Autobiography of a Computer User

Com-pu-ter: [kuh m-pyoo-ter]
-noun-
1. A rare, huge and fearsome beast, used only for intricate data manipulation, requiring highly trained handlers.

Computers were something that I knew of, but never dreamed that I ever would use. They were huge, complex machines who could only be manipulated by those who were way smarter and more educated than me. Pacman machines came out when I was in my early twenties and I played a few games, but I would not have considered those a computer. I received my first computer about 10 years ago from a friend of mine, who called me up and told me she was getting a new computer and did I want her old one? I hemmed and hawed… what would I use it for? But she persuaded me that it would be good for my girls (at that time, aged 8 and 9) to have one. We took it and installed it in our basement…for the kids to play on. Once, the girls were looking for a games website a friend of theirs had told them to try, typed the address in wrong and got a porn site. They ran upstairs screaming about the ugly pictures. We almost got rid of the computer! Then I had to take a science course for my degree at university, so I took Computing 101. We had to learn how to send and receive email, how to type up a Word document, and some Java (of which I remember nothing). I thought that Word was cool, as it would alleviate the necessity for all of the Whiteout that I used when typing up papers! The personal computer was a great word processor, gaming toy, and I might use email for university, but that was it. I was still nervous whenever I had to use it, worrying that I would do something wrong and break it. This was a dragon I only intended to approach if I had to!

Com-pu-ter: [kuh m-pyoo-ter]
-noun-
2. A ubiquitous electronic device used daily to communicate, find information, create, play, and be a global citizen.

Fast forward to today. Slowly, without me realizing it, this fearsome being took hold of my heart, and I now cannot imagine life without it. Currently, we have five people living in our house. Each one has their own tame little dragon, and all of us have dragonets as well. Our laptops are our entry into a global world of information and social networking, and our iPhones and Blackberries keep us connected to each other and the world when we are away from our laptops. At work, I use my computer daily to search for and create lessons, communicate with staff, parents and students, manage my time and store my information, create and record student assessments and program plans, collaborate with other teachers, put up information for others on blogs, listen to music, find videos for student learning, order materials I need, and a multitude of other tasks. At home, I use it to find recipes or information, stay in contact with family who live elsewhere, find reviews of movies/books, shop, take online courses, keep up with new educational research, and yes, play a few games ( Spider Solitaire, anyone?). While I prefer paper books, I do read online, using my Google Reader, and my iPod. How has this evolved? I hardly know. At the beginning, my learning moved slowly, beginning with word processing, then email, then surfing the net. However, having teenagers, working with students in a school that focuses on technology, and taking TLDL courses have all pushed me to learn more, do more, than I ever thought I would be capable of. I have created an online book club and several wikis for students, a blog for our family when we had our daughter living overseas, a professional portfolio, Power Points, Prezis, Animotos, surveys using Survey Monkey, and more.
Over the last few years, as Web 2.0, and then cloud computing came into being, it feels like the computers and computing have exploded, morphing back into this giant Hydra who, although it holds few terrors for me now, astounds me with its ever-changing heads and faces. Master this dragon? I think not. Tame it? Yes, but on the understanding that it will demand the willingness to constantly learn and grow.

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