do is give you my advice on which other tool to use instead.

    My two cents here,

    Rita (still in need of time to devote to uploading videos properly)

  3. James Farmer from Edublogs is interested in adding new features, and has asked that we give me a core list of what we might want out of a “social network.” It’s possible that Edublogs might be able to work on providing them.

    I’m going to start thinking about it, but I’m leaving for a short family vacation tomorrow morning for six days.

    Any ideas?

    Larry

  4. Edublogs providing would be definitely great, I’m a little concerned about the time frame in which they can do it.
    It is my estimate that development of such scale would take months – at best. Still, that ‘d be far the most convenient for us, so if they are really willing to do that, we might consider waiting for them to develop these features.

    I have been checking out Crowdwine, I haven’t found a Wiki, or a place to embed videos or mp3s (I could upload pics, though).
    It is still possibly a good start only I think we should look for a more or less long-term solution, as once stds get used to one site, it’s extremely difficult to move them to another one (not to mention all the stuff we’d have to leave behind).

    How do you feel about Mixxt? I’m going to see it next (I have looked at it, but not that thoroughly).

    As for Ning, I have been using it for quite a while and have had no problem. Rita, you can in fact send private messages to a selected list of users on Ning but this feature has been removed from the messaging part, now you have to click on ‘My friends’ (upper right hand column) and send messages from there.
    My experience is that when stds are invited, they first have to set up their profile. Following that they will land on the main page, but but you can moderate what they can do there (e.g. I gave my stds admin. rights, so they create blog posts, they can edit the textbox etc. To avoid confusion, you can decide which features you’d like to see on the Main page. This ensures (at least w/ my stds that has been the case) that their comments are channeled to where they belong (e.g. forums, wiki, video comments etc.).

    Warm regards,
    Tibor

  5. Tibor,

    All good points. I had that same concern about Crowdvine, and sent them an email asking about it. They immediately responded:

    “You can embed slideshows and videos from other sites into blog posts.”

    I’m certainly open to Mixxt. I just haven’t really looked at any of them very seriously yet. Even though I started a network on Crowdvine, I only spent about five minutes looking around.

    Larry

  6. Hi, Everybody,

    Just a reminder that I won’t be around for the next few days to approve comments. Anyone of us can log-in to the “dashboard” and approve them for publication.

    Larry

  7. Hi, Tibor and all,

    Thank you for your tips on how to deal with NIng and its features, very useful!

    My students have already started exchanging postings with Ana Maria´s and with Ronaldo´s –hopefully!. It is their assignment for next week. I added a rubric, so that there is a purpose in doing so: they have to answer this question: “What do you know about each other’s country, and what don’t you…?”

    I’m also uploading photos and learning Edublogs “how-to´s”, which, to my mind, are not too userfriendly either. Instructions are not clear enough, you have to strive your way along. I guess once you get familiar with it all you start enjoying the space, as it has lots of possibilities, and it’s a promising environment.
    I see there are some experts in the group, so I’ll take advantage of that 😉

    I hope you, Larry, have enjoyed your outing, I myself am leaving next week for NYC, to attend the TESOL Convention, where I’ll be presenting at the EVO Fairs.

    Best regards to all,

    Rita

  8. Ok, Larry, I´ve been approving the comments in the studentshowcase blog. Concerning the network to be used, I agree with Rita, We have to try one and see how it goes. And as Tibor mentioned waiting for edublogs to develop a network as we require might take too long. I´d like to share my experience with Pownce with a group of mine. The main feature is the exchange of messages between participants, we can also share links and files. I don´t think we can embed presentations but with the link feautre that works well. My students are much more thrilled than I could ever imagine. It´s extremely easy to use, a fact which has helped the acceptance of using an internet tool for our communication.
    My suggestion is http://pownce.com it might not be the best tool but it´s an excellent one.

    anamaria

  9. Dear All,
    I have tested some of the websites Larry suggested, so far it seems to me that Webjam might work best – should we opt not to wait for Edublogs to develop their site.

    I have not used Webjam, and I think Rita is right about taking it easy with websites that look promising but might pose problems in the future, so I have started a webjam at http://www.webjam.com/sisterclasses
    and I thought if you would spend a few minutes testing it (it is public at the moment), we might see if we feel comfortable about using it for letting all our stds – and us as well – communicate in one common platform.

    We have taken the photos today, it was quite an eye-opener for most of the stds (me as well). We decided to show city life in Budapest as it is – with its dark side as well, the stds made a number of interviews and were truly intrigued.
    I will receive all the pics in a few days ans we will put sth together for you.

    What do you think? I have also looked around at POwnce it might be a viable alternative, tough it seems more limited in terms of features at first glance. Anamaria, have you used it for such projects before?

    All the best from Budapest,
    Tibor

  10. Hi, Everybody,

    I’m back from our vacation to New Orleans. I’ll be making my own VoiceThread about it for students, and will be posting it on my webpage.

    Evelyn just posted two more VoiceThreads about San Francisco on the Student Showcase. Today, my students will finish up the last ones, read responses Ronaldo’s students made to them, and review the other most recent posts. The Sacramento Bee reporter is coming today to watch what they’re doing, and I assume she’ll be contacting some of you soon, too.

    I’ll check out Webjam in the next couple of days when I get caught-up. And I’ll look at all the other great stuff that has been posted on the Student Showcase.

    Larry

  11. Hello Larry, hi everyone,

    I am the product manager at Webjam, and I was really happy to discover you are testing Webjam as an optional solution for your community needs.

    I will not go into the entire pitch about why we are better than all the others ;-), but I would like to stress that we put extra emphasis on issues of privacy (you can have different privacy levels per module, per page or for the entire webjam), and that we provide different levels of connections as well – Friends, who are general connections, and Members – who are connections based on membership of a specific webjam.

    We would be very happy to welcome you to the Webjam community, and assist you if you have any specific needs. Our platform is very flexible, and we continue to work on improvements and new features all the time.

    Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need any answers, tips or information. It would be great to see you all on Webjam!

    Hadas

  12. The niche for Qlubb is clearly the classroom/playgroup market. They have designed it simply with collaboration workflow around the event/activities/tasks. What especially works is the UI which is very simple and intuitive and the email reminders – really the necessary keys for busy mothers.

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