Autobiography of a Computer User

My first recollection of using a computer is in junior high with three close friends. We were working as a group on a computer with a picture we created from "x" and "o". There were three questions that had to be answered, and each time you answered the question, the nose on the picture would grow like Pinocchio's. I think it was a DOS operating system, but couldn't tell you for sure.

I have purchased many computers, and recently purchase both a new laptop and home computer, which I am still in the process of setting up (due to lack of time). We currently have 2 laptops and three home computers, and I have given some away, so I am going to guess we've owned around 8 or 9 to date. Computers have been a great frustration for me in many ways. I depend on them so completely, but have been challenged to my core by technical issues. Fortunately for me, my dad had the opportunity to learn a great deal about programming and fixing computers (mechanic by trade) and helped my through a lot. My biggest problem is not having the time to figure things out on my own. I know I am capable of learning about the computers, but the process is a slow one. Just when I start to get something running smoothly, technology changes or advances, and I am behind the eight ball again! Sometimes I resent the technology because it eats up my time, allows work to follow me home more easily, and allows others to intrude on my personal space (marketing, etc.). Other times I can do amazing things with it, and I love it.

I can remember learning about computers in junior high and high school. I started using a computer for work (I was a banker/financial planner previous to teaching) in the early 1990s. I'm sure that is where I did my first email, although I couldn't say definitively.

I don't know that I have ever commented on a blog – at least if I did, I didn't realize that is what I was doing. I created my first wiki this summer (loved, loved, loved it!). That's when I realized I had a wiki account, but again it was something I had signed up for through work without realizing what it was. Because of a comment someone had made in eclass about searching your name on the internet, I did that Friday. I found out I did have a paper I wrote for my last course on-line because I embedded it in my wiki. I also found my last Twitter posting, my Facebook account, the work I have done for Benchmarks of Historical Thinking and some other odds and ends. So, I have contributed more than I realized.

I vaguely remember using a spreadsheet in high school for an amortization schedule for my teacher's mortgage (we were doing something in math with percentage rates and formulas???). All I know is his schedule was long...I hope he has is paid off by now! Everything else, like Microsoft Office, has been due to work. I have taught myself most of what I know; I have only attended courses for my Smartboard as far as I can remember.

I do read newspapers on line. We do get the newspaper delivered and I do prefer a paper copy. I read news on my homepage all the time, but it isn't a newspaper. I also follow certain news providers on twitter, which I like. I have a number of feeds on Google Reader that I am now beginning to follow for my course. However, I finally see the value of this tool and am excited by this new tool for managing information.

I don't read magazines online. However, I do have a membership to ASCD and read their weekly online articles frequently. I did subscribe to some magazines but found I never had time to read them, so have since cancelled them. Teaching and going to school has cut into my leisure time just a tad. (Not to mention having four kids...).

I have read a book on line...that was just fine. However, I will choose a book in my hand any day just because of the smell and texture of the experience. The computer is not as intimate/friendly in my opinion. However, it does keep my lap warmer than the book does.

I have read portions of a non-fiction book on line. That was okay, but I find with some of the non-fiction I need to write on it to build my understanding. It was only recently that I learned about options for doing this with online stickies, but I have yet to try it.

I read on-line all day, most days. I am either reading an article someone has sent me, searching for information on something, looking something up in Wikipedia, etc. Most times the experience is so smooth I don't even think about it. If I am feeling something, it is usually frustration because something technical isn't working the way I want it to. I participate in Facebook (when I have time) and now Twitter. But I do realize there is so much I am not tapping into, terms that are new to me regarding technology, etc. and I am only beginning to tap into the potential. I did just sign up for Shelfari and am very excited about this social networking tool as well!

I do shop online. Amazon Books is one of my favourites. I also have two "hobby" businesses that I do online (Lia Sophia which is jewellery and because I am so busy, online shopping for accessories for work is a great answer – and I quite like the jewellery. Gold Canyon Candles – because I love them and the cleaning products, and again saves me time running – and they make great teacher gifts!) I have bought things from Please Mum, Costco, Sears, etc. I do a lot of research for shopping online as well – again, saves me time and money running from store to store.

