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Sunday, December 5, 2010

7 Tools to Build a Social Network for Your School

Yesterday, I wrote a post containing resources to help schools understand social media. Hopefully, you've passed that post along to the people at your school that need to read it (using the Add This button at the bottom of each post is an easy way to email the post). Hopefully, after reading and watching the resources in yesterday's post you will have administrators ask you about creating a social media presence for your school. One way to do that is to create a Facebook page for your school. The next step could be creating a social network and or message board forum for your school. Here are seven tools you can use to create your own social network or message board forum.

Wall FM is a service that anyone can use to create a social network. Some of Wall FM's key features are message boards, customizable user profiles, private messaging between community members, and Facebook connect integration. Facebook connect integration means that people can sign in to their Wall FM accounts using their Facebook credentials. The free version of Wall FM does set a limit on monthly bandwidth usage, but for most classroom situations that limit shouldn't present an issue. If you have someone in your school willing to maintain a server for you, you can download and run the Wall FM software for free.
Edmodo is a microblogging system designed specifically for teachers and students. Using Edmodo teachers can create a microblogging network for their classes. Edmodo allows teachers to create a group specifically for their students and exclude those not invited to the group. Edmodo provides teachers with a place to post assignment reminders, build an event calendar, and post messages to the group. Just as with any good microblogging service users can share links, videos, and images.

ShoutEm allows you to make your own public or private network. As the administrator of your own network you can restrict access to only those people you invite. You can also exclude entire email domains in the adminstrative settings. Your ShoutEm network can be as simple as Twitter or as robust as FriendFeed. As the administrator of your ShoutEm network you can choose to allow users to post pictures, attachments, and have threaded conversations. Update: Since this post was written, Shoutem has changed business models and is now working on mobile app development instead of social networks.


Jabbster is a free service that allows families and groups to create private online communication networks. Within your private network you can host discussion boards, share photos, post an event calendar, and share bookmarks. Setting up a Jabbster group is quick and easy. Simply register for an account, name your group, and send invitations to the people you want in the group. If you create the group, you are the group administrator and can delete any content or user from the group at any time.

CubeTree is a free service designed for companies that would like to build a social network of wikis, shared items, and microblogs for their employees. On CubeTree anyone can create a network and invite colleagues. All colleagues must have the same email domain. For example, if I wanted to create a network, only people with an @freetech4teachers.com domain could be in my network. Everyone in the network can create a profile (Facebook-like), post updates, share documents, collaborate on documents and spreadsheets, and share items from their RSS feeds.

Lefora allows anyone to create a public or private message board in three easy steps. To create a message board hosted by Lefora, click "create a forum," create a user name, then select the layout of your forum. Your forum will be hosted as a subdomain of Lefora.com. Users of your forum can create profiles complete with avatars, biographies, and links to their blogs or other social networking profiles.

The folks behind Lefora also run Tal.ki. Tal.ki allows you to create a discussion forum and embed it into your blog or website in seconds.
To add a discussion forum to your blog or website simply go to Tal.ki, copy the embed code and paste it into the code of your blog or website. You do not have to create an account to use Tal.ki nor do visitors to your embedded forum have to create a Tal.ki account. Users of Tal.ki login using their Facebook, Google, Yahoo, or Twitter accounts.

Voting is Open for the 2010 Edublog Awards

Voting for the 2010 Edublog Awards is now open. There are twenty-three categories on the list this year. There are as many as forty nominees in some categories. Even if you don't vote, looking through the lists is a good way to discover new blogs, people, and podcasts that can further your learning. If you do decide to vote, I'd appreciate your vote in the categories in which Free Technology for Teachers was nominated.

Best Individual Blog
Best Resource Sharing Blog
Best Educational Technology Support Blog
Lifetime Achievement
(When looking for Free Technology for Teachers on the list, note that they left the "s" off at the end of teachers).

Thank you to everyone that nominated me this year. Good luck to all of the nominees in their respective categories.

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