Confessions of a Convert Presentation delivered at the XXII ABSCH Educational Conference “e-schooling”, 17 and 18th April 2009 thS. Hillyard B.Ed. Hons.Ex Prof en Profesorado en Ingles en IES en Lenguas Vivas, Juan Ramon Fernandez, BuenosAires, ArgentinaEx Prof en Profesorado en Inglés en Facultad de Tecnología Nacional, Buenos Aires, ArgentinaEx Educational Adviser to The Performers, TIE, based in Buenos Aires, ArgentinaNow freelance consultant, materials writer, speaker and Associate Trainer, NILE, Norwich, UKE-mail: firstname.lastname@example.orgConfessions of a ConvertIntroductionIf our students are digital natives, many of we teachers are digital immigrants, a clichéfor today maybe, but true nevertheless and it seems not to shame us into action forchange, unless one is given a kick in the pants by one’s own son, as happened to me in1998.I was happily preparing a workshop for teachers in Uruguay, writing my OHTs by hand,admittedly? with a fine nibbed black permanent marker, when my son happened toremark,“Mother, you are a disgrace to the profession!”I turned in shock and answered that I thought I was quite a decent teacher …..but herefused to listen and admonished me further by saying,“ You have the nerve to go all over the place telling teachers they have to change, butYOU can’t even open a computer!”My son was absolutely correct and, having had a hatred of hypocrites all my life, I wasjogged into some serious self reflection. I was cut to the quick and impulsively replied“ Alright, you’re right. Teach me then!”DevelopmentI am now like a recently cured smoker on a mission to cure everybody else. I am in facta recent convert to the world of technology carrying the banner high and proudly infavour of the joys of ICT. My true story is one of fear, loathing and humiliation in aneffort to do to myself what I do to others. I am about to reveal all and show how turningto the PC can change one’s life.
I begin with the shameful admission of not even being able to type. We were not taughtthat skill at school and I had to have my thesis typed up for me at University just asmost others did. I began the first painful stages of my conversion in the privacy of myown home, not daring to go on a professional course and reveal my utter incompetencein pressing buttons in the right order and even worse, in my second language. Rather, Ipreferred the harsh criticism of my own son, supportedWho? a few months later by anew employer and from my teenage students at school who scoffed at my inadequacies. Having faced the fear, and breaking down the first brick of the wall of fear, I was led tolearn to, at least, open the PC and press a few buttons. From that first critical step I wenton to learn to type, (not as fast as I could write with my gold nibbed fountain pen),using two fingers, a habit I still continue to employ to this day! I forked out greatswathes of cash for boxes of facial tissues and packets of paracetamol, dreading theswell of dread that surged up every time my son kindly asked if I wanted a further class.As my confidence grew I decided to apply for an on-line course at master’s level, whichentailed great cursing of the machine, throwing reams of screwed up balls of badlytyped papers at the dog and many a sleepless night. I just could not get the sequenceright and it all seemed to take much more time than it had ever done when using theinstruments invented in medieval times.I began to despair when I forgot to press SAVE and frequently lost all my painstakingwork. I despaired of finding the right title in those strange codes one had to use tenyears ago. I often wrote in long hand before I started typing as the words just did notflow down the arm and through the two fingers on to the buttons as they did through thegold nibbed fountain pen. But I was like a dog with a bone, a cat with a rat and my utterdetermination prevailed.I learned to do powerpoint presentations and prided myself on my efforts to appeal to alllearning styles in my colourful, animated presentations, sometimes with images,embedded songs and even the odd video or two! How much more professional Iseemed! How easy it became to to print out a paper I had already written, a presentationI had at hand……that was if I could remember where I had saved it!I became a participant on discussion forums, a remote participant on internationaloverseas conferences and I learned to use email, even remembering how to remembermy address and where to put the @ and the dots. I learned to upload photos, to do wordprocessing and use excel. It was an obvious step to learn to surf the web, to find all sortsof great articles, research modules, lyrics to songs, worksheets, web pages and then tomake my own albums, and open my own blog.At a friend’s insistence I joined a free on-line course as a participant and this was thereal turning point in my conversion. I was bowled over by the excitement of opening thePC, inserting my username and password and then connecting with literally hundreds oflike minded professionals from all corners of the globe……as near as Argentina itself,but then the exotic place names like Istanbul, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Utter Pradesh, SanFrancisco, London, Rome, Peru, Slovakia and Morroco. My world was expanding,albeit in a virtual way!
ConclusionThe following year I was asked to be a moderator on the same course and had to take agruelling (for me, still with some remnants of dread) six week course on (web)netiquette, searching for and uploading files, URLs, links, photos and other moderator’sduties. I was still afraid, but the joy of success and the feeling of youthfulness it allafforded, kept me persistent in my, often, late night sojourns into cyberspace. I felt like Iimagined how it must have been for those first pioneers leaving the familiarity of theirhomelands for unknown and terrifying territory where a new language had to be learnedand whole new behaviours committed to the mind, the body and the soul. I finally became a freelance educational consultant and have written four on-linecourses, three of which I have actually taught on-line, believing this to be the wayforward for lifelong learners who want to stay on the roller coaster of the knowledgesociety and technological advancement.It has not been a pleasant nor smooth journey, but these emerging skills havecontributed to a long, slow process of a late developer’s learning curve and a completeoverhaul in self esteem and career objectives. I can’t imagine life without a PC anylonger and I cannot imagine how my life would now be if I had not ventured forth.I fully believe that e-learning compares very favourably to face to face sessions,especially for some types of learners. I do not say it is an easy option; quite the reversein fact. It can be terribly demanding for the moderator, especially if the group requires alot of hand-holding, but the rewards, in terms of networking, learner autonomy,developing discussion skills, understanding others’ views, cultures, customs andpractises in a globalised world, are great.I have even come to the rather strange conclusion that we live in a world which muststart to fight for peace, if you will excuse the oxymoron, and the world of virtual realityis a perfect place to start. I truly believe that despite the dangers, ICT is here to stay andwill become a unifying world force rather than a divisive one.I believe real and well designed e-learning environments can act as a major motivatingforce in the lives of those who take up the challenge.I now also understand the jokes contained in this little poem by Anon.:See below
Remember when…A computer was something on TVFrom a science fiction show.A window was something you hated to clean,And ram was the cousin of a goat.Meg was the name of a girl,And gig was your middle finger upright.Now they all mean different things,And that really meg a bytes!Remember when...An aplplication was for employment.A program was a TV show.A cursor used profanity.A keyboard was a piano.Memory was something that you lost with age.A CD was a bank account.And if you had a 3 .5” floppy,You hoped nobody found out!Remember when...Compress was something you did to the garbage,Not something you did to a file.And if you unzipped anything in public,You’d be in jail for a while.Log was adding wood to the fire.Hard drive was a long trip on the road.A mouse pad was where a mouse lived,And a backup happened to your commode.Remember when...Cut you did with scissors,Paste you did with glue,A web was a spider’s home,A virus was the flu.I guess I’ll stick to my pad and paperAnd the memory in my head.I hear nobody’s been killed in a computer crash,But when it happens they wished they were dead!