This is the fourth in a series of forum posts asking for feedback on the software and services around the different categories of Classroom 2.0 programs. Now we discuss social networking. What programs or services do you use? Ning, Elgg, Drupal, Rafi.ki? What are the other choices?

Which are your favorites and why?
What features are important to you?
(If you're feeling verbose) What are the pros and cons of the programs you've tried?

Hopefully, these discussions will provide an unparalleled reference for new users making choices about what tools to use.

Tags: reviews, socialnetworking

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My main goal for this academic year is to use a social networking tool with my students. I am planning to use Ning because I like the level of privacy that is offered, the ease with which students can embed media, the forums feature, the ability to personalize pages, the embedded blogging, groups, and the chat options. I would like the students to be sharing a wide variety of media in a completely private environment with a very simple and user-friendly interface. I love how simple Ning is and can easily see how I can adapt all the features available for K-12 education.
Lynne,

Have you tried Buzka? See an example of one of my own here. Or go to http://eflclassroom.buzka.com fora list of spots. Much more visual than delicious and admittedly, it is not one thousandth as extensive, it still for my purposes beats delicious hands down. It helps users access the sites/links and I get much more succcess when referring through them. They also have a good network I don't use but admittedly they are also in their infancy.....But I see this as the future of delicious....

My social networking site is www.singshot.com Networking through music. I don't think networking has to be a very broad thing. It can be specific, as this site is. It is great, using a wide variety of music. Super fast technology and response. Ability to record instantly, view profiles, rate, comment, have contests, groups, make friends. Admittedly here too, it doesn't seem so educational but I wouldn't label it such so fast. I think we should broaden what we think education is and song with word/text is a basic form of reading, teaching literacy and promotes whole language learning. Just up to the teacher to organize it so there are educational outcomes.

But this is super exciting.

For me, social networking is a revelation as an educator. For years, teaching was an isolated experience. Learning more so, lonely and in a dark room. Further, the power was in the hands of "experts" who the learners could only mumble verbatims thereof....Finally, production, performance, presentation, product, OBJECTIVES are happening and energizing all learners. This is the goal of true education, to share with others, ourselves. And in that process, burn brighter (learn). Social networking allows that to happen.It is like for years, we were just reading about driving, now in the classrooms, we can drive/demonstrate/do/experience. This is social networking, or the future of it. Not merely chat but performance, high speed performing vehicles.....purring cars.

DD
Hope you don't mind me advocating for the social net my colleagues and I are trying to build at http://www.carmun.com.

We are building Carmun to be the platform that ends the isolation of doing academics at the high school level and above. The site offers a lot of community features including:

1. You can find research sources that other students have used, rated, and reviewed.
2. You can find research collections that other students have created (like the perfect iTunes playlist for a summer barbecue --- you can find the perfect books and articles for a paper on Hamlet).
3. You can find and interact with people that are working on the same things as you.
4. You can pose questions to the community and engage in subject specific forums.
5. You can create study groups with the tools you find on a lot of other social nets.

We also want the site to be supported by great tools. So we have tried to build things that make the research and paper writing process smoother

1. Take all the pain out of doing their bibliography and footnotes
2. Bookmark research sources in third party databases (including Google and other more academic focused databases).
3. Upload and organize research sources they have used in the past.
4. Do single or batch look-ups in your library for source you find or manage on Carmun.

We are new and still tuning things -- in fact a major redesign will come out this Fall -- screen shots of which i would be happy to share with anyone in this community. We are dedicated to this space and will continue to work on making Carmun the best site it can be.

Although I am advocating as one of the people behind Carmun -- we have gotten a lot of feedback from educatords that they like what we are up to -- so I hope you don't mind the posting.
I certainly like the stuff you are doing. we plan on using your site to teach info lit.
I use Facebook and Ning. I prefer Ning for its ability to create a focused group, but I get a lot more personal interaction on my Facebook site because it has all the fun widgets. There are people I have known professionally for years who I now feel like developing friendships with because of our Facebook interactions. There are others who I had met briefly at international conferences who are now collaborating on projects with me because of Facebook.

On the other hand, I belong to one Ning site that has become overwhelming because there are too many postings to the Main Page; I can't keep up and it is too disorganized because there is no facilitation.
I'm very interested in what facilitation you like on a Ning network. Area we doing OK here?

I agree with your assessment of some of the differences between Facebook and Ning. I have hard time at Facebook because I am spoiled by the ability to have threaded discussions on Ning. But for connecting with people, Facebook and LinkedIn are amazing.
I like the answers section of linkedin. Although forums like this are a good way to find answers.
Intodit.com is a site where people can create their own group the Wiki way. There is an example of a group use by teachers, it's called the Oakland Teaching Fellows (http://otf2008-rivet.intodit.com/)
A site that provides some very nice social networking tools for classrooms is SchoolTown.net. We have gotten a lot of positive feedback from teachers who are using it.
I've been using a Ning with my high school students (mostly 12th graders) at The International School of the Americas. I've been blogging about it here and recently wrote an article for Horace, the Coalition of Essential Schools’ Quarterly Journal which is coming out in their Summer 2009 issue. Hope you enjoy!
My experience this semester was remarkable using Ning in the classroom. I just wrote a lengthly post about it, if your are interested: How Ning Social Networks Can Improve University Classes

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