Monday, February 4, 2013

My First Brushes With Technology

"Mom, what are you doing?"
"Trying to crack the password on this computer. Your aunt gave it to us."
"Won't you need a hammer then?"
 And thus began my acquaintance with technology.
Remember these?
When I was about five, my family was blessed with a tan-colored monstrosity that seemed like the coolest thing ever at the time. My mom tried to bestow her limited knowledge on me, but from what I recall, I was at that happy age where I was more interested in books than flashing lights on a computer screen. Still, I loved the games and would spend hours wearing out my library-rented copy of "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?".

It wasn't until second grade forced the dreaded computer class upon me that I began to see computers as more than game machines. Even at that age, I knew that what I was learning was outdated, but the teachers gave candy for right answers, so I kept my revelation to myself. Instead, what really changed my view of computers was Accelerated Reader. I'm not sure if it's still used today, but starting in second grade, my teachers stressed (and perhaps relied on) Accelerated Reader to encourage kids to read. The program worked by cataloging books into certain grade levels so our teachers had an idea of what level we could read on and how proficient we were at comprehension. Every week or two, we'd choose a book to read and then take a quiz on it using the program. We received points based off of the number of and accuracy of each quiz, and if we earned enough, we got the pleasure of skipping a day of school to walk to the skating rink and fill our bellies with candy.  Because I was already an avid reader, Accelerated Reader seemed like a godsend encouraging me to consume more and more books. (Eventually my teachers had to limit my reading because my other core skills - namely math - were suffering as a result of my near obsession.)

In any case, using Accelerated Reader was my first indication that technology could be used educationally and still be fun. Time has taught me that that's not always true (not even a computer can make calculus interesting), but it opened my eyes up to the immense potential of technology. From elementary to middle school, I slowly transitioned from books to Google, until high school forced books back upon me. Now in college, I'm all but tied to my trusty HP. Without it, I couldn't check calculus problems on WebWork, or look videos on YouTube about calculus topics, or email my friends stressing about our calculus homework...


..and I can't help but think that I'd be a lot more reluctant to use my computer if my early experiences hadn't showed me what it could do for me.

1 comment:

  1. You've got such a great voice for your blog posts - you have such witty openings. I'm glad you had such a good experience with AR - it is actually a pretty controversial topic in the education world, but I think you used it in the best of ways. It allowed you the freedom to read what you wanted and that teacher's didn't need to be the expert on the book to give you "credit" for reading it.