Ning is an online platform, used primarily for creating private or closed social networks. Unlike other popular social networking applications such as Facebook or MySpace, which are open for all to join, Ning allows users to create private networks for a particular group of online users. The network can be kept as private or as public as the creator desires, and each member can be granted different permissions and given different roles in the general running of the network. Ning is being increasingly used in the educational field as both a tool and platform for collaboration. Users can opt to either take part in other members' social networks or create a network from scratch of their own.
To start exploring Ning, log onto http://ning.com. You will be immediately prompted to Sign In and to Create a new social network. You can choose a name for your network, and also the network's URL (they don't necessarily have to be the same). The URL is subject to availability.
Once you click on Create, you will be prompted either to log in with your existing Ning account or else sign in for a new membership.
Now you can really start customising your Ning Network. First, describe what your Network is going to be about, and choose a language and country.
Next, you can start adding, removing or simply moving your network's features. Decide on what shortcuts you need to have upon loading, and what comes before and after. Usually, it is advisable that the members' blog posts are visible immediately when one logs onto the network. The Network's latest activity should also be allowed a prominent space on the network. Another important consideration is whether or not you want to allow synchronous chat on the network.
The final stage is to customise your Network's appearance: choose a theme and customise the colours according to your taste. Click on Launch, and your new Social Network is ready to roll!
At first glance, a Ning network may seem less straight forward than say, Facebook, however if you are used to Facebook's interface you will soon get the hang of Ning. On the top there are a series of Tabs which open onto other pages: My Page, Blogs, Events, etc. Take some time to explore each page. But first, make sure to customise your personal page on Ning, by adding details, photos, etc. On My Page, you can also access your Network's Private Messaging (e-mail) and add other network members as friends. To view the other members of the network, click on the Members Tab.
The network's discussions can be found in the Forum page, and the Network's upcoming activities can be accessed from Events. In the case of Events, one can opt to have events which are open only to specific members of the network, that is, by invitation only.
Ning Networks allow easy uploading of both photos, videos and blog posts. Depending on how you arranged your page features during setup, the relevant pages can be found on the top tabs and also on the Main Page. Photos can be added by uploading the actual picture files; in the case of videos, you must copy and paste the video's embed code (such as a video from YouTube, TeacherTube or Vimeo). Each person can have his/her own blog on the network, and blog posts will appear both on the Main Page and on the personal page (My Page) of the person uploading the blog.
How safe is Ning?
You can have two roles on a Ning Network: the role of Administrator if you are logged into a network you have created yourself, or the role of Member if you can have been invited to join a network created by somebody else. Another important thing to take note of is that if you are the Network's Administrator, your interface will look slightly different that if you are merely a Member. If you are the network's administrator, you will of course have extra privileges and be able to re-arrange the network's elements. You will also be able to determine who does the edits, and, in extreme cases, ban persons from your network. Ning can allow you to have a 100% private network - that is, private except for the users who have been specifically invited and approved by the network's administrator. These security settings are of utmost importance if you are planning to use Ning with young learners.
Network permissions can be determined by clicking on the Manage tab, and then on to Members to define members' roles, and on Network Privacy to determine who can view and join your network.
The Administrator can also opt to change the tabs at the top of the page: thus re-arranging page elements and accessibility.
Ning Networks in Education
Ning has been used extensively in education, for collaboration purposes and for creating safe, private networks for students to work in. There are a number of good networks which illustrate how Ning can be used within the educational setting, both locally and abroad. Take a look at these two excellent networks, created by educators for educators...
For more information about Ning Networks, go to:
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Monday, June 8, 2009
In previous posts, I have talked about various applications and widgets: Photo-editing software, audio manipulation software, animated avatars, etc. These applications or resources may or may not have been specifically created for educational purposes. There is a myriad of applications out there, and a multitude of skills to learn - this sometimes can be a bit overwhelming. There is always a constant pressure on us teachers to perform and to create new and interesting resources, and especially, resources which can be shared online.
Sometimes we, as teachers, underestimate how much work we manage to cram in during the year - and the re-usability of our resources. For example, this year, for the Creativity & Innovation Projects, teachers were asked to look at any ongoing projects or activities going on in their classrooms - such as e-Twinning, Eko Skola or simply classroom based projects - and adapt their work for sharing or online publishing (I am referring mostly to the Year 5 Blogs Project on Skola Portal). Everyday resources, such as photos, videos or slide-shows can be adapted for online viewing with minimal changes required.
One of the most common types of resources which you might be in possession of are Slide Shows - Picture Slide shows or more traditional presentations or Power Point Shows. Both can be adapted to online uploading and viewing - on a website, wiki or blog - and we will now take a look at two popular services which make this possible.
