In the Beginning…

In the beginning, there were personal computers. Apple IIes. Pet Computers. Altair. Commodores. Adams. Trash 80s. PCjrs. Macintosh. IBM PCs with steel keyboards. Lisas. Sinclairs.

Some seemed like glorified calculators. Some where wonderfully entertaining. Others enabled a lot of creativity. And then we got 1200 baud modems to dial up bulletin boards. Then Compuserve, and AOL, and shell accounts for so much an hour.

Anyway, it was unique and exciting. It seemed like we were doing things never done before with ones and zeros. Do you have an email address? Did you see Mosaic? I’m writing poetry in hypertext. Just about any part of it, such as building a circular menu with html code, was exceptional.

Things change and transition forward. Technology makes significant moves forward every 6-12 months. I’m not a big iPhone fan, but the announcement of so many more features at half the price was pretty remarkable this week. Why buy an iPod if the iPhone can do so much. The monthly plan might be where the money is made to begin, but after that calms down…

Just five feet away from me at this moment, a woman in Starbucks is using a tiny laptop smaller than a thin, small paperback. She’s connected and doing email with a small keyboard. She’s doing routine things, not exceptional.

In a lot of homes, the computers are more sophisticated and advanced and powerful and better connected to the Internet that the typical computers at independent schools.

Maybe there’s a turn happening here. Routine computer use and access continues to grow and become less expensive and more fashionable and part of daily life. It’s part of one’s pocket debris or purse contents. It’s comforting in it’s ubiquity, and there are fewer and fewer reasons to have a digital divide (not that one still doesn’t exist in a major form).

This comes back to question I’m still thinking about—how does a school enable students to do exceptional things with technology? Things they can’t do at home already? The routine uses at school are important, but they are just a baseline. Kids have access to technology that was unthinkable to me not that long ago (hey, my modem is 2400 baud!), but how can schools distinguish their offerings to enable students to have academic or eye opening experiences beyond the norm?

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