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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Reuven--Rafiki looks like it has everything I mentioned in my post, but right now it is for seconday students. I'll keep my eye on it as they develop a primary application.

Craig--I might have under estimated wikis thinking only wikipedia. I'll check them out again for other uses. Aside: Here is a odd bias I have against wikis--I don't like the way they look. I guess that I'm such a visual person I base my opinion on how well kids will use something with how it looks. How shallow. :)
You can spice up wikis by:

1. Putting an image of the book cover in;
2. Linking directly to the discussion tab instead of the main text page.

What I mean by the second is that typically the discussion tab of a web page has its own URL, so that you can link directly there from your main page listing of the books. You could even start four or five discussion questions for a book, listing them under the book cover pictures, linking to four or five separate discussion tabs.

Also: Wikispaces, for example, is not really threaded discussions--but you can start separate subject discussions on the same page. That might work as well. And Wikispaces is very classroom friendly, so if you run into any hurdles, they are very responsive and helpful. Plus you can get ad-free k12 wikis for free. (I think PBWiki does the same thing.)
I probably showed you this, this isbook discussion I set up on our Drupal blog, it is a true threaded discussion. I've used Blackboard to do book discussion in the past and it worked super well.

Young kids 4-6 really need a clear path to posting and commenting, I think the threaded discussion is the only way to go. Let me know if ning ever wants to go forward with ning, jr. I'd certainly give input and have 60 digital natives that could field test!! N
So, in Ning:

Couldn't you just create a forum discussion category called "Book Discussions," that you select to allow moderator creation of forum posts only? Then the students can reply to the posts. As I've been thinking about this, seems like Ning does it already out of the box.

You could even link to the specific forum posts in a text box on the front page--or that might not be needed, if you are the only one posting.
Yes, ning would work for book discussions but you would have to post one forum for each question, wouldn't you? Ideally, the questions would be posted all at the same time so kids could move through them at their own pace.

Can you change the menu at the top of your space? Ning still seems too "busy" for elementary kids. I could get over that if it was the only tool I had available--but I'll stick with http://areallydifferentplace.org for the time being for blogging and book discussions.

Right at this moment--I'm not sure I need a "bigger" social network for my kids. We are so busy with the work at hand, I'm not sure a ning space would be a value add....I'm open though. Later, N.
Not trying to convince, just brainstorming.

You could easily simplify the main page, and then create a "group" for each book. Then in the group forum you could ask each question as a forum post.

I actually think it would work quite well. If you ever want to try it, this is something I'm quite interested in, and would be glad to help.
OK, remind me. Does each kid need a username and password for ning? Do I need to sign each kid up for an account?

Why would I want a private group? The whole point is the openness...

Once I've opened a space, will each kid have their own blog page? Does ning have email? I'll give it some thought--I could certain set up a practice book discussion for you---N.
Yes, each student would need an account. Alice Mercer has documented a Gmail solution (Gmail username "+" studentname) for setting up student accounts that go through you and can forward to the student if needed.

You could do open or private.

Each student would have their own blog page, and could email within Ning to the other members of the network. This is a busy week for me, but I'll set a sample network up like this soon and we can play around with it. :)
OK, Steve. I decided to take your challenge--as if I have nothing else to do!! HA! I set up a ning to use as an elementary book discussion. http://bookstudy.ning.com/ I included the Introduction and three questions as a sample. Here are my issues:

1. You have to post the questions in reverse order so the last questions will be at the bottom of the "list".
2. I don't want ads but don't want to pay $20.00 a month not to have ads
3. The font is too small and too consistent across the columns for 10-12 year old kids, some color choices, font sizes, would help.
4. Probably don't need badges.

Good thing that you can't get on other threaded discussions--you can easily fnd out if you've answered a question. Let me explain: In a threaded discussion with 30 people answering questions, three teachers responding, 30 students responding there are A LOT of entries. With "My Page" a student could glance down the left column and see what questions they've answered. (I also keep a spreadsheet of who's answered each question) OK, so far, that's what I'm thinking. What are you thinking, no hurry on the response. N.

Looks like we may have hit the "thread" limit on Ning on this one, since I don't see an option to reply to you directly on this one... :)

I'm really glad you did this. I'm super-hammered this week (I'm sure you are, too!), so I won't be able to really focus on this until next week, but I really want to focus on this.

Good comments. Yes, I dealt with the order of forum posts myself today, as I was putting them in for the office 2.0 conference group. But you might look at that group and the text box on the front page, since it allows you to create a static link to specific forum threads. They'll get out of order anyway as soon as people start commenting on them.

I'm with you on the ad situation. I agree, and am lobbying HARD with Ning. :)

I will look at the font issues. Not sure what badges you mean.

I, too, like the recent discussion lists by person. That's how I found your reply on this one! Went to your page first. Good point.

I'm building a good list of features for your "Ning, Jr." and sure am glad you are so proactive in trying things out!

--Your fan, Steve
The fact that the forums don't stay in order is a "deal breaker". Kids would never be able to find the "next" question. Let me know when you sell ning on ning, jr. Thanks N



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