Over the past two years, I’ve become a fan of Ning, the social networking site that lets anyone create a free (with ads) network for their organization or school. I’ve created a few NING networks now, including one for pre-service English teachers, for my Vampire Fiction class, and for the Shakespeare Connects Conference, hosted by GVSU in the fall of 2009. I am also a member of the NCTE Ning and a few others for network creators and developers.

I think social networking is here to stay. I hope it is, or I will have wasted a lot of time on Facebook debating politics with friends from high school. I like the idea of teachers using social networks in their English language arts classes: as I’ve argued, students are familiar with the medium, and social networking lends itself nicely to writing and literature classes. The idea of promoting–not banning–social networking at school is gaining momentum, as more teachers begin to recognize the usefulness of the tool. Ning even allows K-12 educators to remove advertisements for free.

So, it’s a good thing when a leading company like Ning decides to switch to Google Open Social, a generic application code that can be used in a range of social networking platforms. What this means is that outside developers can write cool applications that can theoretically plug into any social networking platform that supports Open Social. So far, there are only about 30 applications on Ning, but I predict that the number will explode in the near future. The more applications, the better. If teachers are going to use Ning to replace Blackboard and other clumsy content management systems, they’ll need an appealing set of applications, like easy file share, for example.

Personally, I’d like to see an Open Social app that allows users within a Ning to rate content (a micro-digg app), so students can rank blog posts that are particularly good. We’ll see where this goes.