Hello there! I am an ed tech specialist at a large school district. We have been exploring web 2.0 tools and have a middle school teacher using a Ning with her Social Studies students. Recently her administrator has expressed concern about the ability of students to send messages to each other that cannot be seen by the teacher. Because this tool was created for an academic purpose the teacher is held responsible for monitoring content, which she cannot do if there are messages between individuals.

Is it possible for the messaging feature to be turned off or to be moderated?

Has anyone run into this question? How was it handled?

Tags: middle

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I don't know of a way to turn off messaging. There is another solution--which is to use a methodology when signing up students so that their email addresses actually go to the teacher, or are copied to him or her. We've discussed this a bit at http://education.ning,com, and you might want to join there and ask the same question. You'll get better answers than I give below, but I'll add my two cents.

So, if you used the gmail+ trick, then every time students messaged each other, while you wouldn't see the message, you'd receive a notification of it. You could use the same system to set up the accounts and passwords to the Ning network, so that if you needed to you could go in a student account and see the messages. A student who changes his or her password would have to put it back to the teacher-accessible one, or have their account removed.

On the other hand, there are great teaching moments here, and since a message has both a sender and a recipient, a good use policy with follow-up would mean that any student messaging inappropriately to another could lose use of the network.
Thanks for replying, Steve. I did post the question over at the Non in Education site, but never got a response. Maybe I need to post it in a different area?

I appreciate the information; I think it might be a good way to get around the problem in the future. In the meantime, the teacher in question has the principal trying to decide whether to allow the ning to continue. Their stance is that the teacher needs to monitor all conduct on the ning; they use the precedent that it was determined previously that if a teacher assigns journal writing, s/he must read all that is written in the journals. Thus, if the teacher has created this online journal-type of tool, s/he must also monitor all activity. That's fine for all the postings on the nIng itself, but not for the messaging.

My short-term solution would be to turn off the messaging to avoid the problem until the issue can be more fully explored. but I have been unable to find a way to do that. The kids are using the ning very responsibly and enthusiastically, and there have been no official problems; it's just an administrator being careful and trying to navigate new waters.
Sorry about the lack of response on the other site. Usually I'm pretty good at making sure stuff gets addressed there!

I certainly understand the situation and the concern. I'm not aware of any way to turn the messaging off right now, other than making it a policy that messages cannot be sent, and using an email address system that would notify the teacher if a message had been sent so he/she could check on it.

I love what this technology can do, and recognize that we're still so much in the early stages that we haven't worked out all of the nuances in classroom environments.

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