I'm trying to find the right tool for an online book discussion for kids. I set up a blog and it looks fine. It would work fine if I didn't want to be able to respond to student posts and allow them to comment on others' posts. I realize now I've picked the wrong tool for the job.

I've successfully done book discussions before with Blackboard but our district has switched to Moodle. So far I find Moodle cumbersome because you have to post the questions in reverse order--I might have to use it but first I want to see if there are any good tools available for threaded discussions for kids.

I've seen Nicenet and Google Groups but don't like the way they look. I've even considered opening a ning group. Does anybody know of a free threaded discussion tool that would be good for kids? Thanks in advance.

Tags: blogging, ning, socialnetworking

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I'm wrestling with the same question, Nancy for a vision I have.

If you already have a web site and are comfortable setting a couple of mysql settings, this is a free option for a discussion board:
http://www.phpbb.com/
It's not my ideal choice but haven't found anything better so far other than Ning but it doesn't quite work for a classroom setting (I teach 2nd grade mind you). I wish there was a Ning Jr.
It's a great idea, contact the ning people and get them to set ning, jr. How much could that cost? I think I'm going with my Drupal blogsite, it has the option for forum and the kids are already familiar with the site. You can also get an individual subscription to Blackboard which works wonderfully well for book discussions and other threaded discussions. (I think it's @$300.00 Just dawned on my that writing a grant might be an option for that money).

Check back to A Really Different Place to see how the forums are working out.
OK, so what features would Ning, Jr. have? What features wouldn't it have?

Ning was not always so completely focused on social networking--it was originally a "platform," and one of the exemplified uses was for book reviews. I wonder if that template is still around...
I like the concept of "tagging" in the profile (which Ning doesn't quite do so well as some other sites), so that students find some common ground with other students in a very basic way.
You like purple turtles?
Me, too.
Let's start a conversation.


The "friend" thing is tricky for social reasons (how many friends do you have? beat you) and I wonder if there is some better variation of it.

I like the concept of each students having their own home space.

Groups are a nice way to take a bigger community and narrow its focus from time to time.

Just some thoughts.

Kevin
I agree on the profile tagging. Would be a great addition. I also agree that the friend feature could be pretty problematic. I've noticed that in the Ning networks my kids use, they just make everyone a friend, though. :)
Reuven recommended this http://rafi.ki. I haven't had a chance to look at it closely but a Rafiki, jr. (in the works) might be what we need.
Steve,
Kevin has some good ideas. Here goes the brainstorm: Are you familiar with think.com (Oracle owns it)? It offers webspace, email, and collaboration with others - so ning jr would be something like that but not as closed. With think.com you can only interact with other think.com people. The student websites are not on the WWW--or at least cannot be accessed from the Internet and the websites themselves are rinky-dink. You have to have an administrators signature to sign up.

OK ning jr would offer email, homespace with blogging, collaboration, kids would have to join (and learn the secret handshake) but only teachers could add kids, everyone else would be blocked from joining or contacting the kids. There would be rules and AUP and teachers would monitor that. Discussions could be removed for rude comments, inappropriate language, there could be a bank of words that would flag the comment/post and notify the teacher. There could be an age limit (recommended) like 6-14, there could be a section for uploading art work/video, a “ning Gallery” (like Artsonia.com) and a place when they could upload poetry and short stories for peer review and commenting, there could be a section for book reviews, there could be RSS feed appropriate for kids, there could be a teacher collaboration area just for how to use ning, jr. in the classroom , I like the "friends" aspect but I don't think kids would be discerning enough to pick and choose—potentially a kid could just see how many friends he could get—I wouldn’t do that. Good point-Kevin

Messaging would stay, but could go through moderation. Pictures on homespace would have to be hand-drawn—not photos of kids. Maybe there could be different sections for kids of different ages—like 5-8, 9-11, 12-14—the discussions could be tagged or color coded for certain age groups,

I like the little pictures that are on the classroom 2.0 homepage, but maybe this could be kids online at the time, or a mosaic of random kids, the side bars would need to be totally uncluttered, with about a tenth of the info on the front page, “Getting started instructions “ would have to be simple and direct. (and in multiple languages? ) As you know I’ve taught gifted kids for almost 25 years so brainstorming skills are very good. Let me know if you need any more ideas. N
Great ideas all around here.
I like the idea of kid-drawn pics only (but how do you moderate that?) and also of an art gallery of sorts.
Definitely, membership by teacher-invite only, though.
Kevin
Why would ning want to do something like this? What's the value add for them? Do we want ads? I don't think so, I've seen some pretty dicey Google ads. Oh well, we can dream can't we?
I love your brainstorming skills.

Part of what I like about Ning is that it mirrors many of the aspects of social networking sites that kids are familiar with--like uploading photos and video. These are popular features, and I can see them drawing youth in.

I do like all of your ideas. I think Ning is flexible enough that everything you have described could be programmed in, as Ning does allow you to build off of their code base. I'll surely approach Ning to see if they'd be interested in doing it; if it's not in their immediate plans, it might be interesting to explore how to encourage this as a project, and who would drive it.
It seems to me if you want something quick, just start a Wiki, Wikispaces.com offeres free sites to teachers, has a place to post questions and an area where a book discussion could go on.I have used it to do what we call book talks, but instead of talking just to me, they speak to the whole class. In my rubrics for their grade, I note that they have to respond to at least two people during the week and post at least every two weeks about the book they are reading.

It seems the easiest and no one has to reinvent anything.
Peggy
Thanks Peggy for the suggestion. I don't think wikis are the best format for book discussions, I have to admit there might be something I missed. (I just looked at the discussion on a wikispace, are they threaded or just straight list of comments? I need to post all the questions at one time) ) I need my discussions in a threaded discussion forum so I can respond to each post and the kids can comment to each post. I set up my book discussion http://areallydifferentplace.org/node/659 on our blog---but we have a pretty fancy blog done with Drupal, so I have that option. We did 4 wikis last year and use them for research, more like wikipedia. Here's the one we did on our study of Frank Lloyd Wright and the book The Wright 3 http://thewright3.wikispaces.com/

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