Monday, November 8, 2010

Back to School!

My family chipped in and bought me an iPad for my 'special' birthday this month.

I haven't talked to anyone since. Or puttered around the house, or gone to a movie or even cooked a meal.
(Well, maybe one, when some special friends arrived from across the continent and I picked my head up to make an effort).

I even wake up in the middle of the night to play with it. It gleams in the darkness, lighting the way to knowledge. It also has terrific solitaire games!

Along with the new iPad came lessons at the local Apple store. I was very wary. I had taken 'computer courses' before, in my previous incarnation as an educator.

They were terrible. And I should know, because I know about learning.

As far as I'm concerned, there should be a corner in Michelangelo's 'Last Judgement' reserved for computer classes. What could be a more brutal torture than to find yourself sitting for hours looking up at a large, blinking projection at the front of a lab while the teacher/facilitator (there's an oxymoron) stammers and apologizes,
"I don't get it. This worked before. Wait a minute. No, ignore that....sorry." etc., etc.

To cover the instructor's tush, in one such week-long course on photoshop, everyone was given a certificate of proficiency anyways, even though none of us could demonstrate anything of much competence. Since many of my classmates were actually paying big bucks for the course (unlike moi, who, in the interest of full disclosure, was subsidized by my board) it was the least the 'school' could do.
And...after all, if people didn't pass, where would future clients, oh, excuse me, students, come for?

It's strange to admit this, especially since I spent the last 25 years teaching others, but I actually hated school.
Most of the time. Once in a while, especially in the primary years, I managed to enjoy myself and pick up a few things, but later on, I cringed. I was educated in the days of what they used to call 'teacher-centered learning', so much depended on the competence and personality of the teacher. The pickings were pretty slim. Do I really have to expand on this?

We had no 'google', of course, so our curiosity was severely hampered. Oh, we could visit the local library, undergo a background check, get fingerprinted and be allowed to take out a couple of dusty books for a week or two from their limited and highly guarded resources. Or, if we were lucky enough to find one in our family, we could try to eavesdrop when the occasional intelligent person was expressing a new idea, but the opportunity to participate in a meaningful discussion was often curtailed by the universally-held belief that children should be 'seen' but not, of course, engaged in actual conversation.

So I've spent a lifetime being a self-taught kind of learner. And I believe I've leaned a lot.
(As a matter-of-fact, I have heard myself flatteringly referred to as a Miss Know-it-All on many occasions!)

And I just love learning. I can't stop myself. For me, the best thing to come along since my university stack pass has been the internet. The concept that I can have a question about something, anything, and touch a couple of keys or a pretty glass screen and 'ta-da' there is the answer, or a link to it, is mind candy for me.

I'm actually quite addicted. To wondering about stuff. And then, finding out. If I had my way, school would be kids with wireless laptops searching for answers to facilitator-posited questions on a variety of subjects. The questions would not be things like, "If Johnny has ten candies and three friends, how many candies does each friend get? but rather, why/why not should he give them any? or, how many are left for him and how will he console himself with the remainder? Answer with reference to at least three religions. Then, are you satisfied with these explanations? If not, why not? Suggest an alternative for bonus marks!"

So the chance to expose myself to more school was a little unsettling. But one of my friends, who had skipped many a boring class with me in high school, a retired teacher of gifted nerds and a formerly very late adapter, assured me that going to the Mac Store school was a completely different learning experience and that I'd love it.

Although 'Trust' is not my middle name, I decided to give it a shot.

More on this later. I have to drag myself away from the keyboard and get dressed. I have another lesson in half an hour.