Power Point Slide-Shows
Power Point Slide-Shows can be surprisingly easy to adapt to online viewing -I am talking, of course, of MS Power Points: the ones you might have already prepared for your daily lessons, or a simple PPT created by your children. Of course, MS Powerpoint Shows need a slight adjustment before they can go online: they need to be converted in a way that your blog or website will recognise them. Then - like with any other widget - its simply a case of grabbing the correct Embed code and paste it in place. To make MS PPTs available online, we can use a variety of web applications. I am going to talk about just one of these popular services; however, there are others to choose from. The services offered are free (upgrades are available at a cost - but usually the basic service will cover your needs). The most important thing to remember is that in order for them to work, registration is required the first time round, and signing-in on the subsequent times.
One of the most popular PPT sharing resource is SlideShare.net. It lets you upload your presentations and share them in online a couple of simple clicks. To try out the service and register, go to http://slideshare.net/ . You can opt to browse existing presentations, try out some widgets or simply upload your presentation. To upload your presentation, click on the Upload button on the top of the page. You will be asked to choose a PPT from a location on your computer, and, depending on the speed of your connection, your PPT will soon be ready for viewing or embedding! (Each PPT must not exceed 100 MB and you may upload up to 10 files at a time). You can choose a title, tags and category for your PPT.
One thing to remember when using such services is that the uploading part is only one half of the story (the same applies when uploading, for example, a video on You Tube). After uploading your file(s) on the server, the application needs to convert the file to a format that is globally recognisable and embeddable. After the file has uploaded, remember to click on Publish so that your presentation will be converted into online format.
After the Presentation has been uploaded, you may wish to alter Permissions surrounding it. You can also opt to have a private, restricted view or public Presentation. You may also opt to let people download the presentation onto their PCs or not. It all depends on what you intend to do with your Presentation. All these settings can be changed and accessed any time after uploading, by clicking on My Slidespace - where all your uploaded PPTs reside - click on the PPT whose settings you wish to change, and then on Edit. You will be shown up the options page once more, and will be given the chance to do the required edits. Remember to click on Update to change your settings.
NB. Different platforms require different Embed Codes. The Embed Code is basically a piece of script which will allow your newly uploaded presentation to be visible on your Website/Wiki/Blog or Social Networking Site. Depending on where you want your presentation to appear, select the appropriate embed code - usually you will see a little icon symbolising the type of embed - the orange letter B for Blogger Code, the blue F for Facebook, the black W for Wordpress, etc. You may also share your presentation by e-mail by copying and pasting the URL where your presentation has been uploaded onto an e-mail message.
Instead of simply sharing photos online, why not put them together and create a movie-like slide show? There are various applications which allow this - the two most popular ones are Slide.Com and Animoto. Both have very similar interfaces and rely on the principal of uploading photos, adding effects and transitions, and finally publishing and sharing your work. Here, we are going to take a quick look at Slide.com; if you are interested in Animoto you may log onto a previous post I created on my blog, http://teachersandcomputers.blogspot.com/2009/03/animoto.html.
Slide.com is a photo-sharing application - similar to MS Photostory - and allows you to create interesting photo-slide shows. It is available on http://slide.com and like other online applications it requires registration the first time round.
To start your first slide-show, sign in with the username and password you have created upon registration, and click on Make a Slide Show. You will be prompted to start adding your photos - either from your PC or else grab photos from other online albums that you might already have, such as Flickr or Facebook (Remember - Re-Usabilty!). Each photo may also be individually named.
While you are waiting for photos to load (in order to shorten uploading times, remember to resize them for the Web!), you might wish to change your slide-show's settings:
- Style: Change the way your photos will appear on the screen - i.e. the transition from one photo to the next;
- Skin: Change slide-show's player as it will be displayed on your website;
- Themes: Add a theme animation to your slide-show, such as sparkles or hearts;
- Music/Video: Add some music from a good choice of tracks, to suit all moods and occasions;
- Background: Change your slide-show's background colour;
- Effects: Add effects to your photos, such as b/w and sepia tints;
- Size: Change the size (in pixels) of your slide-show;
- Privacy: Determine the privacy settings of your slide-show - who will be able to view or download your creation
As soon as all your photos are uploaded, you can change their order on the story-board at the bottom of the screen, or change any effects or styles as desired. When that is done, you may Save and Get Code. As in the case for other widgets, remember to grab the correct code according to where you are uploading your work. For example, Wetpaint Wikis do not support script tags. Usually all popular services are supported. If you are unsure of what you need, or your favourite blog or wiki isn't listed in the code list, try grabbing a copy of another application's embed code and see if that works - sometimes its just a simple case of trial and error!
NB There are several applications which will allow sharing of resources online; unfortunately I cannot go through them all here. However here are some additional sites which you might want to try out:
For sharing Power Point Presentations:http://docs.google.com/
For creating photo slide-shows:
Author's Note: This post is dedicated to my father, Alfred, who spent the last two weeks in hospital but is now on the road to recovery. He was always a great supporter of my work and is always encouraging me to try and do my best.