I like free stuff. Blame it on my Dutch heritage if you like (just don’t say anything about the World Cup) or my philosophy about the way the web should work. When I can’t get the stuff I want for free, I get a little cranky.

That’s why I have titled this post “Ning Blows,” despite years of recommending the social networking site to educators. Search this site for entries on Ning and you’ll see: I was all about the Ning. But this past spring, Ning decided to do away with its free plans. Educators were outraged and panicky. Ning was swamped with emails and petitions to keep its services free for teachers. So, Ning struck a deal with Pearson, one of the industry giants of educational publishing.

I signed up for the deal, thinking I could keep all of the free services on several of the Nings I have developed.

Not so fast. Turns out, Pearson and Ning are just a little stingy. Not blaming them for that (I mentioned my heritage), but come on! Ning is only offering the “mini-plan” for free. Among its very limited features are a cap of 100 members, no applications, and no groups, events, or chat. Hey teachers across America–you can afford $19.95 a month, right? How about $49.95 a month?

For some reason, I just put this all together tonight. I guess I am a little slow on the draw.

Ning should do the right thing and keep its premium services free for educators. It should also give out small grants to fund original/effective uses of Nings in the classroom. It should run workshops at intermediate school districts. Give out totebags. Pens. It should funnel at least a small portion of its profits to urban schools, where technological know-how is low.

Get a heart, Ning. Or a social conscience. Teachers deserve much, much better than a mini-plan.