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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OK, couldn't resist. I had to look. I'm way to busy to dive deeply, but I had to look!

If you use the "Manage" facility and add the "groups" feature to the main page, you could create a discussion area for each of many books as groups. That would give you more of an ability to use the site as a more general classroom area, and a place for announcements, homework reminders, etc.

Make sense?

If you make me an administrator, I can play with this site with you. Do you know how to do that?
Steve--I went to look at the ning book discussion this morning and of course the district had blocked it. Reason given: "Dating". Oh fine, luckily the CIPA representative will unblock it later today.

I'll see if I can set you up as an administrator, if not I'll email you my username and password this evening.

I understand what you are saying about groups but right now I'm happy with my webpages and don't think I'd change. You can see the student site at http://connections.smsd.org/el and my personal education site at http://adifferentplace.org

I could see a regular classroom teacher wanting an easily updated environment to post homework, etc and ning would be great as a replacement for a webpage. (and easier to do) The information on my websites, doesn't change often and is more like a closet--where I store things. I need an environment for my workshops, curriculum units etc. (realized early on that anything stored on a district server legally belong to them--whole nuther story)

Ning is more like a dressing room---take a bunch of stuff in and decide what fits. Two different tools, two different uses. That's how I see it, I'll touch base later with your permissions. N
Steve, I upgraded you to administrator---feel free to make any changes you see fit. I'm not going to use this site for students at this time. http://bookstudy.ning.com
I've used www.blogspot.com and it worked really well. It's also teacher monitored, so you can not post a comment if it's questionable or inappropriate. The kids were able to comment on each others' posts and I was able to add comments too. I'm also in the process of setting up a wiki at pbwiki.com; we'll see how that works out. I also played with google documents this summer and it has a lot of potential whenever I find the time to play with it. These are FREE resources, so play with them and see if you think they'll work for you.
I have several blogs using blogspot and I'd even set one up to do my book discussion but realized it wouldn't work because if you add the question as a post, then all the comments stream down after that post. You cannot respond to individual comments, which is what I need to do. Look here to see why it didn't work for a give and take discussion, you might know something I don't know about blogspot.

Another frustration--which can be over come, you have to add the questions in reverse order with the introduction last, because the earlier posts are at the bottom of the list. Oh well, I figured it all out here in a threaded book discussion http://areallydifferentplace.org/node/659, you can also see our blog. Let me know if there is something I don't know about blogspot. N
I am finding the same issue with the question post being dropped to the bottom. I am planning on adding the question to the sidebar in a text box from now on so that the question stays at the top of the page. Once all posts have been made I will post the question to the blog and replace the question in the text box with the next discussion topic.

I just started with the blogs today. BOY, would I do some things differently next time. First, I would just go through and accept the invitations to the blog through their gaggle.net email accounts. THAT was a huge pain. Second, I would have them either write out their blog post before we go to the computer lab OR I would have them "comment" on a post instead of posting their own responses. Whew! It was quite the day. I am beat. I think it will get easier next time and I hope they will eventually be able to do this from home. Now I really need to get it into their heads that it's not myspace and they have to punctuate, capitalize and spell properly. Man, we've got some work to do.

Check it out:


Anyone have suggestions for this (the quality is terrible!!) or is it supposed to not be great the first time? (Sorry for threadjacking.)
I just glanced and it looks good. Since I teach elementary (gifted) I could start with a smaller group. I thought initially I was going to have to "inspire" kids with blog posts but once I set the standards the blog just took on a life of its own. I've mentioned this before in other posts but I think it's important to decide WHY you're blogging.

Some times it's not worth it just to do it---with no purpose. I set three objectives: improved writing, intro to social networking and re-enforcing of copyright and intellectual property issues. So far I've been please with the results---it's basically like an "adult's" blog with discussion about a variety of topics. Check it our if you haven't---best to start at recent posts to scan for what kids are blogging about. http://reallydifferentplace.org

One thing to consider---when they blog is it your responsibility to respond? I respond to almost everybody. We've had over 2000 posts since Novmeber and I only have 20-25 active bloggers! That's a hell of a lot of writing and responding! N.
Well, mainly I want them to blog because I want them to get used to expressing themselves in writing. Most of them have been drilled to death with the "5 paragraph essay" since they just came from 8th grade (where they take the state writing test). Most of my students really enjoy computers and the internet, so I hope to get some reluctant writers to respond. I want them to think, write, and respond to each other. I really want them to learn that 1) English IS communciation, 2) communication is one of the most important skills they will learn for life and 3) that the Internet is all about communication and sharing thoughts (so that means you need to actually HAVE some thoughts!!). Those are really my goals for blogging with them.

Also, I think it really underscores the idea behind "editing" and "publishing" their work. I am going to print the posts that are not following conventions and mechanics, hand them back, and have the students edit their work on paper. THEN they can edit the posts on the computer.

It's also my first year with high school level kids (I taught 7th before). I'm a little shocked at what basic skills they *still* haven't managed to master. I will need to break it down a little more for them to improve the quality of their posts.
Good thinking--I teach elementary gifted kids and I'm shocked at what basic skills they lack and it's getting worse. I blame NCLB---so much of the creative stuff has been taken out of the classroom--research, writing, creative thinking, critical thinking to make room for reading and math.

I wonder if any of this will change when NCLB is reauthorized? Just had a mini brainstorm-- if you don't want to read dozens of identical replies to one of your posts, set up a half a dozen posts and let them pick one. We also bring RSS feed into our blog from news sources like BBC, Discovery, etc. Then those "non-creative writers" have something factual to write about. Several of the feeds are book review sites, those always make good blog entries. Good luck on your blogging. N
Oh, I am definitely changing up the topics. I just wanted something pretty well-defined for them for today. I needed it to be generic enough that they could respond based on personal experience. Plus I thought it would be good to see what they perceive as their writing weaknesses (and then see the real weaknesses showing up in their post!). I want the topics to be connected to our readings from class and open-ended. I think I just need to start s--l--o--w-l--y with them for now. Gah!
It is a lot of work, if they don't do better in the blog format that they do on paper---ditch it!! You'll end up spending two hours a night reading blogs, Let me know if you want any creative blogging ideas---after teaching gifted for 20 plus years I've got a lot of great creative ideas!!! N

I have used phpBB in my classroom for literature discussions/Book discussions.

I like the idea of the WIKI, You can post the questions in the "discussion" section of the Wiki, and have the kids reply to it... Not "true threaded" discussion, but it would give the feel.

You can also place your questions on a different "space" or page. When the kids respond on the page, have them place their names @ the beginning of their response.

I use Wordpress as my Blog backbone of choice, they have a plugin that gives a page on your blog the feel of a phpBB. It is called SimpleForum, you can find it @ http://www.yellowswordfish.com/.

I have used Drupal and Moddle, and they don't have the flexibility of Wordpress or a Wiki.

Keep us posted, whatever you choose!



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