My interests in learning, literature, and technology first started in 1969, when Sesame Street premiered. The show was designed for me, and I was the target audience. Two years old, and mesmerized by these puppet characters singing songs and teaching. I was hooked, and it started a life long love affair with learning. We had 4 channels on our wooden console television, and I watched Sesame Street every weekday morning, and looked forward to The Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights … a family ritual.
I was an avid reader and consumed all the children’s books in the school and public libraries in our small town. When my parents purchased encyclopedias, I read through The New Book of Knowledge from A to Z, revisiting areas of interest over and over. I started learning to type on our manual typewriter when I was seven and found my mother’s old typing practice book. My first experience with the evolving nature of technology was playing Pong on our television, and programming the VCR clock for my parents, after many years of trying to convince them to even get a television with remote control (my father often joked that he already had 4 remote controls … his four kids!). I became the technology person in the household, doing the research and convincing my parents what we needed. I got my first Sony Walkman at 12 years old, and helped my mother choose her first stereo turntable system with massive speakers. I chose our Atari and ColecoVision game systems, and set everything up.
I grew up in a generation that sustained the music industry. I purchased music on vinyl, then again on 8 track, cassette tapes, CDs, and MP3s. The first album I ever purchased was the Grease soundtrack, and I last downloaded an album by John Boutte from iTunes while I was listening to him outdoors on the hill at the Edmonton Folk Festival in August.
When we got our first computers in school, I was in grade 11. They were Apple 2E’s, and I founded the computer club and started helping everyone to learn how to program in Basic and Logo Turtle. Since then, I have actively explored how to use computers in my work as an educator, starting with the early days of a mish-mashed set of donated machines that students used to compose and edit on, saving their work on floppy disks.
Jim Henson passed away in 1990, after I graduated from university and was preparing to become a teacher and welcome my son into the world. His death had a profound impact – so sudden, so tragic. I wanted my son to grow up with the magic that the Muppets provided me growing up, to develop a sense of wonder about the world and a love for reading and learning. This summer, in a fit of nostalgia, I explored old Sesame Street tunes through iTunes and YouTube, and ended up ordering online Sesame Street Classic and The Muppet Show DVDs. I then watched clips of Henson’s funeral on YouTube and cried like a baby… Big Bird walking out solemnly to sing “Bein’ Green” absolutely broke me.
As I think about my daily use of technology for teaching and learning, I keep the messages of Jim Henson and the Muppets with me, about capturing the attention and imagination of children. I am a digital immigrant … I have known a life before computers. I have no fear of technology, but I am cautious and consider the needs of my students before jumping into something new. I am not an early adopter, and will explore extensively before deciding how to bring technology into the classroom in a way that is meaningful and powerful.
I love the Internet – I sometimes believe it was invented for me, that kid who read through The New Book of Knowledge every summer, finished every book in the library, and wanted to know more about the world. I love having access to information at my fingertips, via my work computer, laptop, or iPhone. However, I have been a reader and lurker, rather than a participant online, and this course is encouraging me to step into a new world of experiencing the world wide web.
“Why are there so many
songs about rainbows
and what’s on the other side?”
I am eager to explore what’s on the other side of Web 2.0, and how this might enhance the work I do with students and teachers.