Monday, November 19, 2012

My love/hate relationship with computers

OK, I readily admit it, I am totally addicted to my computer.  And if I had one, I know I'd feel the same way about an iPod.  But it wasn't always this way.  Things like this sort of creep up on a person, without being consciously aware of what is happening.

A very long time ago, in some other universe, I had no use at all for the latest craze. In fact, when my school was excitedly announcing that computers had been generously awarded to all our classrooms, I wanted to say, "No, thanks!" --- I guess in a way, I did say something to that effect, loudly proclaiming to anyone who would listen that I didn't need more things in my already crowded classroom, I needed people, and preferably people who really cared about the kids who had been entrusted to our care.  I found it curious that various community groups and organizations frequently made donations of books, toys, adaptive equipment, and so on, but no one ever stepped forward to give me what I thought we needed most - qualified, caring, dedicated support staff!

On the home front, my dear husband also tried to convince me that a computer was just what I needed to make my life easier, choosing a rather strange example, at least IMHO (see, I have truly come a long way on this one!).  The selling point he tried out on me was that with a home computer I could catalog all my favorite recipes and then just print each one out as needed.  Yikes! At that time, I was teaching full-time and somehow managing to throw together meals for a family that included some six or seven kids (depending on the number of foster kids living with us at any given time) and often an extra friend or neighbor who happened to be there when we were eating.  While I had always loved collecting recipes, I no longer had time to look at or use any of them - I cooked by instinct and stuck with family favorites that I knew wouldn't go to waste.  Type recipes on the computer, then look them up, print them out and follow them?  Ain't gonna happen!

I can remember being told, at a different school several years later, that we'd no longer be receiving a daily attendance bulletin, since all information we needed would be sent via email, which we were encouraged to check at least once or twice per day.  I sneered at that one, nastily claiming that others must have a much easier schedule than mine, which of course didn't allow for such obligations in addition to everything else I was expected to do in a day.  I never did adjust to the loss of paper announcements, and missed much of what was going on in the building during those early months of the exciting "new" plan!

The first computer to enter my life was an old Apple model (2G, maybe??) and it surely would have become a dust collector in the corner if not for my friend "A" - a bright, overly active boy with autism who gravitated to this modern new piece of technology as if it were placed there just for him.  In no time at all, he figured out how to turn it on, insert discs, play every game we had available to us, everything except how to get things unstuck when he pushed keys a little too fast and things froze up.  As might be expected, I had no clue what to do in these situations, but I had to learn fast - "A" had no patience at all for computer "down" time!  So, I learned just as fast as my reluctant, aging brain would allow, and "A" also had some learning to do - how to share the things he loved, because a growing number of his classmates also found the computer fascinating and enjoyable.  All of them were much more cooperative about doing the work I asked of them, if computer time was the reward.  And amazingly, with kids involved in educational games on the computer, the lack of qualified support staff in my classroom was no longer quite so serious. 

It probably was the computer that set off that light bulb in my head - to match what was already implanted in my heart - that these kids who had been placed in my classroom because of very low IQ scores (less than 50 in some cases!) and who had been given labels such as "cognitively disabled-severe," or CDS, were actually very intelligent, demonstrating on a regular basis that they were a whole lot smarter than their teacher when it came to modern technology.

And so it began.  We got that home computer, also an early Apple model, and during the time when I was out of work, collecting unemployment, I started on a new journey, at my keyboard every day, putting my thoughts into words, writing the book that was finally published in 1999.   I never did input any recipes, and I no longer do much of anything in the way of cooking.

But now I cannot imagine life without technology.  I check email regularly throughout the day - on my desktop, laptop, or smart phone (it is indeed a whole lot smarter than its owner, but I am learning!), I keep up with news, family and friends on Facebook and Twitter, I waste hours on a couple favorite games; I am an addict and I know it!  When Mercury goes retrograde and accounts get hacked or passwords aren't working, I quickly switch to panic mode, accessing helplines or calling tech support in some foreign land.  Whatever it takes, I will do - I must get reconnected, and soon!  And just like "A" all those years ago, I have had to learn to share, because my husband has found a few things HE likes doing on the computer.  Oh, and by the way he's the one doing the cooking these days.  How lucky I am!

It's almost that time of year; maybe Santa will bring me an iPod.  What are the chances???