My earliest interaction with technology at school was with a single computer at the back of each classroom in elementary school. For the most part it went unused, but every so often we took turns playing the game Lemmings on it when there was extra time. After elementary school, most of my memories are of word processing, typing classes, internet research projects, etc.. The one technology I remember very positively from throughout school was the use of video cameras. I was part of several group movie projects over the years that I still have VHS copies of. I remember them as unique (at the time) highly engaging, collaborative projects that really captured our interest and imagination.
One of my first experiences with technology was when my family got our very own (massive) desktop. At this point I’m not even sure that there was internet but it allowed my mom to type documents for her class. I really did not have much interest in it until I was given the computer game Putt Putt. Putt Putt was a little purple car that lived in a neighbourhood of cars and he did little jobs like cutting the grass to pay for money. You had to move the computer arrows, up, down, left and right to make sure you cut all of the grass. For each lawn you cut, you earned money which you could then spend on things like getting a new paint job! I was overly fascinated with this game.
Next came The Sims which was a more grown-up version of Putt Putt where you had to take care of the people in the house (first by building and designing a house which was my favourite part). Then you had to do chores, make sure you got to work on time (without missing the bus), make and keep friendships. I remember thinking, this is just too cool. I am completely in charge of whether or not this ‘person’ fails or succeeds at life, all my controlling it through my computer. Perhaps a little melodramatic but it really gave me insight into what a fascinating piece of machinery the computer was. It is so interesting now to talk to students in my class and see there reactions about not having a computer or even, gasp, no internet! They simply cannot understand a world in where internet has never existed. It really makes me excited for the future and to see where technology will bring us. Currently, I am really fascinated with Augmented Reality (AR) and would love to see, first hand, how it can change classrooms!
My first vivid encounter, well the one that first came to mind, with technology around education would be attempting to register into my first year of courses in my Bachelors. Young and excited to register, I had my list and my time and I started dialing at just the right moment. It wouldn’t work. I tried again, still no success. In panic that I wouldn’t get the classes I needed I remember driving to the swimming pool I worked at as a lifeguard and stood in the middle of the pool deck office and successfully registered for my classes. The problem, we didn’t have a touch tone phone. That sense of despair and panic in those moments are something I keep close as I navigate introducing new technologies in my classroom and school. Maintaining a focus on using a supportive and varied entry-leveled approach to ensure greater success for all.
Thinking back, way back, I recall making the trek down the elementary school hall to the “computer lab”. Initially I was excited to get the opportunity to go to the computer lab and “play” a variety of educational games. However, the grayness of the “machines” and keyboards, the bland countertops, the stark fluorescent lighting, and uncomfortable wood stacking chairs (that gave us slivers) is still engrained in my mind. This original “lab” design stands in contrast to how we present technology to our students today (thankfully). I believe that part of the reason I was never interested in technology back then was that it was just so….bland. While my brother enjoyed the first Nintendo Gameboy and console, the shades of gray plastic (and the technology encased within) never appealed to me. Perhaps I’m just a sucker for marketing.
I remember the first time I was introduced to the internet (dial-up), in grade 7. Our teacher, Mr. Marshall, spoke about this strange information sharing system called the internet back in the day. I didn’t understand what he was talking about, or how it worked, but I do remember viewing the current locations of each dog sled team on a single computer. I remember listening to the computer trying to attempt to connect to the internet, bringing up a webpage, and all of us students were confused. My teacher was so excited, and we couldn’t understand why. When I think back on it, we were witnessing the change of education and the way we now live. My students don’t know how I survived without technology; ie. the internet, cellphones, iPads etc. I always explain to them that it wasn’t that long ago when all of these technologies came into play.
When I look back as a child playing so many of the “retro games” that the students in my class now can build with the new coding programs, I have one that definitely stands out. Fairytale Adventures was built for the Amiga 1000 gaming system in the mid 80’s and really was far ahead of its time in terms of an open world gaming experience. Guided by the actions you make you could follow the game’s quest system, or wander aimlessly around destroying skeletons, wraiths and monsters who liked to creepily pop out from behind bushes or under bridges, what more could a 10 year old ask for! The game had a sophisticated trading system, hunger/sleep gauge and the enemies grew fearful of you as you gained strength. Those immersive elements kept me playing that game for long hours much to the dismay of my parents. When I am looking at what I am doing in my classroom now with my students in our sandbox Minecraft worlds I often think back fondly to this game. I believe that open choice platform that the game was based on was far ahead of its time. It embodies for me the wonder, creativity and curiosity that digital media can bring to our lives. That ability to control your destiny (digitally) yet remain unpredictable resonated deeply with me. We now have the tools to bring those same possibilities into our classrooms, firmly rooted in educational practice.
In grade five, I remember the first time we were brought to the computer lab to use the computers. Prior to arriving, our teacher had asked us, “What do you want to be able to do on the computer?” I remember writing, ‘I want to learn how to use the internet.’ Shortly after, my parents bought our family’s first PC computer. I was navigating it immediately, troubleshooting and problem solving. Somehow or other, I accessed an online chat room and was introduced to my first experience with a virtual social community. I was fascinated that a machine could connect me with people in other countries. This experience was memorable because it folded over into my professional development. Twitter has become a platform I use daily to connect with teachers outside of my school community. My students have experienced the benefits of virtual communication as we have received ideas, resources, shared our projects, and even had the opportunity to live chat with the NBA on a virtual field trip. I am constantly amazed at the way technology connects professionals, allowing for professional development and collaboration.
I grew up with Vic-20, C-64, and the DOS prompt. My only real motivation, of course, was to play games. I recall practicing rhythmic breathing at dinner soas to finish ahead of my bros and race downstairs to be the first to get back on “Jumpman”. I grew up a bit, learned a smidge of programming and later left for England on an undergraduate exchange. Somehow, in the 10 months I was gone, the entire continent switched to Windows and Mac. Upon return, I found that my understanding of computer systems was radically compromised.
“Where’s the DOS prompt?”
I never truly recovered.
One of my first interactions with a computer was playing on a computer my mom brought home from work. The computer ran on DOS, and one of the first games I remember playing was Cisco Heat. Here is a YouTube video of the game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXUUf5qNATU
This was when I was 4-5 years old, and the first time I was exposed to a computer and computer games in general. Around this time, I was also introduced to the GameBoy, so really in general, my first interaction with technology was through games. One of the biggest impact that these devices had on me was that it taught me the importance of practice and perseverance. If I couldn’t beat a level in a game, I learned not to give up on it, and that if I kept trying, I would eventually succeed. I remember struggling in Cisco heat for a very long time before I managed to beat the first level, before I managed to get past it, after much repetition, and moved on.
My first memories of technology in an educational setting were in grade 3 or 4 when our class was corresponding with students from Australia. We were given an introduction on this thing called email and we could write letters about life in Canada and would receive responses from our ‘Pen Pals’ on the other side of the globe. In hindsight, I appreciate that my teacher would have explored email as a pedagogical tool to make the learning real when it would have been much easier to just have traditional English class.
Another highlight comes from the same class because once our weekly email was sent, we were allowed to explore Richard Scarry’s Busy Busy World. It was a computer game and I don’t remember much other than if you clicked on something it would react and possibly a speech bubble would say something. This was my only experience with Richard Scarry but now I often find I gravitate towards those stories in the library when helping my 4 year old pick out books.