I love gadgets and technology. And yes, I’m a female. No, I don’t do programming. And I don’t really want to, either. Technology — specifically computers and the internet — gives me pause today.
Here I am at 62, with a desktop (an iMac from the fall of Hurricane Ike, 2008), a MacBook Air (spring 2011), an iPad 2 (April 2011), and now an iPad mini. I enjoy using my iPod, too. For me, technology has been fun, though frustrating at times.
I’m old enough that I learned to type. On a manual typewriter — a big one, heavy enough to do serious injury to someone. I actually took a typing class in high school. When I went to college, my parents bought me a portable manual typewriter. When I started grad school to work on my M.A., I got an electric typewriter, though one that still required that white paper tape to do corrections. By the time I wrote my dissertation for the Ph.D., I had an IBM Selectric.
Only in the 1980s did I acquire my first computer — an Apple Iic, bought used from a friend. From then on, I’ve been a Mac girl all the way. Certainly at the university I had to be able to work with a PC — our later computer labs in the Department of English had them, and so did most students. I became bi-lingual, or as I sometimes called it, bi-platform.
Most of my use has been word-processing, but I’ve learned to use PowerPoint and even Excel (the dreaded spreadsheet). Learning is kind of fun, even if I am constantly challenged and frequently frustrated.
For teaching, I learned to use Blackboard. And I tested Moodle. I even tried to use LiveText. If there was a new technology at the university, I was willing to jump right in. But some friends resisted and continue to. Our teaching world has shifted from one technological paradigm to another, and it hasn’t been an easy shift at all.
And then there are the problems for any individual today. Many of us use online access for shopping, for banking, for bill paying, for accounts of all types. And each and every site we access regularly means trouble.
I mean, just how many log-in names must one invent? One site wants at least one capital letter and one number. Another wants that as well as some symbol. And passwords? Don’t get me started.
At least once a year I find myself cursing at myself — just how can I forget how to sign on to some page I use less frequently than others? I know I’ve made a note of the login name and password, but where?
And when I do try to retrieve it, or to reset a password, and the system tells me it cannot verify my security answers . . . . I just want a baseball bat. Or an adult beverage. Or both.
Sometimes I triumph and recover it all. Sometimes I slump in defeat, reduced to calling the help line that day or the next and confessing to someone I can’t see that I am a)stupid and b)can’t remember what I need. I’m sure I provide lots of entertainment and laughter for the people on the other end of the phone line.
Just this week, I have: not been able to get into my TRSL member account; not been able to log in to a credit card account; not been able to get into my own Social Security page. That’s just this week. It’s only Tuesday night.
My backup when that happens? To make phone calls. Which I’ve done yesterday and today. Tomorrow I have another couple of calls to make.
I can log on to almost anything from almost anywhere. On my iPad. On my smartphone. On a computer. Somewhere everything is linked in that great cyber universe beyond the seen world.
Maybe I really am in a Dr. Who episode. Maybe my desktop is in some kind of crack between worlds.
Anyway, it’s only Tuesday. What else can happen?
Well, I head to the beach on Thursday. For some reason, AT&T tells me that the street my beach house is on can’t get service yet. It’s not sure why — either the new grid is already full, or the new grid isn’t complete yet. Please call back. I don’t want a phone. I want internet service. And while I can’t get it because AT&T swears it isn’t available on my street, someone on a nearby street has it (actually several someones). I can pull in several locked AT&T networks. None of them, alas, are open.
To get internet via satellite is more than I pay for satellite television. By the way, the satellite company that provides television service for Kay and me doesn’t also provide internet service, though it does in other areas. No, for that we’d have to use another satellite company. And its service is outrageously expensive. It’s also not very reliable.
So I use the cellular data plan on my iPad. Of course, getting good reception at the beach house doesn’t seem to work for me most of the time. Phone service seems spotty. I can get my iPad to successfully get some cellular service only when I sit at the dining room table. But I console myself that at least I can get some internet service that way.
That’s when I know just how much the internet has become part of my life. I need to log on daily. I need to check mail. I need to read my newspapers. And, of course, I need/want to blog.
That’s why all these handy devices exist, right? To make life easier? To make the web accessible just about anywhere, anytime?
I get better reception when I’m on the ferry heading to Galveston than I get in my own beach house.
For years — decades– I lived without a computer or the internet. I taught without a computer. Without a printer. All I needed was a typewriter and a stencil or mimeograph machine. (You youngsters probably have no clue what those things are. Look them up. Google them.)
By the time I retired, we had smart classrooms, and whiteboards, and my students could log on to wireless access in some buildings in class.
Today I met friends for coffee. It was the second day of fall semester, and they’d already met classes. Both were talking about how the newly opened renovated building that houses English and history and social sciences wasn’t quite ready. There were no desks or podiums. There were new whiteboards but no markers and erasers. I don’t know whether the new smart classrooms were working; neither friend teaches in a smart classroom.
And I smiled. My own Tuesday technological difficulties are mine; they don’t involve other people’s technology. Thank goodness.
I’m not a Luddite. Not by a long shot.
Sometimes, though, it’s nice not to have to frantically keep up with newly adopted technology for teaching — that may or may not work.
I don’t have to log on to Blackboard or Moodle. I don’t have to set up class sites online. I don’t have to load on folders of notes and handouts and weblinks and assignments. I don’t have to fumble with an online gradebook.
I just have to make a few phone calls tomorrow to remind myself: who am I? What login name did I use? Then I can reset passwords.
And that will work.
Until the next time I forget, of course.
Ah well. Enough for tonight.
I think it’s time to go to bed and read.
An e-book, of course.