On Friday, I finally implemented an academic network in my classes. I chose Ning. I had used Ning for a couple of different things (Classroom 2.0 and my own, MPS-AVID) and had decent results.
All of that fell apart at 11:43 on Friday. It worked perfectly in my first class. The 8th graders even figured out backgrounds and friends. They were even sending nice messages to each other.
At roughly 11:35, the principal and the area superintendent walked in to my room for my next class. We were in the middle of registering the class on Ning when one of my students raised her hand and said, "Mr. Knaus, I can't register. It says 1995 is the cut off and I was born in 1996." Thirteen. Thirteen! Argh...thirteen. Very unlucky that day.
You see, you must 13 to use Ning. This, in front of the principal and the area superintendent. Great! Once I realized that the ages of the students was an issue, I paired up my 13 year-olds with the 12 year-olds and they worked through the assignment for the day on Ning.
The principal and area superintendent left about 5 minutes after "the incident."
What's the moral of the story? First, you never know who is going to visit or at what time. Second, always think of everything. I knew that Ning, and many other web 2.0 tools have an age restriction. I should have looked closely at the ages of my students.
I spent the afternoon trying to find a suitable replacement for Ning that I can use with all my classes, especially for next year because I'll be adding 6th grade which won't be anywhere near 13 years-old.
I think I've decided on EdModo for our academic networking. No age restriction, no email address needed and complete teacher control. We'll see how that goes. Can't wait for the principal and area superintendent to visit again.