My analog life…
I think my professional development started from the day I was born.
I grew up in a family of readers where all the discussions at the dinner table ended up with a dictionary or an encyclopedia. My first memories of 4 or 5 years old are from my dad’s made up oral stories, and the books he made for us with cardboard, newspaper clips and cartoons. My parents also have “los palos de los domingos” which was basically a wicker basket filled with a bunch of wooden blocks that they gave us to play with only on Sundays. I remember looking at my mom getting to the highest part of her closet to get the basket and give it to my younger brother and I. What a treat! I thought it was a huge basket. Years later I saw it, and it was not more like the size of a paper basket we have now in our bedroom and use as a garbage bin.
During school, —besides books—-, notebooks, pen and pencils played a big role in my development. I really liked to write. I started a diary at age 10, and didn’t stop writing periodically on it until I was around 32 when I got my first, very own, desktop computer.
Snail mail served me immensely to expand my horizons. At age 10, I got on the quest of reading the entire collection of Enyd Blyton’s books, and with the help of my dad, I started to import them from Spain. I don’t remember the details of how we got the books to our house, but still checking a list from an editor from Spain, and striking out from it any new book I was receiving. At age 12, I started to have pen pals from all over the Americas. I remember especially one from Argentina who was very cute, and another one who wrote me from the US. His name was Modesto Mamani. He wrote me with a typewriter filled with Spanish grammar and spelling errors, and ink stains all over. He was quite old for me also. Nonetheless, I received letter, paper clips, photos and a lively interchange that was also the delight of my brothers who enjoy reading and laughing at me and my “love letters”.
In high school, almost all our work was done handwritten. In special occasions, our dad brought his typewriter home, and we could type on it, part of our work. When he upgraded his typewriter, we, children inherited, and shared during our last years of high school and first years of undergraduate school, a black Underwood typewriter which letter “h” always got stuck. Being a History major, I hated when I messed up with a footnote, since I needed to start almost all over again. After losing a couple of stories because of giving away the originals, I kept a folder with carbon copies. It was always a challenge aligning the three papers together, and changing the ribbon was always a mess.
The Xerox machine was also one of our allies. Around Campus, it was a mafia of photocopy machines businesses that profited of book-hungry students. We photocopied articles, books, classmates notes… Copyright laws were not enforced and when a book needed to be shared with 100 students, we forgot about them.
Around 1984, a big change in how delivering papers happen. The electric typewriter arrived in our household. And also wite-out correctors. Nonetheless, I was not an expert typewriter, and have to give my undergraduate thesis to a secretary to write it nice and neatly. It ended up with a bunch of typos anyway.
Not too far on the road we got our first household computer and printer. It was one of those continuous-feed punched hole paper printers with just one font. Our computer had floppy disk drives. During finals, and paper deadlines approaching, I remember chilling out or procrastinating by playing Digger which was addicting. Floppy disks was the start of a career collecting mountains of them and explore other ways of storing the massive amount of information that we were accumulating.
Presentations were made with posters, and manual prompts. In my family we were really fans of slides, and preferred them over printed photos. It was also an excused to get together with family and friends, and show our latest adventure through a slide projector in the living room of our home. We even went into audio-media presentations by putting texts on hand made slides, and finding music that we recorded in the newly discovered technology: tape recorders.
In 1990, I went with a Fulbright scholarship to the US. Writing papers became easier and easier thanks to word processors. We still relied heavily on paper, and the World Wide Web was just starting. Faxes were the thing of the time to communicate with my family since phone calls were expensive, and regular mail too slow.
The 1990s was the starting of the information explosion but still it was only one way. We started to find more information on the internet, and by the mid 1990s, Eudora email was in full blast for interchanging information. I remember working with a project in the Southern part of Chile to train 41 rural high school teachers to work with their students collaboratively via emails. Now, that I think about it, we were quite the pioneers.
In 1993, when I wrote my first book, I still did a lot of the research with pen and paper, and photocopying many XIX century sources from the National Library in Chile. When came the time to write the actual chapters, I remember being so excited since I could cut and paste, and put footnotes and citation at my leisure. At the end, the editor asked me to removed them all since the book was aimed to the layman and woman. Another thing was the storage of the chapters. The famous floppy disks started to be too small for the entire book. Backing the information up became a nightmare, and you never wanted to be in the situation of inserting the disk, and hear a sound like a non greasy wheel.
