Ning is a social network like Facebook, but in Ning the group comes first and your profile exists within the group. On Facebook, your profile comes first and you can join as many groups as you are interested in using the same profile. The downside of Ning is that you need to create a new profile page for each space you join. This can also be an upside, you can customize your profile to fit the group. You might not want the classroom 2.0 folks to see the profile you have on the BroadwaySpace Ning site for people who love theater.
I've been trying to think of a metaphor to compare Ning to Facebook. On Facebook the individual comes first, on Ning the group comes first. Capitalism vs. Communism... Republican vs. Democrat... But I digress...
I have set up Ning sites for several English classes at my high school. Students are reflecting on books and writing assignments through their Ning blog posts. I also created a Ning site for my TV/Video class so that we can upload and share our videos. All of these classroom sites are private right now, they are only visible to accepted members. I'm hoping to open them up soon, but privacy helps make people more comfortable. It is a good place to start. Ning has generously agreed to take the ads off of Websites used for 7-12 education. See this post from Steve Hargadon to learn more.
I created a Ning site for the faculty and staff at my high school. Several teachers joined at first, but it hasn't taken off. I think in order for a Ning site like this to work for teachers, there has to be a reason for us to go there, or else it just becomes something else to do. It might work if the agenda for a faculty meeting was posted on the site and teachers were asked to respond in a discussion forum. The more the site is used the more it will be used - if that makes any sense.
Most recently, I created a Ning site for my college graduating class. I'm hoping that we can use this site as a way to reconnect with each other, post pictures and share updates about our lives. We'll see how it goes.
Are you using a Ning site for your classroom? Do you belong to any Ning sites? What do you think of Ning? I would love to hear your thoughts.
P.S. Thank you to Patrick Woessner for inspiring this post.
P.S.S. Check out this wiki for lots of links to social networks used in educational environments.