Ning, pageflakes, 21classes ... which one?
In the past couple of months, more of my colleagues from WiA, BaW, B4Ed and LwC have been setting sites at Ning, Pageflakes and 21 Classes. All of them, of course, are free, require a registration, can hold links, video, audio and create a space for social networking.
Pageflakes is a little messy, it holds too much information at a glance, which might be ideal for certain learners, not others. It is a great place to follow what is going on in several sites, especially blogs from different services set up by students. It is like a page reader or aggregator such as Bloglines or Googlereader because it gets updated every time a blogger writes a new post. It can hold a message board, a to-do-list, tabs in the upper part for several pages that seem static but are not, has Technorati search box, in sum, lots of gadgets. I did not see any ads here. Here is a sample.
Ning is a bit more similar to a sort of simplified moodle. According to its developers: "You start by choosing a combination of features (videos, blogs, photos, forums, etc.) from an ever-growing list of options. Then customize how it looks, decide if it's public or private, and add your brand logo if you have one. People who join your network will automatically have a customizable profile page and will be able to message and friend each other". It has commercial ads. Here is a sample.
21 classes is a sort of blog portal where a course can be set up, students register but have a user name and password to get into certain spaces, especially their own blogs. The developers say that: "21Classes has an extended rights management for authoring and reading rights. This means that you and your students will be able to create teamblogs within the blog community to which all registered users can post or you can even create closed reader groups to restrict entry visibility to certain group members". It allows independent but interconnected accounts for students, spam protection, more privacy. I did not see ads here either. More on its features. Here is a sample and a tutorial from Brazilian friend Ronaldo.
Have you used any effectively in your ESL/EFL courses? I would love to know.