Friday, November 02, 2007

The Straw, the Camel and the Ning

There comes a time when it just becomes the right thing to do. Yesterday decided it was time to offer advertisement-free student networks for educators!

My colleague Steve Hargadon educational consultant for Ning, has been instrumental in persuading them that we need safe environments in which to assemble as an online community of students and educators. Steve wrote a blog post about this a few hours ago with full details on how to now sign up for an ad-free Ning. Also check out Ning in Education for more details.

Let me share briefly the real story behind yesterday's decision. Vicki Davis and I along with 5 other wonderful classroom practitioners as well as a host of other dedicated educators are congregating on the Flat Classroom Ning for the Flat Classroom Project 2007. This week I noticed the Ning was throwing up some embarrassing and inappropriate advertising. It happened about 2 days ago in the middle of my Flat Classroom Grade 10 class. I was very disturbed but luckily the students just laughed it off at the time. I am back in the Middle east again this year, in Qatar. I know when I worked in Kuwait a few years ago things were very touchy about a lot of things to do with sex, gambling, pork, alcohol, Father get the picture? Here in Qatar however the atmosphere is more relaxed. However this type of advertising is not going to win any friends amongst the parents...and it only takes one to object and there goes the program. I have some girls in my class who will not have their photo online, will not be seen and are nervous about some of the tools we are using. I cannot afford to jeopardize this project that is going to have far-reaching consequences and will only bring people closer together around the world by a silly advertisement! We are living in a time of great adventure but also of great ignorance. We need to be careful, I cannot educate my students and their parents all at the same time. This is going to take longer, and misconstrued information about classroom activities is to be avoided.

So, at home that night I kept checking the Ning......all the adds were as normal...hmmmm, OK maybe I imagined it? Later the next day it appeared again. What to do? So I sent a message via Twitter asking my global colleagues to check if this add was coming up for them. I had a number of responses saying the adds looked fairly normal for Google.....hmmmm, is this only visible in the Middle East? I chatted with Steve and he filled me in on his campaign to have Ning provide ad-free spaces for educators. Steve is such a great colleague, he even offered to pay for the subscription for the Flat Classroom Ning himself! I emailed Ning with our concerns and asked for them to consider taking the ads off. When Vicki came online we had a discussion and she saw red! Another email to Ning asking that they support education and social networking. An hour later and the ads had been removed form our Ning!

The power of social networking and global collegiality is immense. Thanks Steve, thanks Vicki but above all thanks Ning for offering us this great service. We love your space, thank you for being approachable and considering the needs of K-12 educators.

By the way, just in case you were wondering, here is the advertisement that kept reappearing.

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Unknown said...

Talk about the power of Web 2.0 technologies in action! Using the Flat Classroom itself as a watershed for Flat Classroom and Classroom Support practices... beautifully meta, but also just plan beautiful. Congrats to you (and Vicki) for being the straw and seeing it through.

john said...

Hi Julie

Excellent work. I had a similar experience during a presentation recently. I was demonstrating a variety of new technologies to teachers and academics. One of the tools was the Eurekster Swicki. It is a user customisable search engine. Anyway, they had introduced advertising. I should have been aware but was not. That was my oversight.

During the demo I performed a search and there were three adverts listed at the top of the results page that actually looked like search results. One was an advert for a disk drive "file cleansing" software app that removes caches, browsing history, etc. The headline for the advert stated "You have been searching for porn. Clean up your hard drive now."

I was mortified. It was an appalling moment. I know exactly how you feel. Anyway, Eurekster allows educators to eliminate the advertising feature.

Your account resonated with me Julie.

best wishes

John Larkin

Anonymous said...

Great blog site, Julie! Beverly Stubbs told me all about your Flat Classroom project, so now I am your newest fan.

I also had a problem with Ning here in the United States, where there was a persistent porn group displaying themselves when I demo-ed Ning to a group of teachers in the fall of 2007. This is really frustrating, since I have a grad student who is now creating some amazing curriculum materials using Ning. Inappropriate stuff can really freak teachers out--- and I can imagine in Qatar, this is even a bigger problem than in the U.S.

I'll look forward to following your work this spring. Thanks for sharing!

Renee Hobbs