Technology and Living Dave

I recently read a post that asked how teachers could expose children to more technology in the classroom. I thought this was odd. It was like asking how to introduce water to fish.

Over the years I’ve relied on technology, which saved me during critical moments in my development as a learner. Technology liberated me to learn. In fact, I can’t imagine a group of people who have benefited more from technological breakthroughs than those who learn differently. I talk about this in Daveland:

“My writing skills grew with computer technology. As software improved, my spelling improved; eventually my visual world came closer to my auditory world. I even made a game out of eliminating colored lines from the text. The computer didn’t make it personal; it didn’t care if I misspelled the same word five different times in the same document and it didn’t care if the second part of my sentence didn’t match the first. It just pointed it out and rewarded me by taking the colored line away when I fixed the problem. It still allowed me to write wrong words correctly, as when gallery becomes allergy, but nobody’s perfect, nor are computers.

Writing on a computer saved me, but not from the stress of computing. Even though my problem demanded I be a pioneer—being the first person I knew with a home computer—the visually complex buttons and prompts made it difficult to find what I needed and easy to press what I didn’t; my computer desktop was as disheveled as my real one. I tried to make sense of the manuals, but they didn’t seem to be written in any human voice I knew. In fact, I may be a case study at Apple Computer. Somewhere there’s a training module describing the unimaginable horrors I committed, my name passed around customer service like neighborhood parents keeping tabs on the new pedophile who just moved into the halfway house down the street. I’m sure I’d become an urban myth there, people thinking that no one like this could actually be real and still have the ability to convert oxygen for his brain. They all knew me at Apple, and not in a good way.”

Despite my love/hate relationship with technology my greatest battle was with education’s slow acceptance. Some of us may remember the controversy over the use of calculators in the classroom when they became the standard for working complex math problems. Then came computers. I was delighted to buy my first computer and printer only to have my graduate school advisor reject my papers because they didn’t look like they came from a typewriter, so I was forced to pay someone to retype my papers. Those disagreements seem so quaint and provincial now. Currently we have powerful communication, information, social, organizational and creative tools that I could never imagine when I used my first computer as a glorified typewriter.

Like it or not, our kids are relying on it daily as a learning tool: mostly outside the classroom. These tools have the power to topple centuries of oppression (Middle East) or to destroy ourselves. That’s why teachers need to be wise guides. This is even more important in the LD world as we search for that new aid that will be an equalizer for us in life. In this sense, we lead the technological charge for learning. For the LD kid technology can open doors that would never have been possible just a few years ago as devices and their apps create new possibilities.

I will post more about technology in the future but now it’s your turn. I would like to know your stories about using technology and how that impacted your learning and your own Living with Dave story.



About marty castleberg

I grew up on a farm along the banks of the Upper Mississippi River in Wisconsin. I overcame my school experience to earn a PhD in Organizational Learning at The Union Institute and University. I developed curriculum for adults and taught at a small liberal arts college. Consulting and research in organizational learning with a group that started at MIT segued into ten years of field research at Harley-Davidson, where I was their Learning Historian/Reflective Analyst. I left consulting to learn the craft of writing that went beyond academic studies, organizational narratives, and the occasional essay. I thought the result would be humorous travelogues and essays, but what eventually emerged was much different. With all the theoretical understanding that I amassed about living with LD, I still didn’t understand; that’s why Dave showed up. If you don’t count my eight guitars and four bikes, I live a very simple life in San Francisco.
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2 Responses to Technology and Living Dave

  1. JBR says:

    My first ‘serious’ (and I use the term rather euphemistically) was a TRS-80. I had purchased it for my company in order to keep better control of inventory and some selected financial data. My accountant couldn’t understand why I needed it, after all, he was supposed to be preparing all the information I needed. But I thought it would be a fab idea to have one, so I bought the entire kit. The term ‘entire kit’ included a magnetic coil printer (of course you couldn’t touch where the ink rested on the silvered paper for several minutes or it would be illegible) and the adorable little cassette player (which was the only way to save data).

    I had someone deliver the computer and assorted bits to my house, as I thought I would get up to speed before I dazzled my staff. Sadly, either the manual that was supplied with the TRS-80 was crap or the thing that was crap was the one trying to learn from it. Regardless, I spent a couple of nights struggling with how to make the bloody thing do what I wanted it to do.

    One night, my youngest son came into the room that I had appropriated as computer-central and asked me what I was doing. He was bored and was clearly intrigued by the shiny silver stuff I was playing with. I tried to explain to him, and then to my wife who came in to find him, that I was hard at work and needed to be able to concentrate so I could learn how to leverage this marvellous technological advance. Much to my chagrin, what seemed like minutes after she had hustled David from the room so I could ‘work,’ he was back. This happened several times that night, and finally, when he asked what I was doing, I explained that I was trying to format the cassette in the drive (or whatever I was trying to do). David – bear in mind, my youngest son was about 8 at the time – said I should try holding down one key and pressing another one. I am quite sure that I must have desperately tried to avoid saying, ‘well no shit’ or something else very un-fatherly. But before I could get anything out of my mouth, David had reached up and using both of his hands, pressed the keys he had told me to touch….and the drive was formatting.

    I think the lesson that was left in me had to do with the fact that my son had no preconceptions about what to do and what could work. I, on the other hand, a well-educated businessman, was so full of life experiences, that without his ‘intervention,’ I would have been sitting there for days.

    I still phone him when I buy some new technology just to avoid having to read the manual.

  2. So, JB, how would your life have changed if you had had access to our current technology when you were 8?

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