Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Learning at the Speed of Thought

Monday was an interesting day around here. First, we had two visitors to one of our classrooms using the wireless laptops. They observed a fishbowl discussion with live blogging in the outer circle. (For those of you not at Arapahoe, fishbowl is a discussion technique we use that works very well - with or without laptops.) Both of the visitors were very impressed with the discussion students had (they were discussing Fahrenheit 451). They were impressed not only with the level of discussion, but the level of student engagement as well. They were also impressed with the use of the laptops - the way the outer circle was able to merge in and out with the inner circle through live blogging. Where ideas and questions they posed in their blogging were both integrated into the inner circle discussion, but also allowed the outer circle to extend the discussion in different directions.

One technical issue arose, however, as it appears as though Blogger temporarily blocked our computers from commenting on the blog - via IP address. After 152 or so comments, suddenly commenting was blocked from our computers - but not from outside. We think Blogger automatically suspected an attack was occuring on the blog, with 150 or so comments coming from one IP address (we funnel through a proxy server) in a short period of time. It's actually pretty cool that it could do that, even if that causes problems for us. It's unblocked now, so we'll see if it happens again (we've reached 200 comments before in a live blogging session without getting blocked, but maybe they've added a new algorithm to detect potential abuse).

The first visitor was Dan Maas, our district's CIO. This was his second visit - which we very much appreciate - and he participated in the fishbowl - submitting questions and thoughts via the live blogging. Very cool. We're thinking that in the future we'll try notifying parents of when and where (URL) the live blogging part of the discussion is taking place so that they can attend - and possibly participate - virtually. Even though they won't hear the inner circle discussion, they can still get the flavor of the discussion through the live blogging. (I even have thoughts of "broadcasting" the audio of the fishbowl live via Skype, but that will have to wait for a while.)

Our second visitor didn't participate in the live blogging, but shared his thoughts later.
I want to thank you and your students for a fantastic learning experience. The multiple iterations of question/inquiry/response gave me insight into the depth, sophistication and intelligence of the class. Well done by all!
It was learning at the speed of thought.
Who was that second visitor? Scott Murphy - our Superintendent. He posted some questions of his own on the blog later in the day and the students have been responding to them since.

But wait, as if that wasn't enough, I received an email from Stan Scheer - our previous Superintendent - later that night. Stan is now Superintendent in Murrieta, California, and sent me this note:
Karl--I recently connected with the Fischbowl and that wonderful future's presentation [Did You Know] you provided. I sent the kindergartners of the Class of 2019 here in Murrieta a letter recently with the point being, we need to take it up a notch for these kids given the facts provided in your presentation.

. . .
Nicely done. I plan on making your media presentation a part of my superintendent's remarks at my next board meeting here in Murrieta. Thanks for giving permission from the blog to use this.

Exciting but challenging times. Sounds like you are well on your way at Arapahoe . . . I am so pleased that you all are carrying on with this important work. You are having such a wonderful impact on students there. Thank you.

Have a great year. Stan
So, I guess it was a two-Superintendent day here at Arapahoe. Not bad for a Monday.


  1. Karl,

    Thanks to you and Anne for sharing your work with Scott Murphy and me this month. I was blogging with the students when the blogger locked us out. What fun that our classroom conversation became so active that the server shut us down. Talk about student engagement!

    Keep up the great work and collect these stories. We will need them as source material if we are to make quantum leaps in educational practices.

    -Dan Maas

  2. I'm wondering what grade-level these students are? Does the instructor see the same level in quality of discussion/focus and maturity across grades?

    -Mason Gregg

  3. Mason - these were freshmen.

  4. I recently came across your blog and have been very interested in your use of blogging in the classroom. Thank you for sharing what you have been accomplishing.

    Do you have a post which describes your fishbowl discussions and how they work? If not would you mind sharing that?

  5. Kimberly,

    It took us a few days, but Anne has a post up about the fishbowl.