Website review by Polly Conway, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2013

Customizable social networking tool has classroom potential

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Subjects & Skills
English Language Arts, Communication & Collaboration, Character & SEL
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Pros: Ning makes it as simple as possible to create a fully-functional, slick and customized social network.

Cons: As the service isn't set up specifically for educational use, there could be privacy and safety concerns.

Bottom Line: A simple, streamlined way to create your own social network for use in the classroom and beyond.

Creating a social network for a classroom could be a great way to open new doors of communication while also reinforcing the tenets of positive digital citizenship. Kids are used to the format, so a network like this could potentially be very useful, as long as kids are kept on track; undoubtedly, this will involve some teacher moderation.

Assignments could include blog posts, with a graded component for writing comments. Alternately, students could contribute photos for science or humanities-based curricula. As not all kids have the same access at home, you may want to devote some class time to keeping the network active.

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Ning is a website that allows anyone to create and grow a personalized social network. Users sign up with an email, password, and enter a credit card number for a 2-week free trial (various packages can be purchased at the end of the trial). All networks are given a name, which becomes part of a custom URL.

Depending on the needs at hand, there are a lot of features that can be added to a network. Forums could be used to field questions or foster a discussion; a blog could feature content, or teachers could send out a newsletter anytime. Privacy controls are available to make networks public or private, and more than one administrator can moderate a network. Design-wise, Ning uses a drag-and-drop interface that makes design easy; those who want to get fancy can also add Javascript or CSS to the pre-built pages.

Teachers may find that Ning gives them lots of freedom while still keeping the platform simple. It's very easy to make a Ning site look snazzy, which could be a way to help engage students. While likely not an undertaking for for every teacher, with some work and organization, a Ning network would be an interesting experiment in creating social networks for your classes. With the option to create groups and subgroups within a network, there's an opportunity for some solid communication between everyone in your classroom community.

However, you'll want to be sure to talk to your students (and their parents) about appropriate online behavior and positive digital citizenship; keep a close eye on all student-posted information. With some help, kids can learn how to communicate their ideas online, and get involved in healthy debates on classroom subjects. It can also be a great way for students to pose questions, either for you or the rest of the class.

Overall Rating


Design is modern and highly customizable; kids should find the network engaging. Depending on the setup, they'll also find it fun to communicate with other students in an online forum.


Whether communicating with each other, or to designing their own network, kids can learn skills that transfer easily to future endeavors.


There's a 6-minute intro video as well as a live chat option for those who need help. Plus, a detailed FAQ answers any questions you might have.

Common Sense reviewer
Polly Conway Common Sense

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Featured review by
Szymon M. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Grand Valley State University
Allendale, United States
A private social network
Ning is a nitch product, which is aiming at private collaboration. While the teacher, or creator of the Ning site, has to pay a monthly fee (starting at $25), the participation of the students is free. This allows for protecting the privacy of the content and the privacy of the students. To some teachers this may be worth the $300 annual fee, especially if they do not have a school provided Learning Management System. Most LMS vendors today support similar features to Ning. I also found that clos ...
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