The Computer That Started It All

Picture of an Macintosh LC II computer from 1990.
The Macintosh LC II. Introduced October 15, 1990 with a retail price of $2500.00!

This is literally the computer that started it all for me. The very first computer that created my love for computers, technology, and helping others learn about and be more comfortable with technology. This computer came out in 1990, and it was the first computer my mom had to use in her classroom. I was in 9th grade I believe when this picture was taken which was the 91-92 school year (I’m using the picture with friends sitting on top of my desk as a reference point ?). How about that wide assortment of cologne too?! Oh middle school and high school sure was fun…but I digress.

Since this was a computer provided to my mom for use in her classroom, which was a big deal in and of itself, teachers were allowed to take their computer home over extended breaks and during the summer. Thinking back, that was a really big deal that teachers were allowed to do this; especially now when we consider what we have in our pockets every day and how we effortlessly take our computers anywhere we want! So since the computer came to my home any chance I could get, when it was at home it became my computer.

I connected everything, fired that thing up, and I was instantly in a new world. No, not because of the internet, because I was using a technology that prior to being 14/15 years old I hadn’t had any real exposure to. I was obsessed with knowing everything there was to know about what that machine could do. There weren’t any YouTube videos to teach me; I had to explore, try, mess up, and try again. I quickly mastered the basics and was soon teaching my mom everything she needed to know for day to day productivity and also some fun things too (hello Print Shop!).

Pretty soon, my mom was loaning me out to the other teachers at school. Mind you, I went to the same middle school my mom taught at. So when mom told me she was taking me over to a teacher’s house on the weekend to help them with their computer skills, I felt pretty amazing that I was going to be teaching them something!

This one particular moment in my life is where my love for computers, technology, and teaching others about it began. Completely unplanned, unintentional, and nothing I learned about in a formal way.

I wish I would have had more opportunities to learn that way growing up. It was all so linear and locked into such traditional means. We all now have a multitude of ways to learn on our own time and in our own way, and sometimes that doesn’t have to only happen inside of a physical school building or during “normal” school hours. I’m not insinuating we should depart from “normal” education as we know it, but when we can learn in real-time or at our own speed, by ourselves or in a group, across a wide range of media, maybe it’s time to rethink some things.

Diagnosing Learning

I recently started watching a new Netflix series called Diagnosis. Dr. Lisa Sanders has written a column for the New York Times about peoples’ undiagnosed medical conditions to seek feedback from the greater community since 2002. This has now been turned into a Netflix documentary series, with each episode following the life of an individual with a medical condition that has never been diagnosed.

I was hooked within minutes of the first episode. Not because of the person’s unusual medical situation (while interesting) but the way they approached getting this person an official diagnosis for a condition that has been plaguing the patient for years. No longer was Dr. Sanders’ column just one-way communication, but now they are encouraging readers to interact with the column more than ever; specifically through a recorded video message to share their thoughts on what the person’s condition could actually be. It is all about casting a wide net for help and leaning heavily on the collective knowledge of “the room”, or in this case, the entire world. It was fascinating to see the high level of response the young lady in episode 1 received about her condition, within the United States and well beyond our country or our continent.

Both the doctor and the patient were fascinated and overwhelmed with the level of response they received. As an educator, I have encouraged and watched other educators do this to grow themselves professionally for over 10 years. In our age of information abundance and connectedness, we have the ability to learn from anyone at any time; not just in a physical classroom at a physical school building. While the results were fantastic in this documentary, it felt like the medical profession is behind here. Are doctors not encouraged to do this to better themselves and better help their patients? Why is this still treated as an anomaly as we approach 2020?

Image of the Earth with a connected wireframe laid on top of it.

Then this got me thinking on a “big picture” level about how this relates to teaching & learning. Are we creating opportunities for our students to reach beyond direct instruction and seek out learning opportunities elsewhere? What would happen if we encouraged this more? Students have lots of networks built up through the various mediums they use, but are we showing them (and allowing them to leverage) what’s truly possible? Which type of learning fosters more inquiry and creativity? We must think about what we want for our students and give them the opportunities they need to flourish.