Goodbye, CanadaScience.org :(

Goodbye, CanadaScience.org :(

It’s with a touch of sadness that I have decided to shut down the CanadaScience.org teachers network. With almost 800 members, it has been a resounding success at bringing together Canadian science educators. However, many irritants and shortcomings in the network have built up into a “death by a thousand cuts” situation, and the point has been reached where it’s no longer tenable to keep the network going.

Before I explain all the issues/problems that led to this decision, it’s first most important to thank the participants of the CanadaScience network – your enthusiasm has been most appreciated!

So if you’re curious about what led to this decision, please read on – but I warn you, it’s quite the list (some of it pretty cranky!). The biggest problem by far has been the Ning 2.0 network that the CanadaScience has been built on, and there are enough issues with Ning that it requires its own list:

  • When the network was established, Ning 2.0 was a decently featured social network engine, but it has failed to evolve and improve over the years, making it impossible to integrate the network with new social media platforms.
  • Yes, I’m aware that Ning 3.0 has been released, but it is a joke in terms of features when compared to Ning 2.0. Ning 3.0 is missing so many basics (see this comparison if you are interested) that it would be comical to list the omissions here. On top of that, after two years of waiting, there is STILL no complete upgrade path from Ning 2.0 to Ning 3.0, so the network would have to rebuilt manually.
  • Immediately after creating the CanadaScience Ning 2.0 network, Ning raised their prices. I’m not prepared to bear the monthly costs of maintaining the network anymore.
  • Ning 2.0 has poor login options and security features. As a result, there is no good balance between verifying and allowing new members to join, and keeping out spammers. I have carefully enabled and configured the meagre Ning 2.0 security options, but the network is continually plagued by freaks and weirdos joining just so they can spam members.
  • To top it all off, Ning 2.0 also has limited and clumsy customization features, so no matter how hard you code behind the scenes, the result is still pretty ugly.
  • Of course, Ning lacks any sort of decent data export, so migrating to another platform would be extremely tedious.

So that’s an abbreviated list of why Ning has become a real thorn in the side, but there are also some functional and personal reasons for shutting down the network:

  • Moderating a large network takes quite a time commitment. Besides updates, there are constant maintenance issues that have to be dealt with, not to mention serving as “customer service” for network members. Like most of you, I have a full time job – I am extremely lucky to work with amazing people at the Alberta Distance Learning Centre, and I am even luckier to get to do what I love, building science learning resources. That job is my number one priority, and there are only so many hours left in the day after my work commitments have been filled – so I want those extra hours to be spent in the most valuable way possible. The network has moderation sharing abilities, but I’ve asked several times for assistance on the network with no volunteers – I totally understand this, most teachers do not have the time to learn how to moderate a network let alone commit valuable hours out of their day.
  • Speaking of hours of commitment, I’m training for an “Ultra Beast” marathon this year, and that takes up a ton of time (especially at MY age!)
  • When the network was formed, I was hoping that it would be first and foremost a collaborative forum, but it really hasn’t turned out that way. There isn’t much contribution from members – I think that the aforementioned clumsiness of Ning 2.0 bears plenty of blame for that, but I also think that teachers are being stretched very thin in their time commitments. With so many social media platforms out there, teachers have only so much time and energy to share collaboratively. That’s why it’s critical that any network seamlessly integrate multiple platforms. When my time commitments settle down, I hope to build a NEW science teacher’s network on a completely different platform, and the number one priority will be convenience and ease of use.

So those are the details behind the decision, I hope you all understand. I think there is definitely a call for a science teacher’s network, let’s see what the future holds… I’m sure we’ll all be able to gather together again online in the future. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to stay in contact with me going forward, I LOVE hearing from fellow science educators! Here a some good ways to stay in touch:

  1. “Like” the ScienceMan Facebook page – you’ll get ScienceMan Facebook updates .
  2. Follow ScienceMan on Twitter
  3. Contact me via the ScienceMan website

Cheers to all, and have a super year!

Josef Martha

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