Let me begin by saying that nobody owes anybody a free tool, and that schools aren’t always the best customers. Money is always tight and anyway the teachers don’t have their hands on the credit card; that’s down in the Bursar’s office because we’re happy to trust our children with you, but not our credit card!
Anyway, the NING experience is a salutary one. We had a good little NING network going (NING allowed you to create a mini-social network of your own) It was the Breakfast Group and consisted of a group of teachers from various schools who met twice a term to talk about effective teaching and learning. The NING was good.27 teachers all good and true. We could have groups, messages, post pictures, send out agendas and answer questions. A bit like Facebook for grown-ups. It was working.
And then it all went horribly wrong.
First NING announced they were changing their ‘business model’ and no longer offering free accounts. Please select a plan, they said. There was much outpouring of angst and much gnashing of teeth from groups who’d set up sometimes very large networks. Educators pleaded. Can you give us a free ride? I think NING agreed, but only for US based groups. The rest of the world would have to pay their way.
Which we tried to do. Ever tried to work out how to send a cheque to a website in America? They’re not used to dealing in paper facsimiles of cash, and schools don’t like giving credit card details to funnily named fly by night web 2.0 entrepreneurs. So we were stuck.
We did eventually manage to find a physical location owe could send a check, and find a well hidden page in the Ning website that explained that, and persuaded the powers-that-be at school to write and cheque, and post it.
Except that, as the weeks went by, NING kept warning us that time was running out, and I kept emailing them saying ‘we paid already!!!’ Repeat. Repeat. Until they closed it down, never cashed the cheque and never responded.
And therein lies the lesson! Or, as Mary Shelley put it in one of the Lit books I’ve been teaching this year (Frankenstein):
“Unhappy man! Do you share my madness? Have you drunk also of the intoxicating draught? Hear me; let me reveal my tale, and you will dash the cup from your lips!”
The moral of my tale? You can’t trust the cloud! They blow away. And you can’t build a professional network on free tools and promises from a zany young web-guru from San Francisco. Attractive and shiny as those tools are.
And here ends the sermon.
Oh,oh!!! I know time is running out. Can’t you please cash our cheque?