Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Old and The New...

I recently changed jobs. I went from being the Instructional Technologist for a district of 19 schools to the Instructional Technologist at 1 school in a larger district, much closer to home. It was a tough decision for me. The people in my former district are great. They really care about kids and love what they do. They also take care of each other...

Before I left there was a small gathering of the media and technology folks in the district. A couple of the people there took me aside and said they had a going away gift for me.
Now, I told everyone that I did not want anything, nor needed anything but these people remembered something I said when I first started working.

I am a collector of technology. Ask my wife. She hates it. Any chance I get to get some old piece of equipment I take it! I have tons of old CPU's and laptops a reel-to reel film projectors, old school film strips...if it was a piece of technology that was once in a school I probably have it. Some of it works, others, not so much. I dunno why I have it. I just feel a connection to it and can't see it cast aside.

But there was always one thing missing from my collection. I so wanted an Apple IIe. This was the computer I grew up on, learning and playing games on as a kid in school. I can remember entire summers spent in front of that massive, lead-based monitor, making my way from Missouri to Oregon while tying to not die from dysentery. Having an Apple IIe would almost make my collection complete....almost...but it would do wonders for me!

These teachers remembered me talking about all this 2 years ago. I never spoke of it again. But they remembered. One of the teachers had an Apple IIe in her classroom that she gave to me with tons of software, including my all time favorite, Oregon Trail. I just about fainted. It was one of the best gifts I have ever gotten.

But could I accept this? This teacher had several in her classroom that her 4th graders used everyday. She had the regular issue workstations and an IWB and laptops in her classroom. But there was something about those Apples that they were still a big part of her teaching and her classroom. I did not want to take one but she assured me it would be find and she wanted me to have it.

Bringing it home and setting it brought back so many memories for me. The flash of the monitor and the not so quiet grind of the floppy drive made me think of when I was in school. I just sat for a moment and remembered....

Then I got to thinking. Do we sometimes use a piece of technology because it is the latest and the greatest? Or are we making the best choices for our kids because they are the best choices? This teacher saw the value in using technology from the 80's because it still had value both to her and her kids. They loved it. These are kids who go home and play on their Wii's and their cellphones probably have more memory than those Apples!

Are we installing IWB's all over the place because it is the right thing to do? Are we installing IWB's because of their flash value or do they really make true change? Or have we looked around to see if there something else out there that is better and or cheaper?

My point is sometimes old isn't necessarily bad. Of course there are better choices than a chalk board and an overhead. What I mean is that we need to be mindful of the technology choices we are making for our kids and our schools. Yea, sometimes the latest and greatest is just that. But sometimes the Apple IIe will do just fine.

Image from Flickr CC Search. View the original here.


  1. You make an excellent point here. I hope that if nothing else, this economic crunch will cause schools to evaluate more carefully how they spend their money, not simply try to be on the cutting edge, as occasionally the new way isn't always as effective as the old, it's simply newer.
    Build me a better mousetrap, not merely a newer one that's shinier and has more functions that are useless to me, and then we'll talk.

  2. So true - I just wish more teachers would realize this and stop worrying about how much technology they're "not using".

  3. MacGyver's style of dealing with situations by using ordinary, everyday items is what School Teachers do best in my experience. Therefore, newest is not always needed. What intrigues is the use of something old to get something done in a new fashion. Learning takes place in such instances because of higher order thinking engagement.

  4. As Walter said, I think we're going to have to be more resourceful. Gone are the days when we can load MS Office on every computer "just in case" someone might use it. Gone should be the days when we purchase the biggest and fastest computers for everyone just in case someone happens to need to do so image/video rendering. I'm working hard to pick the least high-tech technology solutions. This means "Huddleboards" from Steelcase instead of IWBs, Open Office instead of MS Office, Netbooks in stead of large form factor laptops, etc.

    Congrats on the new gig as well!

    Matt Montagne
    Castilleja School
    Palo Alto, California

  5. I truly believe it is not about the technology it is about the teaching-great technology is not going to make a great teacher, but a great teacher can do wonders with technology. It is important not to alienate our great teachers by making them feel they must grab onto the latest and greatest techno-fad.Goes back to the topic of digital tools-we don't need to use a sledge hammer when a toothpick will do. Cheers!

  6. I have such fond memories of the Apple IIe! Oregon Trail was outstanding! I have a timeline of technology up in my classroom of all Apple Technology. I often refer to it to show students what I learned on. One of the great things about technology is the constant change. I think it is amazing the change in tech that has occured since I started teaching. This does not mean that education needs to jump on every new flash in the pan and give up on the previous technology. As long as tech adds value to learning, it is worth using. Sometimes that means breaking out the slide projector!