And then “puff!” we became digital…
By the early 21st century, things started to change rapidly. In year 2000 I moved with my family to the US. I have my own laptop, and did all the search for work on the internet at my remote mother-in-law ranch house in Montana. Eventually we ended up in the East coast, where I worked as education coordinator for a Hispanic NGO and parent liaison and translator for an elementary school. We were still pretty analog. Cell phones were pretty basics and still analog for us (we couldn’t afford a digital one until the next decade). In 2004, when I started my Master in Library Science, I had two small children and was working full time. By the time, I got my first Ipod. I had so much reading to do, that if it wasn’t for the time spent listening to books on my ipod while commuting to work or class, I wouldn’t have been able to finish all the assignments. I remember driving after classes late at night through Constitution Ave. in Washington DC, listening to a conference where they talked about the democratization of knowledge, and Thomas F. Friedman’s book The world is flat.
Since I was working full time, I was exposed for the first time to online classes which I found fascinating and daunting, depending on your professor’s experience on understanding this new way of delivering. I remember while visiting my family during Christmas break, I listen to the entire book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, while driving on a remote gravel road in Chile trying to find internet access to fulfill one of the requirements of one of my online classes.
When I finished my MLIS in 2006, the digital world was already on. I started to work as a brand new school librarian in Oregon. Being an information specialist, this new world did matter very much to me. One of my major concerns while doing my master though, was the digital divide. I thought that libraries where the answer despite the fact that my professor of CLSC 557 Libraries and Societies told me, when he handed me back my book analysis paper: “The report you chose has nothing to do with libraries, but you managed to make the connection.” My “book” was a 2003 [brick] report from Cepal, Building an Information Society: A Latin American and Caribbean Perspective. It still bugs me that he thought that it didn’t have a clear and straight connection with libraries and societies. I think it’s more and more relevant.
Anyway, that point I started to go to conferences where the integration of technology was “the thing” ( see my post 🙂 I felt a little bit left behind since making the leap was through fancy cell phones, and I couldn’t even think of having one digital. I just wanted to have one to practice. Nonetheless, I tackled things in an unorthodox way, and joined the e-coach community at the district level where a bunch of nerd teachers shared their wisdom about technology and form cohorts to help other teachers to integrate it in their own practice. As a librarian, I gave my thoughts about digital citizenship, academic honesty and responsible use of information, so both, teachers and students understood the cycle of information and the importance of having a respectable digital footprint. It was the time of edublogs, wikis, and all things 2.0. that pretty soon became 3.0 and beyond.
Now, as a proud owner of a decent digital phone (thanks to my techie brother, who, last year, gave me one since he couldn’t believe that I was surviving in the world with a Samsung Galaxy Core Prime), I can do over the phone all the things that I did one by one in my life-span: read books, schedule and have online professional and personal meetings, communicate with people via email, whatsapp, instagram, facebook, twitter, skype, make decent videos in less that an hour, track the sales of our online store GringoCool, watch movies on Netflix, track my bike rides, prepare online workshops, grade online projects, find interesting professionals to follow, attend conferences, take amazing photos, check my blog posts, track the weather or find the cheapest time to run the dishwasher or dryer…to name just a few…
With my laptop, I can do those things and more. I can develop content online, prepare audio visual presentations, participate in writing clubs like #CCCWrite, obtain my virtual digital certification from UC, Irvine without moving from my desk in Spain, participate in a wider learning community that makes me connect in real time with people all over the world. I have so much agency (another fad word) of my own learning. How can we teach our students in this world that we are still learning how to navigate ourselves? Still, the concepts are the same: life long learning, critical thinking, collaboration, reading, writing, analyzing… Is it just a new format? Is it just new wine into old wineskins or old wine in new bottles?
With all these, my concerns are different: I think I am losing focus, and not finding the time to do all the things I would like to do, in both, the analog and digital world.
Time to rewire my brain again…