Karl Fisch sent me an invitation to 'live blog' with students at Arapahoe High School as they discuss Dan Pink's book, A Whole New Mind.
In his email he described:
"We will be using a discussion technique in class called Fishbowl with Live Blogging. Fishbowl is a discussion method similar to Socratic seminar where students participate in either an inner or outer circle. Inner circle participants are in charge of leading the discussion of AWNM, actively facilitating a discussion using critical analysis, asking in-depth questions, redirecting responses, discussing the assigned text, etc. Traditionally the outer circle listened to the inner circle discussion, took notes and turned them in to the teacher. Now we are having the outer circle participants live blog their thoughts and questions. The inner and outer circle's conversations sometimes intersect and sometimes diverge, but are always amazingly rich."
I was a little unsure about this but hopped on board last night (morning for Arapahoe) and joined Dean Shareski, Darren Draper, Karl, and a class of Grade 9 students with teacher Anne Smith as they discussed Chapter 4: Design.
A class blog post had been set up and as we listened to the live conversation by the 'inner circle' the outer circle (educators and outer students) posted comments to this post. We used an online tool called MeBeam with success to webcam the educators and the physical classroom together.
Here is an image of participants using MeBeam with the blog comment window open as well.
Here is the blog post where you can read over 200 comments made during the session. A wiki sets out the schedule for the remainder of the live blogging sessions up until February 22.
I was most impressed with the students and the fishbowl method. This is another exciting venture into fostering a global perception and lowering the walls of the classroom. Students and teachers interacted and conversed via the blog while the inner circle also could see our comments as they drew some of these into their conversation, which we heard through the audio facility of MeBeam
I must tell you a little secret, I thought Karl was the founder of the fishbowl method....you know fisch, fischbowl etc....luckily my spouse who is very familiar with this method of discussion due to the many Philosophy for Children classes he has organised, set me straight. After a little research I now understand and fully believe the traditional fishbowl method is being enhanced by the use online technology tools, such as a blog. These comments from a student at Arapahoe at a completely different session last year reinforce the power this method/technology has to promote structured thinking and independent responses during discussion.
Also, read Anne Smith's blog about the development of the fishbowl method in her classes. Fishbowl 101 describes the emerging structures that encourage students to think at a higher level and to be systematic in their approach to discussion and interaction. In Anne's words:
"I decided that students would need to know how to ask good questions (higher level thinking questions), how to facilitate a conversation while still being able to get their point across, how to manage the classroom, how to look for criticism and understand the criticism they found, as well as actually understand what they read.
After much refinement, discussion, trial and error, and more trial and error as well as feedback from that first group of seniors ( the feedback is essential every year to tweak it to what best benefits the students), the fishbowl emerged."
Congratulations to Karl and Anne and the other educators and students at Arapahoe for their initiatives. I really enjoyed being a part of the session and it has given me lots of ideas to try something like this myself.
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