Why is technology so complicated? I don’t understand it already, and I haven’t even gotten started! My kids know more than I do, and I stay away from it so I don’t look ridiculous. It changes so fast, how can anyone keep up?
I recently visited the Kennedy Space Center. Talk about a fish out of water. I don’t understand the aerodynamics of flight. How is it possible for man to go to that dark, vast, cold place and see remarkable things and return safely to Earth? Talk about team work. How are so many minds able to work together for a common goal without the whole project going haywire? I’m intimidated by all the knowledge in a place like this. As I walk among the buildings seeing what my fellow countrymen have created, the dreams and aspirations they have realized, astound me. Everyone here didn’t get to walk in space, visit the space station, or have the fame of being the first to walk on the Moon. But everyone did work together realizing that the mission to space was bigger than just one man, or one team, or one department of NASA.
I can relate these feelings of intimidation back to my own classroom, to my own students here at Bryant & Stratton College Online. I see many comments from students saying they are afraid of technology. I hear you and I feel your pain. It wasn’t that long ago for me, and I can still imagine what it is like to open up Excel and stare at a blank spreadsheet wondering what you are supposed to do with each of those little squares (cells). Students know they can perform magic and do powerful things, but it takes knowledge to get there. And it is intimidating when you know the power, but not the process. I know the power of space flight, but not the process. Not yet, anyway. I have never forgotten my days as a new user of technology and software. Yes, today I am technically savvy, but I wasn’t always. Like you, I had to start somewhere. I remember those early days of being a computer technician working for Kodak in its heyday. I made a lot of silly mistakes. When I would embarrass myself by a mistake, I always swallowed my pride and kept moving forward. I learned from it. I made lots of mistakes, but tried hard never to make the same one twice. Nothing is too big to understand if you just ground yourself and take it one piece at a time. I can still remember my mother telling me that you can even eat an elephant, if you do it one bite at a time. The imagery was awful, but the message was true. You can conquer anything if you break it down into manageable parts.
The best instructors and teachers are those who never forget where they came from, and the journey they took to arrive at the present day. If you can muster up enough inner-strength to make the determination that you will not let defeat rule the day, you can master anything, even Excel spreadsheets or Access databases. They are actually pretty cool, once you become comfortable with them.
Technology isn’t going away. If anything, it will embed itself deeper into our lives, our automobiles, our entertainment, and our very clothing. We can be left behind, we can be intimidated, we can stand here and wring our hands, or we can choose to take the smallest steps in understanding those little pieces we use daily, our smart phones, our computers, and other peripheral devices. As we explore our world and really take a solid look at all the technology everywhere, we realize a choice must be made. Embrace the pieces we choose to use, understand, explore, and experiment – even if we make mistakes.
As my students comments ring in my ears it dawns on me that I am so fortunate to see the transformation from the first weeks of class to the end of class. Most students learn as much about themselves as they do about technology. They realize that technology isn’t to be feared and it was their own misgivings that were standing in their way. Most want the class to continue for several more months so they can learn everything once they have mastered a few new skills. I get great joy out of watching this transformation. I am a witness to the journey; the journey of education, the journey of self-realization, and the journey of a thirst for knowledge. The best part about teaching technology isn’t the technology itself, (although I love that aspect of teaching), it’s watching the student triumph over something that used to hold power over them and intimidate them, and now is nothing more than circuit boards and software in their eyes. That is the ultimate rush.
I believe I need to come back to Kennedy Space Center next year. I need to learn more. I need to understand the process of space flight. I’ll never be a pilot, and it isn’t the marvel of engineering, or the mathematical calculations that I need to understand. It’s the drive, the desire, the passion to make a difference, to achieve, to receive knowledge and mostly to learn about myself as I travel on my journey.
About the Author:
Ellen J. Divens, MSEd, is a full time instructor at Bryant & Stratton College where she specializes in Technology & Communications. In addition, to holding a Masters in Adult Education, she also holds a Second Masters in Communications & Information Management. She has been teaching online for five years and began her educational journey as a Bryant & Stratton College alumna, earning her Associates in IT in 2001. She is heavily involved with industry associations with a focus on Information Technology, Information Management, and Communications.