Our school districy Arlington Public Schools in Arlington Virginia has decided Ning must be blocked because it is possible to browse into other SNs that have sexually explicit material within them. I have not put a great deal, but I would say a significant amount of time into my site http://apshsc.ning.com and I have used it successfully in several professional development sessions I have led with the teachers in the programs I am the tech coordinator for and now its all lost to me. Other teachers at my prompting have become members of Clasoom 2.0. When we log in we get text but we cannot see any images as they are hosted by Ning. We cannot access any videos orpresnetations on thier sites. This has become another example of interesting technology that does not work in the classroom when the teachers want to use it.

It would help me to get Ning unblocked if I can get some feedback from all of you out there who may have gone through this with your school district and whatever filtering system you all use. We (the tech integrator community within APS) have been arguing for a finer grained filtering system for some time.

If anyone out there can point me to other resources to help our school board and central office tech people come to a different conclusion regarding the use of Ning and socialnetworking for teachers and students I will be grateful.

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Larry:

This is a difficult situation, but understandable. I think one thing that you could do would be to register a custom domain name and then set it up for use with a Ning site. That does come at the cost of $4.95/month from Ning to do so, and the cost of your annual domain registration (less than $10 at places like godaddy.com). That's what I've done for Classroom 2.0--are you able to access this site from school? What about the images?

Ning has taken some steps recently to help in this area (taking adult networks out of search results and adding a warning page to them), but that may not be justification enough to unblock ning.com networks in general.

Am anxious to hear other responses. You might also ask the question at http://education.ning.com.
Hi Steve & Larry,
I'd like to understand this better, too. I see that you can access this Ning from classroom20.ning.com and also classroom20.com.

Are there ways districts can block Ning even if you buy your own domain for it? I'd be very curious to hear from Larry if the block works on the ning domain, but allows the classroom20 domain content through - or if it's some kind of partial blocking.
I'm hearing mixed reports. Some who are in districts that have Ning blocked have reported that CR 2.0 or other custom-domain networks get through just fine. Some report that they can see the network, but the images are blocked--which come, I believe, from api.ning.com.

We've had some discussion about this the last couple of days specifically because of the community.cue.org network we've set up for the CUE conference. It is also a custom domain, and some educators are reporting that from their school networks they can't register because the CAPTCHA image doesn't come through--which apparently depends on access to api.ning.com and ning.com. However, once registered, they are able to access the site.

Will await further feedback!
Thanks Steve and others for your thoughtful replies and questions. I can get to Classroom2.0 but no images. Also if anyone within the school filter tries to join they cannot see the image they need to type in to create an account.

To me the value in sites like Ning is the repository of multimedia and threads to others within whatever social network of like minded professionals you need to be collaborating with. I work with Alternative Education Programs which are effective because of their small class sizes and then with planning factors for funding based on dollars per student we are then very underfunded. Also very pressed for time since every student has an individualized lesson plan and many of the teachers I work with are teaching multiple grade levels with multiple reading levels in any given class period. To then add the time it takes to search for relevant material, download it at home, save it to a flash drive, bring it in and upload it to a school server so that students can access it from a networked device on their independant pace is not going to happen.

I am forwarding a link to this thread to the filter decision makers and I will pursue the other avenues suggested by other replies to the original post

Thanks again everyone

Larry
Larry:

As I recall, if your district is willing to give access to http//api.ning.com, the images will come through. This shouldn't present any risk from their standpoint as long as the rest of ning.com is blocked, and I think other schools/districts have had success in doing this. Hope you have success here.
Larry,

The last few months of my career were spent in an Alternative Ed school located in Nottoway and used by surrounding counties. For some reason, althought there was a good firewall up for the Nottoway County Schools, the techie never had time to go to the Alternative School and set one up there. The network at the Alternative school was wide open and the kids took great advantage of it!!

Until such time as you can get the multi-media you need, I can help. Let me know what content you want available and where to find it, and I will upload it to www.educationalsynthesis.org">http://wwww.educationalsynthesis.org for you to use from there. It is my goal to provide content for schools on that site, so it will suit both my purpose and your. Your teacher may also want to look at what is currently available on the site, and see if some of their needs are already there.

Anne Pemberton
apembert@erols.com
Larry,

The Internet in Virginia started with Virginia's PEN back in the early ninetiries, and from the beginning those of us involved were preaching safety online. There was no way back then to block stuff, so it was up to the teachers/parents to supervise what the kids were doing online.

The best place to start looking for help in getting the school board to open something to teachers and students is to work through VSTE (Virginia Society of Technology Eductators) at http://www.vste.org/ If anyone can help, you can find them here. I note that VSTE has a social network that may be more what you want to look into.

And, bear in mind that those of us "pioneers" on VAPEN accomplished what you are seeking usinig email lists with controls on who could join that were very effective. The graphics and videos are nice, but you may need to find them on a better source, or in fact do as I did in the beginning, and download what you want at home, take it to school and put it on the computers.If the county does not provide you with space to do that on their website, get in touch with me (my email addy is at the bottom of the pages) from http://www.educationalsynthesis.org and I can help you with getting online space to use as you need it.

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