Confessions of a Technophobe

My name is Sheryll Verga, and I’m a technophobe. Now that I’ve shared that with you, I feel better, so let’s skip all the hugging and get right to the confession bit. As set as I am in my ways, I admit that my fear of technological developments usually keeps me from understanding what each one is about until a good few years after the fact. I can proudly say that last year, I finally acquired my first smartphone – a budget-friendly one at that, and one which the sales associate at the shop had to twist my arm for after I badgered him for hours on end about the durability and specs (which I still do not understand to this day).  I predict that, toward the middle of this century, sometime between the moment that teleportation puts airlines out of business and the point when the unchecked development of artificial intelligence begins to threaten all human existence, I’ll learn how to download movies from the Web.

A few weeks ago, a bubbly and sprightly intern overheard me while I was coercing my colleague into supplying me with my weekly fix of superhero addiction and remarked, “But Ms. She, there’s already Netflix.” Well, I’ve heard of it but I haven’t got the faintest clue what it is and how it works. No judgment please.

My resistance to technological innovation has a solid basis in biology. An animal used to drinking from a particular watering hole is in no hurry to exchange it for a different one, however much larger and shadier the new spot may be. The animal knows that the familiar old pond fulfills its needs, while all kinds of danger might be lurking at the bottom of the new one. What’s a little shade and a bit more water compared to the possibility of being devoured by the second cousin of the Loch Ness monster?

That’s why I continued to use my trusted Nokia vintage bar phone even long after its heyday and even as all the others around me (and who were earning even lesser salary or worse, those who had no salary to speak of) had switched to smartphones. I had no use for data on my phone. No one could charge me of phubbing either as there was nothing for me to scroll down on. When the Ipad came out, I stubbornly refused to be sucked in to the hype as I figured it was just a fad that would collapse into itself like a blackhole, leaving behind only destruction and loss. More recently, I refused to be seduced by what I was sure would be just the passing trend of social networking. I signed up for Facebook many years ago after heedless teasing, hounding and cajoling from my co-trainers at that time, but I never really bothered to open it or check it after setting up a partial profile. It was only my mentor that finally made me keep it active. But even then, I’ve maintained my primitive charm by managing not to understand how to tag people, create a group, write on someone’s wall, or add friends. Again, no judgment please.

We are undoubtedly living in a time of amazing technological developments. Still, as a sideline observer, I can’t help but notice that, while their number keeps increasing exponentially, human desires have hardly progressed from those of prehistoric man. Instead of holding a club in our hand, we have our finger on a nuclear launch-pad button. Instead of trying to screw every possible mate in the cave, we use the Internet to download masses of porn. As an ex-Trekkie, I remember that each time members of a more developed species appeared on the show, they were not only much more technologically advanced than Captain Kirk and his crew but also more spiritual and enlightened, disdainful of the brutish human race, ruled by its weaknesses and fears. Now we find ourselves advancing toward technologies that, forty years ago, existed only on science-fiction shows, but, somehow, instead of becoming abstract creatures of light, sound, and pure wisdom, we’re still sitting on the couch in our granny panties wolfing down Lay’s and pizza and cursing the internet service provider for their crappy service. We may be looking at a thinner screen, but we’re wearing the same old underpants.

So you can imagine my trepidation when I realized I could not wiggle my way out of CompEd2 this term (not if I want to complete the program anytime soon). So I very petulantly trudged along the motions of the first week. Download the course guide. Introduce myself. Installed Kompozer and accepted the invite to Codeacademy. Simple enough. But deep within, I was still mentally calculating how I would even survive the course given my non-existent background in programming.

I’m a huge stickler to timetables and planners. In fact, my daily life revolves around one. One day, I found myself with a block of time reserved for CompEd2. There was nothing else left for me to do in the course but log in to Codeacademy and start giving those exercises a burl. I figured I’d give it a shot. Log in and quit if it gets too gibberish. I can just log in and close it. It should take me less than 5 seconds. I’d figure out how to get out of the course later. So that was precisely what I did that day. Logged in. clicked on the first exercise. This was the first thing I saw.

<!DOCTYPE>

<html>

<head>

<title>Building My Own Webpage</title>

</head>

<body>

Holy mother of crap! I think it’s time to go back to the batcave to continue my unfrazzled existence. Let me hold a physical book and read statements that I could understand. I’m a Creative Writing major, and I still believe coding is against our DNA.

Several lifetimes ago, I’d flunked Anatomy  more times than I cared to think. But faced with those string of characters, I found myself wishing I’d been facing a charred cadaver for Anatomy lab instead. Well, almost, but not quite. Why did I enroll in IDT instead when I could have just taken my Master’s in Creative Writing? Oh yeah, I forgot. It’s financial suicide, but that’s a story for another blog. Anyway, going back to my stunted journey in CompEd2, I tried but it was too much. I wondered whether my professor would even be able to monitor my progress in Codeacademy. That question would be addressed much later in the day when one of my classmates voiced out the same concern in one of the forums. It turns out I’d inadvertently signed up for Big Brother when I accepted the invite to Codeacademy. Accountability is a seriously sophisticated psychological trigger, I tell you. My professor didn’t even have to invoke any sort of negative reinforcement.

I’m now two weeks into the course. My brain has now rejected the idea of logging in without doing any exercise at all.

The thought process initially sounded something like, “This is stupid. I’m already in. I might as well key in a few strokes.”

Before I knew it, the third module was well underway and I realized I had the skills to work on the first assignment. Now, I’m on a roll. I’m logging in to Codeacademy and doing more. Sure, there were hiccups, but they haven’t deterred me from throwing in the towel.

Who would have thought that a technophobe like me would be reeled in to the Pavlovian approach of an educational technology tool? It started with a mini-habit or a mini-mission that catalyzed my brain to perform a new behavior even when my conscious brain was rejecting it. Codeacademy was set up to break down a large goal into much smaller, bite-sized chunks called exercises. It was so simple that most of the time, all I needed to do was copy the example. And if I get stuck, I could always call for back-up by clicking on ‘Get a Hint!’

I think this is good use of TPACK because it connects pedagogy, content and technology and goes beyond how to remotely teach coding to technophobes like me. It provides me with plenty of “hands-on” opportunities to practice and to engage in coding through technology. The set-up itself of the technology likewise reflected an understanding of the human need for rewards system and reinforcement.

Perhaps I am not a lost cause after all. And though I probably will not be joining the world of Twitter or Instagram anytime soon, I will not be shying away from technology in the classroom, at least. Perhaps one does not need to be a technology geek to be a good teacher, but learning how to use technology can make one a better teacher.

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