Many educators may already know about Ning – the social networking site that has become more and more popular with teachers recently.

Ning - Social networking made easy.

Ning - Social networking made easy.

Due to its flexibility and ease of setting up, Ning offers teachers a simple and easy way to set up a website that is fun to use for students and (if used well) can help students to develop and expand their Personal Learning Network (PLN). This could and should be a really valuable tool for teachers to use more and more, but as it stands at the moment, I’d urge real caution. Want to know why? Then read on:

I love the fact that the Ning development team are constantly doing so much to continually improve the Ning experience for its users. I especially like the fact that users will be able to discover new, relevant Ning networks that are similar to our own. This will be great for my students’ PLNs and a fantastic way of starting to expand school-based Ning networks and turn them into e-twinning networks.
The catch is that the free version of Ning is supported by Google advertising and this advertising can be quite inappropriate and offensive as I discovered earlier today. I am taking part in the amazing EVOnline 2009 sessions where brilliant educators from around the world are giving up their time to help each other learn how to use Web 2.0 technology in their classrooms. They have decided to use Ning to facilitate these sessions, great idea, however the ads that Google and Ning are serving up on their pages would most likely offend both the teachers and participants of these courses. Take a look at the ad I have seen 3 times now on one of our Ning pages:

Would you like you students to see this?

Would you like you students to see this?

Thanks heavens I haven’t started using Ning with my students yet. I probably won’t until there is better filtering of ad supported sites – this could risk me losing my job. It’s really inappropriate, wouldn’t you agree? To be fair to Ning, they do offer an ad free service for 13 – 18 year olds, but I personally feel that these ads would be just as offensive and inappropriate for adults too.

If Ning wishes to expand into school PLNs and social networks via free ad-based sites, that later becomeĀ  converted to paying sites, they really should do something about this. I have already complained to Google about this ad, but I also feel that Ning should be pro actively pushing them to filter content more stringently. Does Ning really want to financially benefit from this type of Ad? I hope not!

I’d be really intrigued to know if anyone else has had experiences with “bad ads” in education? Have you ever wished you hadn’t used a certain tool with your students? I wonder what Ning themselves will say about this? I’d welcome any comments and your thoughts on this.

All the best,

Seth