Friday, February 13, 2015

What's In Your Desk Drawer? Day 10

Have you ever seen one of these?

Do you know what this is? If you are under the age of 30, you might not. (Ugh...I'm aging myself here, aren't I?) Until I came into possession of this one, I hadn't seen one of these since I was in elementary school.

This is the canister for a filmstrip. Long before the age of the DVD, even before the age of VHS, there was multimedia in schools...the filmstrip.

Here's what it looks like inside:

Hold it by the edges! Don't get fingerprints on it!

A colleague gave this to me a couple years ago, knowing how much I love educational technology. This is a neat piece of history for me, and a good reminder how things continue to evolve--so quickly!--in the realm of media and educational technology.

In elementary school, we were so excited when the teacher rolled in the cart with the filmstrip projector. We would wait impatiently while she fed the end of the film into the projector, and insert the audio cassette into the player. (Oh yes, there was an audio track!) The first image would come up on the screen and the teacher would press "play" on the tape deck. When it was time to turn to the next image, there would be a "ding" on the tape. If we were lucky, we might be the one to be able to turn the knob to advance to the next image.

I specifically remember learning about Greek myths, and some church history via filmstrips in the 6th grade. I can't remember seeing this technology after that, because that was the year our school installed a large TV with a VCR in every classroom throughout the school. A new age of technology had begun! (Ah, the 80's...)

This has me reflecting on the way educational technologies continue to change. Filmstrip projector gives way to VCR, which in turn is replaced by Laserdisc (remember those?), followed by DVD, and now streaming video. Along the way, students began to create their own content, with the rise of easier to use video editing technologies and more affordable (and higher quality) video cameras. In high school, we had several large, over-the-shoulder VHS cameras. By the time I was teaching, we had hand-held mini-DV camcorders. When I was Tech Coordinator just five years ago, I was buying Flip cameras for our students to use. Now it seems everyone has a camera in their pocket as an integral part of the smartphones that are becoming ubiquitous.

It's hard to keep up!

Many people have very strong feelings about technology in education. I know I do. (Full disclosure: I'm generally in favor of using technology in education. But I take a very broad view of technology...even a pencil and paper are "technologies" if we think of technologies as tools created by human beings for specific goals and applications.) Because I tend to advocate in favor of technology in education, I often end up having discussions with people who are skeptical of digital technologies. One argument I often hear against adopting technologies for teaching and learning is this pace of change, this sense of always looking for the next big thing, the next tool (toy?) that will get students engaged in learning.

I recently saw a piece shared on Twitter with the line "iPads are the worst technology students will ever use" included in the tweet. I was intrigued, because iPads have found such wide adoption in schools can they be "the worst technology" for kids? I know there are many voices sharing a variety of opinions about tablets in education--some saying mobile devices will save education, and others decrying the tech as the end of education. I find myself somewhere between these positions (and there is plenty of room here in the middle!)

Really, what the author is getting at is the idea that the iPad--similar to the filmstrip from my childhood--will eventually be an icon of an era. A curiosity, perhaps, in retrospect. I wonder if one of the middle school students I once taught will someday have an old iPad in her desk drawer and chuckle nostalgically at the technology we used to use "when I was a kid..."


(This post is part of a series about the weird stuff teachers have in their desk drawers. You can read more about this project here, and I hope you'll share the stories of the weird stuff you have in your desk too!)

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