The story for today is a celebration and post-mortem of introducing students to technology. In the early 1990s, I was lucky enough to transition to the Technology Special at Montview. One of the first things we decided on was the skills that students needed. This was at a time when standards didn’t exist for technology in the classroom and it would take several years before they came to fruition. We decided on three strands that would meet their needs in other classes. Word processing, presentation, and mathematical thinking became our/my focus. I added a fourth of visual communication because I have a strong belief in the power of art in students’ lives. This seemed simple enough. Using ClarisWorks allowed us to cover the presentation and word processing. It even pulled in a little math with the spreadsheet. PowerPoint was at 2.0 and not yet owned by Microsoft so we did things in Hypercard & Hyperstack. Art was expressed with KidPix and was a great time for students. I also introduced Lego Logo from MIT for mathematical reasoning and programming. We moved turtles around with ease and drew shapes and learned the structure of programming, debugging, and completing products. We even went down the path of using the software Stella as a way to begin to understand systems thinking. It was a great time to be a teacher and fun to be a student.
We have talked about the celebration but we also need to address the post-mortem. Several years ago several things happened to put a stake through the heart of technology instruction. We had funding shortfalls and teachers and programs were cut. The first to go was none core subjects and included things like art, PE, music, and technology. There was a huge outcry for the arts and PE but technology became an orphan and easy to dispose of. This gave way to an era of “they grew up with technology so they already know it.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. Students that enter my classes now are significantly further behind than students of fifteen years ago. Students have a couple of isolated skills but when it comes to a full depth and breadth of technology, they are lacking. During that time there have been pockets of teachers that have kept some of this alive. I have a friend at a school close by that has been fighting this trend and doing an amazing job with her students. Gwynn Moore teaches at a K-8 in the district and I get excited every time one of her students find their way to my high school class.
I would love to see the trend reversed and Technology and Computer Science become a top priority in every school. I want a day where students will have quality instruction that is not based on their location and hope that their school has a passionate teacher. Technology and Computer Science have been threads that have wound their way through my 30-year journey. I am honored that I have been lucky to be in schools that have honored CS and supported my crusade. It all came to a culmination last year when I was named the Project Lead The Way National Computer Science Teacher of the Year for 2021-2022. Some of my friends say that it was because I was a good teacher, still, others say it was because I have been leading this thirty-year crusade. I have a much simpler explanation. I have been in the right spot with good administrators and even better students who found a little of the passion I feel. Many groups are making pushes to make quality CS ubiquitous throughout the country. It is the reason that I hope that my crusade is not coming to an end but just changing venues….