If you were a teacher in the Mankato schools, you'd have a one in five chance of coming in to see me (or one of my staff) this month. We'd be sitting down for about an hour unpacking, putting together, configuring and exploring your brand new computer. Had you been with the district since 1992, this might be the 4th new computer of your career with us. (Nearly half of the 40 teachers who got computers in 1992 are still employed by the district.)
That first year you teachers would have received a Mac Classic II computer (9" B&W screen, 16MGz CPU, 2Mg RAM, 40Mg hard drive), a StyleWriter inkjet printer, a 14.4 baud modem, ClarisWorks and CODE 77 training.
In 1997, you'd have gotten a PowerMac 5400. In 2002, an eMac. Today's teachers get the choice of an iMac (17" LCD color screen, 1.83GHz CPU, 1 Gig RAM, 80 GB hard drive, wi-fi, Bluetooth, built-in camera...) or MacBook laptop, both running OSX and Windows XP with Parallels and Microsoft Offfice. Just amazing to consider the improvements in the hardware.
A new computer in our district has always been accompanied by required formal, hands-on training, ranging from 30 hours the first go-round (this is how you use a mouse) to 12 hours more recently. Not enough, of course, but something.
The early days were really exciting. A lab of teachers would collectively gasp when when learning word processing when they changed the font of an entire document using Open Apple A. Sort of cool. Getting a computer was a competitive process when there were more teachers wanting one than funds available (enough for 20% of the faculty) and it was thrilling to be "up" for a new computer.
It's a different group coming in to pick up their computers this summer of 2007. Participation is no longer competitive, an honor, or even optional. The computer for too many is not about creativity, but only about work - grades, attendance, data analysis for NCLB, online testing, IEPs, parent communication, and website updates. A teacher cannot do his/her job without a networked comptuer. Who'd have thought that giving up an hour (but being paid for it) in the summer to learn about and pick up a brand-new computer would be resented by so many teachers today. Maybe I'm just naive. Is this is like expecting a convict in a chain gang to be excited about his new shovel?
But most teachers are very happy to get the new machines - and some are just as excited today about them as they were in 1992. And that is cool. I showed one teacher how to use the built in camera and ComicLife and you'd a thought she'd died and gone to heaven. She could not wait to show "her" students. Pretty easy to pick which teachers I'd want for my own kids.
Can you instill a love of life-long learning in others if you aren't an enthusiastic life-long learner yourself?
On a side note: I had a depressing thought that after 16 years, I am still learning my job - and most days feeling about as competent as the first day I started. Time to revisit the Peter Principle???