Classtalk Grows Up!

     Spring '99 marks the third anniversary of the delivery of the very first production Classtalk system, and now we can definitely say that Classtalk has grown up. There are two signs that I would like to point to, that show this to be true. First we, have had one call this semester to report a system crash or software bug. Second, the pedagogy is catching up with the software and there are now many users actively teaching with some of the advanced features that were designed and built into the system.

There are also other signs. So much of our early experience & reputation came from Physics taught in large lecture halls by the Eric Mazur's of the work, that the revolution in smaller classrooms has slipped by almost unnoticed. There are some important distinctions to make between teaching in smaller classrooms and facing a class of 250 to 500 students, and these differences are reflected in the pedagogy. For example, did you know that,

  • we have some users who almost never use multiple-choice questions,
  • that some teachers don't focus on whether student's answer are "right" or "wrong, but on the thinking behind them, and that some questions do not have right answers,
  • the record for student achievement gains with Classtalk, come not from university physics but from inner city 5th grade reading comprehension,
  • a whole pre-law course was taught only with questions, small-group work, and class discussion (ZERO lecturing),
  • that the two biggest Classtalk sites (the US Naval Academy and McIntosh Elementary School - seven and ten classrooms respectively) are exclusively SMALL classes,
  • that discovery-based learning and Socratic teaching can work together in ways no-one imagined a year ago,
  • that the disciplines using Classtalk include physics, chemistry, biology, sociology, mathematics, political science, pre-law, psychology, reading comprehension, business negotiation, and history.

Unquestionably, these results vindicate our ambition to expand on the power and flexibility of Classtalk. But, we're nowhere near the end. Stay tuned as we continue to grow mature!


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