A few friends and I have been working at a startup building a tool for very large conversations online. We've only recently introduced it to the world of education, and we are very excited at the possibilities. Students as young as eighth grade have found it easy enough to use. The importance of this type of technology is that it challenges students how to really think about what they want to say; that sounds simple, but the results are surprising.
It can be used when teachers want to facilitate a conversation among students so that they can provide feedback on each other's ideas. It's particularly useful for conversations between students in different classes and students in different schools.
Up until now, most of our work has been for federal agencies here in Washington, DC. The PA Department of Education just started testing DeepDebate last week, so very few people in the world of education know about our tool. If any of the members of this network are interested in using it, we'd be happy to donate our services pro bono :)
Here's what the teachers had to say
after they used our software. Here's a video of what the students had to say
DeepDebate.Org can be embedded right into other tools like Moodle and Wikispaces so there is no need for students to go to another URL.
We're particularly interested in connecting classrooms across the US (and elsewhere) in class-to-class conversations. It could be fascinating to see how students from different backgrounds in different parts of the country would communicate with each other.
If you're interested, please reach out and let us know! More information can be found here