Sunday, October 19, 2014

Computers: I Saw No Value In Them

I know just enough to be dangerous. Our tech guy at school, Brad Buscher, would agree with that—even though I never made my teacher home page the school main page like colleague Peggy Jones did a few years ago. No one still knows how that happened.

Like most Generation-Xers, I have a love-hate relationship with computers and other forms of technology.

It started in the spring of my senior year in 1984 when Hitchcock High School acquired some computers. This was back during the C-prompt days. Maybe pre-MS-Dos if there was such a time. See, I told you, I know just enough to be dangerous.

Poor Mr. Frank Podraza, he had to put up with my attitude. He was our football coach, principal, and my algebra teacher.

Frank Podraza in the HHS study hall room

My first memory of him is as a ref in one of our jr. high basketball games when I was 12-years-old. I tried to take out the ball after we had just made a basket. He said nothing and just gave me that you-dummy look. Guess I never held it against him because Mr. Podraza became one of my favorite high school teachers.

During my senior year, he was teaching us programming. Yes, computer programming. We had never even touched a computer, and we were learning programming. Big disconnect.

After a couple days of it, I told him, “I want to throw this thing out the window.” And our school was an old two-story brick building with no grass nearby, so it would have shattered the beast. I went on and on about how much money the school board wasted buying these things, and that I just might let a couple of them know since they went to my church. I saw no value in what the thing could do for me.

Me shaking the hand of LeRoy Gross, one of the board members who also attended my church.

Fast-forward a few months to the fall of my freshman year in college. I returned home and shocked Coach Podraza with these words, "I love computers."

You see, I never knew I could type a paper on the thing and print it out. And I would not have to retype an entire page because I forgot to leave room for my footnotes at the end of my research paper. Another thing, it wrapped the text. No hard carriage return.

Who taught me these wonderful tasks that a computer could do? Dana Davis, that’s who. He was our freshman orientation leader.

the guy who made me love computers

Dana was an upperclassman in charge of about a dozen or so of us on a weekly basis. We learned how to set margins, double-space, save to a floppy, and add that crazy perforated paper to the dot matrix printer. I was amazed at all it could do.

I must not have completely trusted the machine though because I typed all my philosophy papers that year on the electric typewriter my parents had gotten me while I was still in high school.

I loved to type. In fact, I even went to a business competition for it while in high school. Never placed, but I do remember achieving 90 words a minute with no errors one time in class. I credit piano playing for that speed.

Fast-forward a couple decades. I still love the computer and have learned to love the iPad, but not for the same reasons.

This week, teaching colleague Heather Potter and I present on how we use technology in our classrooms. She is talking about Google Classroom and the ShowMe app, and I am explaining how to differentiate assignments with the iPad app called Notability.

Notability, my favorite iPad app

It's my first professional presentation in 26 years of teaching. And if someone would have told me two years ago, when I did not want to go 1:1 with iPads, that I would be presenting at the Kansas State Department of Education's state-wide conference, I would have called you crazy. Click on the link, scroll to Wednesday at 8:30 on page 23, and you'll see it there in print. So cool. Heather and I are so pumped.

Like my mentor, Mr. Podraza, I had to overcome the learning curve. I am sure he was frustrated trying to make us see the relevance in what he was required to teach us, just as I have had to adjust to iPads and other forms of technology throughout the years.

I have matured, but my love-hate relationship with technology continues—only now instead of wanting to throw something out the window, I throw up my hands and say, “I think I’ll go be Amish." 

What are your earliest memories of the personal computer? How about when you learned to type? Did your teacher put fingernail polish on the keys and provide you with powdery paper to erase your errors on your research papers?

Writer's Note: to read about the purchase of my first personal computer, check out the post entitled, Dollars and Sense: A Lesson in Interest of a Different Kind.

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