Hi, I’m Karl Fisch. I’ve been an educator for 20 years, starting as a math teacher (both middle and high school) and now as Director of Technology at Arapahoe High School. In the interest of building community, and giving you some context when I post or comment, I thought I would share a little bit about myself.

I was born in Michigan, but moved to Kentucky when I was nine and grew up there. Both my parents were educators, with my Dad teaching at the college level and my Mom being an elementary school librarian. I started college thinking I was going to be an engineer (I wanted to work – and fly on – the space shuttle), figuring I would become a teacher a little later in life after having “a real job.” (Hey, that phrase was about as rebellious as I got, trying not to go into the family business of education.)

But during freshmen year in college I became more and more convinced that teaching was what I wanted to do and I didn’t want to wait, so I switched colleges , changed majors, and became the proud owner of a college degree in mathematics education. I had vacationed in Colorado during high school and said, “When I grow up, I want to move to Colorado.” So, right after college, my wife (high school sweetheart, elementary education major, currently teaching first grade) and I decided to move to Colorado without jobs. Not the most financially savvy move, but eventually we both got teaching jobs.

After teaching middle school math for three years, I came to Arapahoe High School in the fall of 1991 to teach math, everything from Basic Skills Math up through Honors Trig/Pre-Calculus. AHS is in many ways a fairly typical suburban high school. We’re located in Centennial, a city just south of Denver (part of the Denver metro area), and are part of Littleton Public Schools. We have over 2100 students grades 9-12, mostly middle to upper middle class, and a staff of about 160 (about 115 teachers). Our students are great, our parents and community are well-educated and very supportive, and we have an excellent staff. Arapahoe is a comprehensive high school, with a plethora of course offerings and many athletics and activities. Our student body is very active and involved – as one example, over 10% of our students are on the cross-country team. Typically around 93% of our graduating seniors go on to higher education.

But in other ways AHS is atypical. We have a unique relationship with the Arapaho tribe . We also run a variable schedule, which is very similar to a college schedule. We have classes that meet five days a week, but also classes that meet only MWF, or TR, or MTWF, and so on. Our students have “unscheduled hours” where they pretty much have the freedom to choose what they’d like to do during that time (work on homework in the cafeteria or media center, visit with teachers in the department offices, just hang out and talk with friends, or even leave campus to go home or get something to eat – we have an open campus). Our philosophy is to have high expectations of students and then help them to live up to those expectations. We consistently hear from returning students how well prepared they are to handle the freedom of college compared to many of their peers from other schools.

In the spring of 1994 my administration approached me and said, “We hear you know a little bit about computers.” Student-information systems were just hitting schools (SASI for us at that time, now we’re on Infinite Campus) and they needed somebody at the building level to help staff work with the software. So I went eight-tenths math and two-tenths technology (released from teaching one of my math classes), which then grew after a couple of years to half math and half technology, and then as the onslaught of technology hit schools (at least my school) in the late 1990’s, they freed up enough FTE to make me full time Director of Technology.

That’s a fancy title – most schools would call me a building-level technology coordinator (but I’m keeping the title, it makes my Mom happy). I’m responsible for all the technology “stuff” – purchasing it, setting it up, and keeping it running. But the more important part of my job is helping teachers and students use the technology to more effectively teach and learn. We were lucky enough to receive two fairly large grants (.doc) in 2005 that allowed us to implement a staff development effort we call 21C, or 21st Century Learners. This was teachers teaching teachers, working together to learn, collaborate and figure out how best to meet the needs of our students in the 21st century.

About a year before receiving those grants, I read an article somewhere about this teacher in New Jersey, Rich Wilkerson or something like that :-). I started reading his blog and suddenly found myself learning from the read/write web in a way that I didn’t know was even possible (probably because it wasn’t really possible before, at least not in this manner). So by the time our staff development started, I was ready to jump into this new world of “Web 2.0” and started my blog, which was designed to “extend the conversations” from our face-to-face staff development sessions. Since then, I guess I’ve never looked back. It’s been an amazing journey of personal learning for me, and I hope I’ve helped a few other folks – educators, students and others - learn along the way. (And, with all seriousness, it started with Will. I can’t thank him enough.)

I’m honored and excited to be part of the ADVIS PLP cohort and am looking forward to being part of the conversations within this learning community. A word of warning – I sometimes get pretty passionate about this stuff. I desperately want this for all students, but it’s also personal for me, so I sometimes get perhaps too passionate – please forgive me when I do.

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Blog: The Fischbowl
Email: karlfisch {at} gmail {dot} com
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Skype: karlfisch