Yesterday, Ning broke the word that they would be discontinuing their free service of social network creation. In the world, that news was not even a pond ripple. I didn't see anything on the network news shows. Nobody I know "in-real-life" was talking about it. But in the virtual world, and especially on twitter, it was just about all I saw in my circle of followers/following.
It shouldn't come as a surprise to me anymore that the first things we humans do when it comes to change is panic. I didn't feel much, but I could tell that some members of my PLN were deeply affected. I know there are districts and individual teachers who use the ning network to keep in touch with families and students. I belong to several professional nings and place high value on the information and connections that I make through them.
I saw two distinct things happening after the news broke. The first thing I noticed was very disheartening. Members of my PLN began lining up on metaphorically "opposite sides." Some were expressing outrage at the news. I'm sure that is because they felt the panic of an impending change.
The outrage didn't last long, though I am sure that among many teachers, hard feelings toward Ning linger on. But the debate began by those on the other side. The ones asking if teachers who were complaining about having to pay for the service were just "gimmees" who think everything should be free? Or, they wondered, is it that those in the world of education are so out of touch that they don't understand capitalism and a free market economy? That is what a few people were posting on twitter. There were a couple of posts that verged on personal attacks. Thankfully, my PLN does live up to the "P" in the title: Professional.
My take on it is that teachers are not just sitting around waiting for hand-outs. And I believe that most teachers are fully aware that a business has to make money to stay in business. But teachers are also sharers. There are not many teachers who post their lesson plans on sites where they earn money when the plans are downloaded. Far more teachers post their plans, resources, and ideas freely on networks like a nings, blogs, or even their own websites where they PAY to have a web presence, allowing other educators to benefit from them at no cost. And many teachers already spend large amounts of their own money on their classrooms and their students. To be told, basically out of the blue, that a service they had been relying on was now going to have to be paid for, was probably an unwelcome shock. I can't blame them for complaining. I think of all the web tools I use at no cost and realize that I would have to do some major trimming if they all had a fee attached to them.
Today, I am happy to say that the negativity seems to have left my small branch of the twitter stream. What I am seeing today is lots of educators sharing resources of social networking sites that are similar in nature to ning, but still offered at no cost. And these educators aren't charging for the information. In my opinion, it is this open, sharing nature, the generosity of teachers, that rises to the top in all of this mess.