I do whatever I can for banking on line. With my background in banking and finances, I feel I am more competent than many of the people on the end of the phone (when you get a person) anyhow. Rarely do I need to go into a bank or mail a payment. Actually, I have automated everything so well I rarely have to think about my finances.

I am currently trying to find a good calendar solution (to replace having a calendar on my fridge and on my phone which is synced with my computer). Still not working the way I would like it to, because my life is insanely busy. I can't book anything without looking at a calendar because it usually comes down to juggling minutes and hours, not days. I am going to look into Google calendar more this course.

I use my computer to watch movies (sometimes), listen to music, watch things I find on the internet, hold all my pictures... I find it a great way to share pictures. I love it.
I use computers to teach – to manage information related to teaching – to communicate – I depend on it every day. Having said that, I could definitely get by without it...if the expectations of me as a teacher changed and society didn't use it so much...but I do miss the simplicity of life before this latest technology surge. I don't think I could do my job or prepare my students with the skills and attitudes they need for the 21st century without them.

My youngest kids use the computer for games, like KidPix. My oldest daughter uses it for school, social networking, iPod, file sharing.... My husband uses it for researching how to fix things, order parts for the side jobs he does (auto body work), buy hockey cards. He has actually impressed me the most with his growth in computer use.

My computer use at home and work tend to overlap. However, I tend to bring work home, and rarely take personal tasks to work. I check work email from home; check home email from work. I never do my banking at work. I never go on Facebook at work. I do go on Twitter at work, only because my superintendent is trying to use Twitter to represent our district, so she gave us her handle. Some of our central office staff is starting to suggest certain blogs to follow, so I'll add to my Google reader (which I just set up, so am still figuring out) and Twitter when appropriate. I am using these as professional tools, so I feel it is okay to access them at work for those purposes.

I spend two or three hours on my computer at work in a day, minimum. Before and after school are email, spreadsheets for data I am recording, Microsoft Office for letters, handouts, classroom resources, lesson plan preparation, etc. During school, I use it to show videos; I have a doc-cam that I constantly use to display student work, objects, demonstrate reading comprehension strategies, etc. I use the Smartboard daily.

I have sent and received invitations via email, Facebook, Smilebox and probably others. I like it. I find it more efficient than having a stack of papers on my desk. The pictures are so vibrant (as in Smilebox). It is easy to respond to (vs. mailing replies or phoning).

I have donated to charities on line. I have also set up a webpage for donations to be made to me on line (oh, there's another one I hadn't thought of!). We did the Underwear Affair one year, and used their online feature – I received many donations that way. I think it is convenient.

My local library does have an online catalogue (had to look though, because I wasn't sure). I have never used it. I have only used the online services of the U of A.

I have researched travel on the internet, but have never booked it. In fact, I have some travel credits I have to use, and the only way to do so is on line. This has slowed me down, I just wanted to talk to someone and have them take care of it for me.

I received my first cell phone about 12 years ago. It was a Christmas present...I didn't appreciate it until years later. I currently have a HTC Hero. I really debated getting the iPod phone but went with the Hero because I was familiar with HTC and had fairly good experiences with it. I do like the HTC Hero, but am wishing I went with the iPod because of the uses at school for it. My Hero may be able to do the same things, but I haven't researched it yet. I text more now on my cell phone and this latest cell phone does just about everything my computer does. I love getting my email on it – helps me keep on top of things. And I love the camera (although it does not take as good of pictures as it should).

My experiences with Web 2.0 are limited to what I touched on in my summer course...I created a wiki, but still have yet to participate in one. I have ventured into Twitter, and I have Facebook. I now know what Web 2.0 means, which is a good start. I am a beginner in this domain. Maybe it will be like inquiry; maybe I am doing more than I realize...