Monday, 28 June 2010

It was good as long as it lasted

WARNING: This will be a sour grapes rant!

July will start in a few days. And with that, I will finally have to make up my mind what to do with my couple of Ning networks. The latest email from the Ning Team tells me the following:

I had been led to believe earlier that the Mini deal would be free for all schools, but it now turns out that since I'm outside North America, I will have to start paying, even for Ning Mini. Actually, even free Ning Mini wouldn't have helped me with my international projects, which I have been running for the last three years, as the membership has exceeded the 150 allowance of Ning Mini. However, I was hoping to still be able to run smaller projects free, even after the Ning changes took place.

I know, I should have seen this coming. There is no free lunch. Even so, I feel I've been given a rotten deal here. My school won't pay to keep the old Nings running, nor to start any new ones. I was told to go back to the platform my school offers - Moodle. There was a reason why I abandoned Moodle three years ago, though. Ning was so much more user-friendly, and appealing to young people. I know, even more reason why we should pay for using such a slick service! But I don't think it will now be an option for many in the public school systems outside the US. In principle, I am not willing to start paying for the school Nings out of my own pocket. Many people say that it's not the tools, it's what you do with them. Quite right, but after driving a sportscar with all the modern bells and whistles, it won't be so much fun being behind the wheel of a basic saloon again. School will once again be further removed from what the real world has to offer.

Another unfortunate consequence is losing the 'digital footprint' created in the earlier projects. Naturally, I have got some screenshots and statistics, plus presentations I have made about the projects, but most of the student work will just disappear into thin air. True, the quality of all of some of the student work leaves a lot to be desired, and I'm sure the Internet is already bursting with too much 'virtual waste'. But as a teacher, being able to refer to what has been done before, might be worthwhile in the future. International school project work is a continuous process, and documentation of it an essential part of moving ahead. Not to mention the transparency factor of anybody being able to see and assess the work online. What's more, I feel responsible for all the partner schools around the world, all the hard-working teachers and students, who have invested their faith and trust in this project, and who will now see all their efforts wasted. Many of them will lose the links they have created to the project site from their school webpage.

Looking at this map, I'm now wondering if it might be different if some of our partners were in North America? There is already talk about Finns creating their own social network services, in order to keep all the copyright and other issues strictly inside our own borders. How does that support the idea of bringing the world closer together, and more globalized education?

I am not looking forward to starting to decide how much, what and in what format to save some of the work of last year's project. I could think of better things to do during my summer holiday.


Anonymous said...

I feel the same, Sinikka. Our ning devoted teachers won't give up their nings but there has been no decision as to who is paying for them. I don't feel there is anything like Ning, and haven't felt like setting up Google sites despite the fact that people have said it's a good way to go. I don't like thinking about all the hours and hours (days, weeks, months) of work I've spent building my nings. But more than that, the discussion and connections will go - it's sad.

sinikka said...

I know exactly how it is, Tania. On one hand, I resent Ning for putting us educators between a rock and a hard place with our already created Nings. On the other, I feel a service as good deserves to collect fees. I think new innovative school budgeting measures would be needed - a separate budget for innovative net tools? - but I know for sure that our fossilized school system wouldn't hear of it.

Jose said...

Hi there, Sinikka. It's Jose from Spain.

You know I've participated into your projects in Ning. I first heared of these news some months ago, and your projects just came into my mind.

I have to say I am quite reserved when it comes to put data on the Internet. The Ning platform was nice but you relied on 3rd party platform to put your data in.

I don't know if you are getting my point. Of course, Ning was the best free choice you had, but I think your projects are worth enough to pay for them, you just need a regular web hosting with PHP and MySQL databases, which is not really expensive (you can find this starting on 30€ yearly, not really expensive) and you can use some of the following:

Check this link:

They seem to be free software for social networking on the Internet, which is probably what you are looking for.

I can help you with this if you feel like that.

Kind regards from Spain ;)

sinikka said...

Hi Jose

How nice to hear from you. And thank you for taking an interest in this issue!
Sorry I'm only replying now but it's been busy with the start of a new school year.
I am very interested in your ideas, so I think I will write to you personally so we can discuss some of the options in more detail.