Looking For AskMe Threads I Can Show 10 Year Olds
February 5, 2007 9:45 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for Askme threads -- or other blog/conferencing threads -- that I can show my fifth graders as examples of what's good about this (conferencing) medium.

I'm a teacher in a public elementary school and I'm running a pretty fun project. I've got a group of 5th graders corresponding with each other in a conference I set up on nicenet.org. I'm trying to figure out how to help kids develop the kinds of thoughtful, responsive writing that we often see on AskMe. I have a few postulates:

There has to be some *content* (simple chat could not be more boring)
There has to be some room for *disagreement*
The users must support their ideas with evidence and examples, and
The users must *read and respond to other's posts* instead of simply stating their own opinions.

Anyway, I've been trying this experiment over and over the last few years, with remarkably little success. The kids have fun for a while, but no significant exchange of ideas occurs and after a few weeks they stop contributing. This year I'm working a little harder at it, have met with the kids a couple times and shared my ideas about what makes this medium work, and it's definitely working better than it has in the past. I've decided what the kids need is a couple really rocking examples of conferences that have a lively exchange of ideas; some non-flaming conflict, writers that blow away the obfuscation with clear, simple, pithy posts; you know, all the stuff we love about AskMetafilter.

So- if you have the time to help me, I'm looking for at least one and at most five conference topics that exemplify the traits above, further filtered down by their ability to be comprehended by a group of bright fifth graders. Oh, and closed threads are fine, we're not going to be contributing or anything.
posted by carterk to Education (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Actually, I could use threads from any blog or conference- not just AskMe.
posted by carterk at 9:59 PM on February 5, 2007

Have you considered allowing live MeFites to post in your nicenet.org threads? I for one would be happy to spend some time composing condescending snarky flames clear, simple, pithy posts for the benefit of bright fifth graders.
posted by flabdablet at 10:15 PM on February 5, 2007

I had the same idea as flabdablet before I even read his comment. There's no better teacher than experience! just imagine how much they'll learn having their own obfuscation blown away.
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:44 PM on February 5, 2007

I have to third flabdablet's idea. I'd be interested in that too.
posted by saraswati at 10:51 PM on February 5, 2007

That means they're about 11 years old? I wouldn't introduce them to this site at all, where if they search they can read about creepy weird adult stuff I doubt their parents would want their teacher leading them in the general direction of. Not that I have kids or care, but really I'm just thinking it's not a good idea for you.
posted by Listener at 11:23 PM on February 5, 2007

Everybody's right: AskMe isn't a safe place for young kids, and Mefites, myself included, would be willing to participate in your nicenet experiment.

Perhaps there are some Askme questions that could be brought to your nicenet site as starting points for opening dialogue, though.
posted by padraigin at 11:33 PM on February 5, 2007

Response by poster: Ok, so I really appreciate y'all's offers to jump in and participate in my conference. And I may try to find a way to make that work. But there are actually some good reasons for my original request.

#1- these are *children*. I have permission from the parents to have the kids participate, and those permission slips state that only the kids and I- a teacher who they know and presumably trust- will read and post on the site. I cannot have strangers participating without violating that agreement or having parents sign a new one (possible!). However, to many parents, "I've never met them" = perverted hyperviolent pornographers. So it's problematic.

#2- the kids have a feeling of ownership and community which might be violated by inviting strangers to participate. Hell, right now they're leaning against allowing more kids to join- kids that didn't get in on the first wave because they hadn't brough their permission slips in earlier.

#3 You think I'm introducing kids to this site? Not a chance in hell! If I get a a thread I can use for them I'll be copying and pasting to a word processor. *I've asked more than a couple personal questions here* so no way am I risking bringing my kids here. I'm a *trained professional* and damn good at what I do.

