I am facilitating an online book discussion between my school and a school in Texas. Moodle, the districts' technology of choice will not work for us as guests cannot comment. I have been asked to identify if there are any other OHIO schools who have used Ning for an online discussion. If you use some other medium or site, will you please share that and your experience with it.

Tags: book_discussion, moodle, ning, ohio, online

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What you need for a book discussion is what is called a "threaded discussion" (you probably already know that). I've used both Moodle and Blackboard for online book discussions for elementary kiddos and they work the best! (but that doesn't help you, does it?). You can find free threaded discussion forum sites online but I know nothing about them--like how safe are they, how many people can discuss, etc. This limits dialog back and forth. You might ask here about that.

One option could work and that would be a blog with options to respond to comments. It's not the best but could work. A tradtional blog won't work because others cannot comment on the comments.

A wiki, IMHO, would be a disaster!

Here is the problem with ning--first of all, all the kids have to be 13. Secondly the threads are "short". Let's say you posted a question and wanted 30 kids to respond. They could all respond....at this point all is well. BUT a limited # of commenters could then respond to the orignal comment (I think about 7). This is set by ning and cannot, as far as I know be changed. Let me know if I can help in any way. N

PS: FYI, teacher response to online book discussions takes hours a week.
What a swift and thorough response. Appreciate the advice.
Let me know if you want my honest opinion of online book discussions. haha. Have a good weekend, N.
That would be very helpful, when you have the time.
I teach gifted elementary students and have done about 8 different book discussions over the last 5 years using at first Blackboard and then Moodle. We read at least one SPECTACULAR book a semester (students come once a week). The platforms work about the same. I search the internet for high level book discussion questions (synthesis, analysis, and evaluation) and get permission from the author to use them. Why re-invent the wheel? I post each of the questions and have set up formal "rules" for responding, the goal being improved writing skills and improved reflective and critical thinking.

You can see our book discussions here http://www.smsdonline.org/login/index.php and use baguest for username and password.

OK, here are my editorial comments: None of the kids "love" it", they tolerate it. They will do it because I assign it. Their written responses have improved over time but they do not seem to do a lot of thinking before answering the questions. Generally the responses are mediocre no matter how much they loved the book, I get 1000 times more out of them orally. I respond to each entry and ask them to respond to each other, my comments and theirs seem shallow and repetitive. Even the kids that "love" to write, don't get off on answering the questions. I guess it is no different to them than answering the questions at the end of the chapter in a basal reader.

I've taught gifted kids for 25 years and I see their writing skills taking a nose dive---I blame NCLB, since they never seem to write much in the regular classroom but the online book discussion hasn't been the answer.

The best outcome I had to online question/response activity was with a Philosophy unit I did with 6th graders, Using David White's book we discussion a philosophical question in a group, then they reflected about the discussion and how it related to their lives. Finally I got some deep thinking!

The kids are much more enthused about blogging, which you could do with another class. You could pose thought provoking questions like "What if electricity had been invented?" or "What would have happened if Walt Disney hadn't been born?" or "How would things be different if the South won the Civil War?" "Should all kids where school uniforms?" "at what age should a kid have a cellphone?" Then let them go at it, at least they'd have to think, organize their thoughts and reflect!! You can see our blog here http://areallydifferentplace.org .

So that's been my experience with online book discussions. It actually may be a better tool in the regular classroom since they have to answer the questions for a grade. In our gifted ed classroom we get much deeper reflection orally. Good luck and let me know how things turn out. N
I hear you.. in graduate school we used blackboard and we had discussion threads. Does that work for students?
We have a blog A Really Different Place with threaded discussions--not many earth shattering posts but does get a lot of participation with many more girls participating than boys.
On our marine biology Ning, we have been having a chapter by chapter discussion of The Enchanted Braid: Coming to Terms With Life on the Coral Reef by Osha Gray Davidson.

The author is such a super guy, he signed onto our Ning and pops in and out to comment periodically.
Pretty exciting stuff for the kids to see.

In fact, he mailed a fossil (one of the main "characters" in the book) to me to give to one of my students who spoke so fondly of it in his blog. There are photos on the site of Torin opening his gift. You also need to check out the letter... again, what a cool guy!

The connections we have made from just this site since summer are astounding- really.

The first time we did a book discussion on The City of Ember the author popped in, she was new then--now too busy! BUT it was really exciting! N
Just thought I would let everyone who so graciously replied to my question know, We decided to go with Moodle per Nancy's reflections. We are being very thougthful about structuring our questions and also decided on this platform because of the internal security of "our server". We just got up and running last week. I have enjoyed making the connection with the teacher in Texas, and hope that the kids get something positive out of the overall experience. If Ishmael Beah "drops in" that would be awesome. Great picture of Torin!
Good Luck, let me know what you think after your first discussion is over. N
Hello, recently the school nurse asked to run an online book discussion group.  I am now trying to decide Moodle vs Blog.  Any insight would be appreciated.



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