I have worked out how to make my ning community accessible at school. I registered a domain name and paid a fee to ning to allow the domain name to be used for the community and now the site is accessible.
However, I have hit a bit of a roadblock. The ning network states that the people for whom the community is targeted at must be older than 13. The class I will be teaching will be aged 11-12, so it kind of wrecks it. It is a real shame as it is an excellent platform with everything I could have wanted to create an online portal (except a Learning Management System (LMS).
So now I am focussing more on joomla and the community builder. It is much more detailed and needs more hands on to get it to work. It has a back end which you use to set it up and it can get rather complex. The advantage is, there us a huge range of tempaltes available to make it look entirely different. This is what it currently looks like. http://tinyurl.com/connectandcollaborate Another advatage is an LMS is available as a free add on to add modules, quizes and other types of elearning tools, this would sve me having to setup an elearning environment on a different site.
I have also now got a very detailed guide of how to set up the community from scratch and I think I will be spending a fair bit of time sorting it out. Deep down, I am hoping that I may still be able to use the ning community, I have to find a work around.
I have also been playing with elluminate and Adobe Connect. Both online meeting platforms, both free but also restricted to 3 people per meeting. You can pay for apremium service but it is out of my budget. Unfortunately, as theylook quite good. I will still make use of the free services as a supplement.
The other option is to use blackboard and not worry about the online social network. This way the children can work in groups, build wikis and access online materials. I just don't like the blackboard interface. Perhaps I need to be more positive about it.
Enough thoughts for now.
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