It has been 14 years since I first was introduced to the Internet by a high school student. I was the librarian for a small west Texas school district and there was a computer in the back of the library that had been set up to control a satellite dish for receiving state deaprtment of education broadcasts. The computer had a 300 baud modem. The English teachers son,Kevin, sat glued to the monitor as if some great sports contest were playing out before him.
As I walked up behind him inquiring what he was dooing, I sensed that something important was going on here. He gave me a quick introduction to a non GUI Internet and the "new" World Wide Web. Indeed it was something important, and I soon had my first email address courtesy of the State of Texas. firstname.lastname@example.org! I had 45 minutes of computer time with an 1-800 number. I realized that other teachers were not going to use their 45 minutes, and I signed them up for their 45 minutes and found myself with several hours of online time each night. I was quick to realize the potential for my rural library. I could telnet into the Texas Tech Library and find documents, communicate with experts in my field, and other librarians around the world. My high school students communitcated with real people across the world!
Soon the sound of the dial-up connection with its static followed by those bell-like tones was one of the most satisfying sounds in my world! I used that time to explore and learn not only about the technology, but also about how it was changing the most basic understandings of human interaction.
I joined LM_NET when it was still only 5,000 users! I was learning to utilize a computer for many things, and was begining to understand how it worked -- soon I was deleting directories, messing with cmos, and wiping a hard drive infected with a computer virus, stringing wires for a network and using Netware to assign permissions to groups of students and teachers. A large part of my learning came courtesy of IBM's tech support number --- People everywhere were eager to help me learn the skills I needed to be as productive as possible with the technology available to me.
I recall a conversation with my superintendent asked me how this new technology was different from a piece of chalk and a chalkboard....or an overhead projector......hm....Where to begin.....
Yet 14 years later, and a world where ubiquitous use of technology should have changed even education, I find many educators' attitudes toward technology, change, and teaching untouched. The resistance to technology is futile. The refusal to change how we teach is the saddest reality. While the first is a mystery to me the second is clearly rooted in the standardized testing mentality of the current administration.
Those were heady days when the internet was not GUI, when most users were not commercial entities, when there was the sense of riding a sea change in attitudes about sharing information and wisdom as a community of users who believed in the greater good was the paradigm.
Now there seems to be a calloused attitude toward technology and we appear to be no further in the process of integrating it into our daily living at school.
Except, of course for the children!!