BuddyPress isn’t too difficult to use, though it isn’t as “point-and-clicky” as I would like. You’ll need to download and install the WordPress platform first, then BuddyPress software, then add the BuddyPress files to your WordPress program. The website claims it takes five minutes, but from my explorations, it takes at least a moderate amount of technical skill, so ask your IT person if you need help. Once you get everything downloaded and installed, BuddyPress provides basic templates for building your social network. You can see some samples of what people have created here.
Obviously, building your own social networking site as a teacher has its advantages. We all know how fascinated kids are with Facebook and MySpace, so creating a school-appropriate space should be inherently interesting. Naturally, you’ll clearly need to set ground rules for use to prevent too many off-topic discussions, but when kids are really interested in using something, they tend to follow the directions for using it.
In sum, BuddyPress looks like a good opportunity for educators, especially if you’ve got the need, the drive, and the skill to do a little bit more tech-nerd stuff to create your classroom network.