We had an “All Hail Apple!” event at our school yesterday, where Apple Sales reps brought in teachers and tech folk from local schools to experience the Apple Magic. There’s nothing like having to pimp a product, even a product that I generally like, to sour my stomach. It didn’t help that my (beloved) MPB had a truly beautiful and catastrophic HDD failure* last week.
The sales reps scheduled an hour for our faculty Canine/Equine Extravaganza at the end of the day to show off all the brilliant transformative teaching and learning made possible by our tech investment. Except that we’re not 1-1 yet. One campus has had 4 macbook carts since Fall, and the other only runs one arts lab of macs. Our teachers have done some great work, but the best of it represents quiet, internal changes — moving a writing class to a reduced paper model, or bringing isolated assignments onto a collaborative wiki. Tool specific or media intensive projects, which are the bread an butter of demos like this, are thin on the ground, primarily because of the access headaches of 80 macs for 320 MS students.
So we bring out the flashy projects we’ve done and strut like we’ve reached the promised land, instead of recognizing the incredibly important transitional moment they represent. These silly projects – songs about body systems full of stock GB loops, PPT Slideshows narrated in iMovie, “skits” acted out in front of the iSight – are the process by which teachers learn to re-think their craft through the lens of new tech.
There’s a lot of these projects in the first months and years of a new tech initiative, and they’re as essential as sweet wort to beer, and about as enjoyable over the long term. We’re doing this work because it’s necessary, both as a means for students, teachers, and parents to acclimatize themselves to what “work” can look like, and as part of the environment where teachers remake themselves. Apple’s institution-wide sales press bothers me because it’s like selling brewery equipment as the only possible way to enjoy this amazing sweet wort! There’s a hundred other ways to get there, and what they’re showing doesn’t capture a tenth of the potential.
* The HDD failure was really amazing. It started normally where seemingly random sluggishness leads to a hard restart and a failed boot sequence. While Dropbox saved most of my important stuff, I still needed various things off the drive. Disk Warrior (the good Mac rescue) found nothing, but Single User mode came to the rescue! Even though fsck outright failed, along with anything (du, cp) that tried to span a directory tree, I was able to every individual file or directory I needed. I also remembered to save the contents of /Applications and /Library/Application Support, which should make rebuilding my system easier. If it ever comes back form Cupertino. :(