Count on change

This weekend, many Americans celebrated a time-honored, gridiron tradition.  In Phoenix, Arizona, two football teams squared off to determine the ultimate victor in the National Football League.  While many people were watching because of their fanaticism to the sport, a fair number of people were watching just to see the commercials and the halftime show.  Counting the pre-game interviews, the musical productions and the post-game celebrations, the whole affair lasted for hours and hours.

Buried within the hours of football festivities was a commercial from 1994 where Katie Couric and Bryant Gumble discuss the correct way to pronounce the @ symbol in an email address.  The commercial only features a small segment of the Today episode where the Internet is discussed.  The whole video can be viewed here.  In my opinion, the best part is when Bryant Gumble asks confusingly, “What is the Internet, anyway?”  While the segment is only a minute or so long, it captures clearly how much change can happen in a decade or two.  Twenty years ago, Bryant Gumble couldn’t announce an email address.  Now, we’re all walking around with computers in our pockets.  It’s quite a change.

But, change is always happening.  Sometimes it’s subtle.  Sometimes it’s more drastic.  Take the Internet Archive.  The site bills itself as “a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form.”  The site has old documentaries, musical concerts and even videos from gamers playing classic video games.  It’s a treasure trove of technology fun where someone can easily lose hours and hours of time.  My favorite part of the Internet Archive is the Way Back Machine.  The Way Back Machine has captured over 452 billion pages over time to demonstrate how changes have occurred.  Want to see what Yahoo looked like in 1996?  The Internet Archive has recorded the site over 42,000 since then.  Viewed in sequence, the recordings showcase how vital and rich the Internet has become over the years.  The evolution is pretty amazing.

The changes, however, are not only visual but societal as well.  In preparation for an Educator Ethics presentation recently, I researched one of the foundational legal cases against a teacher in Pennsylvania.  From 1939, Horosko v. School District of Mount Pleasant set the standard of teachers as role models within the state.  In its ruling, the State Supreme Court stated that “it has always been the recognized duty of the teacher to conduct himself in such way as to command the respect and good will of the community, though one result of the choice of a teacher’s vocation may be to deprive him of the same freedom of action enjoyed by persons in other vocations.”  Amongst the charges against the defendant was the crime of playing a pinball machine.  Put in today’s terms, I doubt many teachers would be dismissed for their obsession with Candy Crush or Trivia Crack.

But that’s the impact that technology has on society and on education.  We can look back at videos from Internet Archive and see technological innovations from the 50’s and 60’s where teachers first started using filmstrips in their classrooms.  We can scoff at those perceived innovations but in their time and place, they were breaking new ground. Even though it doesn’t seem that revolutionary today.  And maybe that’s the hardest part about change.  We don’t recognize the change happening until it’s already occurred.


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