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Jobs, Garages, & Time Travel

Jobs I don’t know about you, but nothing I ever made in a garage ever had any hopes of changing anything—ever! But ideas that Jobs and Woz tinkered with helped change our lives, our language, and most certainly our teaching and the way kids learn.

I remember scrounging ancient, manual typewriters for my first graders, well actually for parent volunteers, who listened to elaborate stories by 5-year olds, and through smiles and giggles, turned them into typed masterpieces. I remember questions about why I needed all those typewriters, and answering with—My kids have stories to tell. I still pound the keyboard like it was a manual typewriter.

One day, an administrator at a middle school, where I was teaching language arts, gathered us all into a staff room. “We have computers, and you’re all signing up to use them.” No question or answer period there. His goal was accomplished. There was a whole lot of grumping going on. I remember, like it was yesterday, talking about this to the other language arts teacher. I said something like—computers are impersonal—I’ll never like using them….

I did sign up, drag my kids in, and let them finger peck stories on small greenish black screens—then print what seemed simple passages on perforated paper. That Apple IIe lab was a thorn in my teaching side. Didn’t they know I could be so much more valuable to my students in my own classroom—well away from the hair frizzing electromagnetic fields in that computer lab?

Then, it happened—and it happened on my watch. The buzzing and whirring on a few machines stopped. A few seventh graders had that “Why me?” look. Their computers failed. I don’t care what you say, most seventh graders, like first graders, believe that teachers know stuff and can fix stuff. I think that changes at ninth grade though. ;>) Anyway, the sad eyes, raised hands, and pleads to fix, moved me to do something that change my education, private, and career life.

I unplugged one of those Apples (I knew that much), lifted the small-boxed screen off its base, and removed the top cover. I actually laughed out loud. There appeared to be almost nothing inside it. There didn’t seem too much to fix. So, I grabbed a few parts gently and gave them a wiggle, plugged everything back in, and to my surprise the static chattering start up happened. That’s when I fist-pumped tech for the first time. I actually got applause from seventh-graders, something still rare today, as the others chimed, “Fix mine!” I remember thinking these things will never last.

News spread of my new computer expertise, and my classes were forever interrupted by pleads of help from the computer lab. I kept in pretty good shape running there and back to my room. I knew absolutely nothing, other than pulling the plug, and shaking some parts, but it was more than the principal, or anyone else. I even began taking the computer home for more practice. That required about three trips to the car. I became the expert, and from that point on, the voice of technology in that building, and for that principal and beyond.

For all my initial grumping about tech, those Apples changed the way I taught, and the way my students learned—for the better. And while it sometimes took more time to plan and do it with tech, it made teaching fist-pumping exciting. It brought the world to my classes, and my classes to the world.

I've never met Steve Jobs, but I know him. There’s a guy with passion for his product. “Bring it back when you’ve made it better.” Now, that’s what needs to be said a lot more. Who will say it now? If you’ve never seen the videos of Jobs sharing GarageBand, you need to do a search for them. They are a professional development lessons from a real person, who is learning as he goes, and getting the biggest kick out of sharing. Nothing earth shaking came out of my garage, and most likely yours either, but aren’t we glad that Steve’s garage had picked up the slack—for everyone.

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Though some criticize Steve Jobs because he is not the inventor of Apple products, he still played a big part in motivating his staff to perfect these gadgets and convincing the people that Apple products are a necessity that can change the world.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in The Royal Treatment are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.