Sunday, April 7, 2013


Gotta do something with all those carrots.  I bought another two pounds without checking the crisper first--never a good idea.  What about soup?  More nutritious than carrot cake, and will take almost as many carrots.  Still old-school, set in my ways, working out of an old paradigm, a digital immigrant, I check a few recipe books.  Nothing.  Well, duh . . . . Internet!

Next recourse--Canadian Living.  I do a "recipes only" search for carrot soup.  There's carrot soup for all tastes, time, and pantries.  How about roasted carrots?  One-too-many steps.    Soup with flour and milk?  Too rich.  With chive oil?  Whatever that is, it's not in my larder--automatic disqualification.  Indian-spiced?  Not going there--burned my mouth in an unfortunate Indian cuisine experience last summer, and I'm still traumatized.  Chicken stock, lentils, onions, cumin and ginger?  Now, that's doable.

That took five minutes.  Five minutes!!  Before Internet, carrot soup would have turned into carrot cake.  Not in my recipe books--out of luck.  In those days, I would have bought a magazine just for  a recipe or two, or (public confession) ripped a page out of a magazine in the hospital emergency waiting room.  I collected recipes like good books.  I had a recipe drawer that I sorted every five years or so, scanning the pile, sending them to the right or to the left, to the binder or to the recycle bin.  Then came the classifying, gluing onto paper, slipping into a plastic pocket, and then into the binder.  From an idea to a printed page to a plastic pocket (too messy a cook to cook from a computer file) in seven minutes.  I can still be amazed.

A similar shift occurred in my classroom.  Back in 1975, when I started teaching, duplicating materials was a time-consuming, hazardous process with unpredictable results.   For best legibility, the document had to be typed on a purple-backed stencil.  That stencil was then clasped onto the drum of a duplicator fitted with an alcohol drip.  The copies were literally cranked out--damp, and sometimes creased.  A real crapshoot most of the time.  Worse still if you were trying to duplicate an existing document--add an extra step.  You had to place the document between the white and purple layers of a special stencil, and run the whole thing through a machine that impressed the document on the white layer.  No money-back guarantees here either.  Sometimes, there was no time to wash the purple stain from my hands before arriving in class.  I looked like a purple-fingered pilferer, caught in the act, another victory for the invisible powder.

Obtaining resources was an adventure.  We prepared the film order in September, for December and January.  Too bad if you weren't exactly on the right act of Macbeth when the films arrived--if you could get them for the dates you projected.  Students are doing a research project?  With a month's notice, you could order books from the provincial library to supplement the school library's collection.

It's so different now.  Students can Google anything instantly.  During a class, conferencing with a student are working on a project, I am reminded of a clip from a movie that would fit perfectly.  I don't have a copy, but I might get lucky on YouTube.  Sure enough.  Not only do I find the movie, I find the exact clip I need, titled to save me time.  Ten minutes later, it's up on the SmartBoard, and the class is making connections between the ideas in that clip and our previous discussion on the topic.  Copyright laws have even changed to benefit teachers and students.  Add to that photocopiers that print, scan, collate, staple, hole-punch, and accept jump drives; Skyping with classrooms across the globe; filming student presentations with a phone; virtual manipulatives; and an animation of rotational symmetry.  Resources are endless, dependent only on bandwidth.

It's so easy to embrace shifts in technology.  Bring on the next iteration of the laptop, the smartphone, the tablet, or the e-reader.  We would never insist on using the duplicator rather than the photocopier; we would never insist on using a typewriter; no one laments the passing of the VCR.  The latest technology in their day, those devices enhanced our life.  Having served their purpose, they fade into obsolescence.

Now, what do I do about the other shifts going on in the world?  What will my response be to those more challenging, difficult shifts that call into question what I do each day, and how I have come to see the world?  Will I take the time to consider ideas carefully, to ask questions, to seek out the view that is different from my own, to understand it, to see its merits and its effects?  It's so much easier to remain firmly entrenched in the way I have always done things, or the way I have always thought about things.   Although I was unsympathetic to  Tevye's call for "Tradition!  Tradition!" in Fiddler on the Roof,  I have to watch that  my own clarion call does not echo those words.  I need to remain open.

Society is meant to evolve.  The theory that the earth revolved around the sun served society well until Copernicus, first, and Galileo, later, proved it false.   Time to move on, then.  In a classroom, time to let go of teacher control, punitive policies, normative assessment, for starters.  In the Church, time for women priests;  true equality for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation; contraception.

A carrot soup recipe online,  a SmartBoard in the classroom, or even sharing ideas in a blog--these changes in the daily management of my life are a training ground for the more challenging shifts I need to  first reflect on, and then, having decided, integrate or reject.   For reasons I can no longer recall, I thought that age would bring more certainty.  I believed that I would have more answers as I got older.  Wrong.  I have far less certainty, and a whole lot of questions.


  1. I agree with you, change is hard. It's much easier to resist than accept.
    I like the phrase "digital immigrant"! The changes in the classroom are mind boggling to me.
    Thanks for your wise words!

  2. I wish I could take the credit for the phrase "digital immigrant." Along with "digital native", applied to the current generation. it was coined by Marc Prensky in 2001.