On stressful days it is easy to wonder, “Why me?” And yet if you follow that particular thread a little longer it can be quite instructive. “How did I become a trainer and assessor? How did I get involved with computers? Why?”
I had a Commodore 64 as a kid. It plugged into the television. It was a time when we used disks, and a time when floppy disks were genuinely floppy. I played games like The (Great) Giana Sisters, Wonderboy and Ghosts ’n Goblins. But I also discovered the wonder of Commodore 64 BASIC. I could give the C64 commands and it would follow them. I got books from libraries where I’d slavishly copy out pages and pages of code for Choose Your Own Adventure games and other things. I would write little stories and illustrate them with crudely put together ASCII art. I would make my own little games. I took such pride in seeing my own name on the screen. It is hard to explain just how mind blowing it all seemed at the time. So much possibility. It felt like I could do anything, and I was always surprising myself.
As I grew there were other programming languages and other platforms. Macs and PCs. Varieties of Pascal (Turbo, Delphi) and Basic (Visual Basic). There was a book in my high school library which taught me about using flowcharts and Nassi-Shneiderman diagrams and gave me a whole new way of conceptualising my programs. I created programs for science projects — a periodic table of the elements, scientist biographies and even a program that helped you formulate experiments using the scientific method. I created a program that was a personal organiser / to do list / website bookmarking tool and created a website for it on GeoCities’ Sunset Strip. I didn’t even have Internet access at home at this point and the fact that I could publish to the world — for free — was amazing.
As I reached the end of high school my interests had diverged, but technology was ever present. I had this need to write songs and music but I couldn’t play a musical instrument. I found this program called Noteworthy Composer and proceeded to write music, arranging notes on staves, adjusting the duration and pitch and timbre of notes and harmonies. It was strange to have all these compositions that I couldn’t play. But again I had willed something into existence despite some obvious constraints. And technology helped me create. This was how Metallic Scream was born.
At that same time I combined photography, video, writing and games I had created along with the music in a multimedia CD-ROM. Technology supported me in creating original things, packaging them, sharing them. It made impossible things possible. Technology amplified my being. Technology amplified my expressive capability. I was a kid who couldn’t find the keys on a keyboard but somehow created music. I was a kid who couldn’t always find the words in the moment, but who could write them down and share them subsequently. Finding my voice was one thing, and sharing was another, and together they were the making of me.
I have been unable to instill this sense of possibility within my programming students. They don’t see the point, let alone the possibility, of what I am trying to teach them. They resent the subject and me by extension. My colleagues remind me (the first year teacher) not to take such things personally, but it is difficult.
I’m not sure I can be inside the heads and hearts of my students. I’m not sure I can make them care if they do not. I guess what is important is that I don’t lose my own sense of wonder and possibility within this process.
And to anyone who may be reading this I invite you to take a moment to reflect on how technology has changed your life, not the trivial ways, but the meaningful ones. How has technology supported your creativity? What now exists that wouldn’t without such support? If you feel up to sharing, consider leaving a comment.