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Added teaching section to 003

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Kenneth John Odle 1 month ago
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      003/codex-003.tex

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003/codex-003.tex

@ -135,7 +135,7 @@ The picture of a VT100 terminal is courtesy of Jason Scott. It was published at
\subsection{1986}
I went to away to college in the fall of 1986. Personal computers were still very much on my mind, but I still only owned a Commodore 128. We were still typing papers on electric typewriters at that point, and the height of that technology was correction paper.\footnote{This was a very convenient alternative to a product called "Liquid Paper" (also called "whiteout") which was essentially paper-colored paint in a small bottle with a brush in the cap. When you made a mistake, you shook the bottle and brushed a very thin layer over the mistake. You then waited for the whiteout to dry, backed up, and typed the correct letter. The fluid contained a lot of solvent, and as this was the time of the Satanic Panic, parents were warned that their kids could be huffing whiteout. As you used the product, more and more of the solvent evaporated out of the bottle, meaning that it eventually became a gloopy, chalky mess, meaning you could only use half of what was in the bottle—it was not very efficient. With correction paper, you just backed up to the mistake, put a bit of correction paper on top of the paper, typed the mistake again, removed the correction paper, backed up and typed the correct letter. It was much neater, had no terrible fumes, and you didn't have Fundies chasing you down the street accusing you of being a devil-worshiping drug addict because you had a bottle of correction fluid in your pocket. (Liquid Paper was invented by Bette Nesmith Graham, who also happened to be the mother of Mike Nesmith of the Monkees.)}
I went to away to college in the fall of 1986. Personal computers were still very much on my mind, but I still only owned a Commodore 128. We were still typing papers on electric typewriters at that point, and the height of that technology was correction paper.\footnote{This was a very convenient alternative to a product called "Liquid Paper" (also called "whiteout") which was essentially paper-colored paint in a small bottle with a brush in the cap. When you made a mistake, you shook the bottle and brushed a very thin layer over the mistake. You then waited for the whiteout to dry, backed up, and typed the correct letter. The fluid contained a lot of solvent, and as this was the time of the Satanic Panic, parents were warned that their kids could be huffing whiteout. As you used the product, more and more of the solvent evaporated out of the bottle, meaning that it eventually became a gloopy, chalky mess, meaning you could only use half of what was in the bottle—it was not very efficient. With correction paper, you just backed up to the mistake, put a bit of correction paper on top of the paper, typed the mistake again, removed the correction paper, backed up and typed the correct letter. It was much neater, had no terrible fumes, and you didn't have Fundies chasing you down the street accusing you of being a devil-worshiping drug addict because you had a bottle of correction fluid in your pocket. (Liquid Paper was invented by Bette Nesmith Graham, who also happened to be the mother of Mike Nesmith of the Monkees. The world is much smaller than we think it is.)}
We did have computers available to us, however. Our college owned two mainframe systems: a DEC-10 and a VAX 9000. As I remember, you had to go down to the basement of the science building to use them, where they had a room filled with VT100 terminals.
@ -167,8 +167,38 @@ I should mention that I went to college with the goal of becoming high school bi
\subsection{2008}
Bush II decided to tank the economy for ordinary people so that rich people could get richer.\footnote{This is the second of three "once in a lifetime" recessions I have lived through. Yay, capitalism!}
\section{Teaching Computers}
I graduated from college with a B.S. in Biology and a teaching certificate. I could not find a job teaching biology—as it turns out, biology teachers are a dime a dozen.\footnote{This was a huge surprise to me, because all through college, whenever I told someone I was a biology major, they seemed really impressed and said something like "oh gosh, biology—that's really hard." But note—these were non-science people. If you want to study science, but don't want anything too hard, apparently biology is the default.} As it turns out, chemistry teachers are about ten bucks a dozen, and if you majored in physics with a goal of teaching high school science, you would have your choice of any teaching position you wanted.
Of course at this time (the early 90s), lots of people still wanted to be teachers, unlike now, because teachers still garnered respect from the public, parents, and administrators., and teaching jobs were hard to combine by, unlike now. So I started substitute teaching and doing whatever I could to pay the bills.
I eventually managed to find a job at my old high school teaching what used to be called ``night school''\footnote{I have no idea what this is now called, or if it is even still a thing.} and what is still called ``community education''. But names are only labels and are usually irrelevant. My night school students had dropped out of a traditional high school education and were now in search of a GED\footnote{General Equivalency Degree—aka ``high school diploma in a box''.} to help their job prospects. I was there to teach them just enough Earth Science to enable them to pass the science portion of the GED exam.\footnote{There is so much that I could say here, but it is completely irrelevant to our current purpose and so belongs to an entirely different zine.}
More relevant to the purposes of this zine were the community education classes which were your basic ``Introduction to Computers'' class.
I really wish I could remember how I got this job. I would like to think that I had a very long, very detailed job interview which I simply aced, but I very much doubt it. I don't remember meeting with an administrator at all. The only person I can remember interacting with was a much pressed-upon administrative assistant named Geri. (I would not have been surprised to discover that she supplemented her income by delivering pizza on the weekends.)
So yeah, an interview in which I was grilled about my knowledge of both computers and pedagogical theory did not happen. What probably happened was that I applied for the position teaching Earth science and submitted a paper resume written on a Commodore 128 and printed out on an Okidata dot-matrix printer, and they saw that dot-matrix printing and thought ``This guy knows how to use a computer. We should ask if he can teach our community education computer course as well.'' In fact, I'm quite sure that is what happened. Dot-matrix for the win!\footnote{I have no problems with this. Sometimes low expectations work in your favor. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.}
I don't remember much about this ``Introduction to Computers'' class. It took place in the same room my high school computer class had been in, but all the previous computers were gone and had been replaced by shiny new computers running Windows. As this was around 1992, this would have been some version of Windows 3.
What I do remember the most about this class was that the best way to teach anybody anything about computers was to maintain a completely hands-off policy. That is, if somebody asked me how to do something, rather than grab their mouse and \textit{demonstrate} how to do it, I found that it was better if I stood back, told the student to grab their mouse, and then told them where to point it and where to click. I confess this was partly laziness on my part—you can only \textit{show} someone so many times how to do something as simply as printing a file or turning the computer on before you are completely done with it.
But I discovered a wonderful thing about this: \textit{telling} is very different than \textit{showing}. When I show someone something I tend to use words like ``here,'' ``over here,'' etc. But when I \textit{tell} someone something, I have to use much more specific terms like ``upper-left hand corner'' and ``half way down''.
This meant that telling someone how to print a file meant that I ended up saying something like ``move your mouse\footnote{i.e., cursor. To someone who is new to computers, the two are one} to the upper left-hand corner, find the File menu and click on it, and then go about half way down until you see the word 'Print and click on it.''
And this worked. My students were not familiar with a ``File'' menu, but they were familiar with the concepts of ``up,'' ``down,'' ``right,'' and ``left''. This led me to realize something that I had not been taught in college—you have to work with students where they are, rather than where you wish they were. You can't play the ``if only'' game. (``If only my students knew where the File menu is…'')
I know that the usual dictum is ``show, don't tell''. But what's really happening here is that by \textit{telling} my students, they were then \textit{showing} themselves, and developing some muscle memory along the way.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed teaching this class, nothing good can last forever. A new Republican governor was elected and he slashed funding for community education and adult education programs. (A less-educated populace is easier to control, I guess.) I taught this course for a year, had a great time, and would gladly teach it again, even with the miserable wages. Hell, I'd do it now as a volunteer. Knowledge should be shared, not sold.
\chapter{What's to Like About Linux}
\chapter{Coda}

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