Thursday, December 31, 2009

Destination 2010

As I watched the morning news programs on this final day of the decade, one segment that caught my attention was New York Magazine's "Items Rendered Obsolete in the Last Ten Years." Among that list were answering machines, floppy discs, the Rolodex, phone books, cassette tapes, checks, and postage stamps.
Now that I think about it, I rarely write a check and my book of stamps now lasts for months. Google is my preferred choice when looking up a phone number, my cell phone carrier takes care of my voice mail, and I sold all of my cassette tapes on a rummage for a quarter a piece--(Yes, I even sold BonJovi). I haven't touched a 3.5" floppy for a couple years, except maybe to throw them out.
My personal techie life in this past decade has changed gradually, subtly, yet drastically. Skype is now my answer for long-distance calls, I cut my land-line cord in 2008, and I cannot remember the last time I actually dialed 411. My dial-up Internet connection lost out to broadband cable sometime in 2002, Google Maps & a Garmin replaced my Rand McNally atlas, and I'm quite certain I misplaced my PDA--either that or my Blackberry had an app to vaporize it.
What really strikes me, however, is how the tech in the classroom has changed since the year 2000. I remember absolutely begging my principal for a Gateway Destination system for my 1st grade classroom. He had ordered one for a 4th grade room, but couldn't see the lower elementary applications. Now, this baby had it all: MMX technology, 31" monitor, wireless keyboard, remote thumb mouse, 32 mb of RAM, 2.5 gig hard drive, and combined PC/TV for the shocking price of $2999. I could even hook my new-fangled laser disc player to it...even thought the AEA only had a small selection of titles. And, when my students weren't creating our class alphabet book using KidPix, they could use one of the Apple IIes with the 5.25" floppy disc to practice race-car math.
We didn't blog or wiki, and because YouTube wasn't around until 2005, we didn't post our alphabet book to the web. We did, however, e-mail "The Tree That Wouldn't Die." Surprisingly, it replied. The mind-set of the time was to use the Destination System as an instructional tool, but I tried at every turn to put it in the hands of my 6-7 year olds.
May of 2000 was the year I took my leave of absence, and no, the many "Y2K" meetings were not a catalyst for my leaving. I knew I'd miss the students as well as my co-workers, but as I closed my room for the final time that summer, I wondered how I'd ever convince another principal to get me my own Destination system. I couldn't possibly teach without it.
(On a humorous side-note, when I returned to teaching in 2005, my middle school classroom had a Destination System which accumulated mounds of dust thanks to the SmartBoard I had convinced my principal to let me permanently check out from the media center.)
In 2000, I didn't imagine streaming video for our students let alone publishing their works on the web. Receiving the e-mail from the "Tree That Wouldn't Die" was cool, but Skyping it would have been amazing. In my 2000 classroom, Responders were defined as the students who consistently raised their hands. Who would have ever imagined the formative assessment these little clickers could provide?
Now, on the verge of 2010, the mind set is not only focused on an instructional tool for teachers, but a learning tool for students--allowing them to be producers of their own learning. Just think in 10 short years how different our ed tech landscape looks...and what another 10 years has in store.

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