I guess I should have left well enough alone, but instead, I made the mistake of accurately calculating how long I have actually been involved in computers. I had been reading about computers since I was a technically obsessed kid, but it was 40 years ago when I finally got to use one for the first time in a first year physics class. Now I really feel old!
Professionally, I have only been using computers for about 35 years, but my Architectural Design business on Vancouver Island in the early 1990’s was considered “leading-edge”. (Vancouver Island is like a time capsule - a bit behind the rest of the world). While most of my competitors were still using linear deposition printers, pumice-impregnated vulcanized rubber “un-do” mechanisms, and paper, I was well entrenched in Computer Aided Drafting & Design. The technology allowed me to produce a much more accurate product in a much shorter time frame, and in very short order I had an impressive list of commercial and residential clients, which included a Hollywood movie producer, and the owner of an airline.
Computer Drafting & Design is one area that can truly demonstrate the power of technology. I remember showing off my first CADD program to my father whose business interests included a metal fabrication shop. One of the product lines we manufactured was spare tire mounts for trucks and SUV’s. Traditionally, this involved manually creating cardboard templates using compasses, dividers, and various formulae, a process which would have to be repeated for each make and model of vehicle, wheel size, and bolt pattern. Using my new CADD program I was able, in a matter of a few seconds, to re-create one of the more difficult patterns, and print out a template that would have taken ages to do manually. My dad was instantly sold on the technology.
As much of an advocate for technology that I may be, I am also the first to admit that technology is not the ‘be all and end all’, and does have its place, as do many traditional methods of doing things. To keep my technological obsession and dependency in check, I have a few ‘close to home’ recollections of the hazards of placing too much dependence on technology, and too little importance on tradition.
Another memory comes to mind. My wife did the book keeping for her church. One day after service a parishioner asked the pastor if he could get some financial information for a project he was working on for the church. The pastor explained that he would have to go home to his office, boot up his computer, print out the information, and email it to him. My wife, overhearing the conversation, walked over to a file cabinet, opened a drawer, copied the information to a Post-it note, and handed it to him.
The moral of these stories? Don’t toss out the old for the new, just for the sake of being new. Also, keep in mind that technology is a tool. If you have to search out a reason to use it, rather than use it as a solution to an existing problem, you are probably taking the wrong approach. Technology in whatever form, whether it’s an old cell phone with a still-functioning camera, or a 3D printer, (I still want one, Ron, if you’re reading this), can be amazing and allow you to do things in a way never before imagined, but don’t sell yourself short. As a classroom teacher you have already been doing amazing things, with paper, crayons, blocks, the human voice… whatever. Don’t discount or give up on processes and little tricks that have worked for years, and will still work, (even if the power goes out), just for the sake of jumping on a technology bandwagon. But continue to explore and educate yourself in technology, and be prepared to try something new if you think that it will improve your classroom, and allow you to do something never before imagined, or improve something you already do.