Ahem. So I *really appreciate* the offers to post on nicenet and absolutely understand your best intentions. And it's a good idea! But how about first, I find a couple good threads as models to give them something to strive for?
posted by carterk at 11:50 PM on February 5, 2007

Response by poster: actually, that should read "I've never met them" + internet = perverted hyperviolent pornographers. Sorry.
posted by carterk at 11:51 PM on February 5, 2007

Yeah, that's a perfectly reasonable response to a pretty ridiculous suggestion.

Honestly before my first answer I spent a few minutes thinking so I could post something actually useful and I came up empty. This is a stumper of a question, mostly because the type of threads you're looking for don't tend to be that memorable (at least for me). And it's not like you can search for them either. My best advice is to monitor AskMe for a few weeks and watch the Popular Favorites page.

Oh, and it just occured to me that this belongs in MetaTalk since it's about Metafilter... if this thread doesn't really pan out maybe you can try again over there.
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:32 AM on February 6, 2007

How about these, maybe with a small amount of editing:

- What questions should we ask a potential babysitter? There's a little back-and-forth about whether babysitters should know how to perform CPR, and I imagine babysitting is a topic where your students have a bit of experience.

- What products should be modified for disabled people to use them more easily? A little back and forth about closed captioning, some nicely written responses, a topic where the kids might have their own ideas.

- Help me solve this IQ test puzzle There are lots of threads about trying to solve puzzles; I'm guessing some of these have nice exchanges and collaboration of the sort you're looking for, plus the kids can play along too. Click on the "puzzle" tag for a long list of them.

- How can we know if other people see the same colors that we see?

- If we have no free will, can we be morally good or bad? This and the previous question are enduring philosophical questions that allow a good discussion, with strong arguments on both sides. Both are long threads, but you can edit them down to show the strands of discussion that work best. You might try the "religion and philosophy" category for other questions of this sort.

- Good jokes for a 6-year old? (Not much back and forth, but some appreciative comments, and just a fun thread)
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:11 AM on February 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

How about the recent thread on the blue about "In My Language"? You may need to precede it with a viewing of the video, but that wouldn't be a bad thing for 5th graders to experience either. Could be especially interesting if you have autistic kids in your class/school to contribute to the discussion, or perhaps you could ask silentmiaow to chime in herself?
posted by Rock Steady at 6:15 AM on February 6, 2007

If your class is heavy on boys, how about one of the classic zombie threads, or maybe that room-full-of-vicious-5-year-olds thread I can't find at the moment?
posted by Pinback at 7:11 AM on February 6, 2007

Mod note: I expanded the main question to not just be about AskMe
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:48 AM on February 6, 2007

This recent one on Bread and Honey has the elements you're looking for.
posted by tkolar at 9:57 AM on February 6, 2007

Also, this Metatalk thread should lead you to a plethora of links that demonstrate the power of casting a wide net when asking questions, and the importance of letting everyone participate.
posted by tkolar at 10:03 AM on February 6, 2007

Oh yeah, this is definitely *not* a thread that meets your criteria (in particular virtually no one read each other's comments) but if you're looking to get kids jazzed up about the medium, the fact that Adam Savage asked for help coming up with myths for a Mythbuster show in a community forum should be worth mentioning.

In fact, reposting that question to your forum with the promise that you'll submit the best answers back to AskMe thread would probably liven things up a lot for you...
posted by tkolar at 10:17 AM on February 6, 2007

Maybe a slightly different style but this one has been marked as a favourite by 55 people and it has an amazing feel of "common issue for all of humanity" - Might spark a few ideas and acceptance of the hive mentality?
posted by pettins at 11:26 AM on February 6, 2007

This particular perverted hyperviolent pornographer is still willing to participate, if you can find a moderation scheme that makes it acceptable to do so. Email's in my profile.
posted by flabdablet at 6:36 PM on February 7, 2007

You think I'm introducing kids to this site? Not a chance in hell! If I get a a thread I can use for them I'll be copying and pasting to a word processor.

After posting, I realized you probably intended that and that I had assumed incorrectly. Then again, there are ditzy teachers, too, and I don't know you. :)
posted by Listener at 12:55 AM on February 8, 2007

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