The Tech Wizards of Tomorrow

The use of technology at Altimira is one of the biggest changes I noticed upon return. In math class, I couldn’t get over the digital overhead projectors, which display 3-D color images. I’m not sure how they work, I kept staring in wonder at the image of the teacher’s hands in full color, instead of shadow. In music class, instead of using LPs, cassette tapes, or even CDs, today’s teachers have thousands of songs at their fingertips with iTunes.

The computer lab, which has moved since my day, is completely outfitted with new, grant-funded PCs. When I was a student, we used Apple II’s, a DOS system, and floppy disks. I learned to type on a computer with a black screen and glaring green font. This time around, I tried out the fancy typing software that kids now use, with a video introduction and games. I challenged myself to a couple typing tests, turning dead serious as I focused on the screen. I’m not gonna lie, I kicked butt with 99 WPM, 100% accuracy. If you like, you can challenge yourself with a free online typing test.

Altimira students now learn to be tech-savvy from a young age, growing up using iPods, MySpace, and various computer software. In computer class, pairs of 7th graders were showcasing the commercials they’d made using Microsoft PowerPoint. They had invented a product and marketed it with text, music, and animated images. I especially noticed the following:

1) Their creativity. Among the products were:

– A fashionable hat that lets you read people’s minds (with a picture of Hugh Jackman modeling it)

– A computer that records and prints your thoughts as soon as you think them — after you “hock it up to the computer” [sic]

– A robot that does your homework (two groups independently designed this)

– “Fire in a Can” that incinerates roadkill. The marketing was priceless: “Now the road is clear, the animal is in a better place, and you don’t feel guilty.”

2) Their expertise in marketing.

It’s scary how many commercials these kids must have watched to master language like “Buy one, get one free,” “Not sold in stores,” and “Two payments of just $49.99 + S&H.” My personal favorites were “Buy it, Don’t deny it,” and “May blow up if used improperly.”

3) Their advanced technology skills.

These kids have grown up with modern computers and do all kinds of crazy things without a second thought. They’d used PowerPoint not only to animate their presentations, but also to design 3-D pictures of their dream rooms. Carolina, my 7th grade buddy, also introduced me to think.com, a site like MySpace for schools around the world. Carolina had made online friends from Puerto Rico and China, and she showed me how to use Google’s online translator to send them messages in other languages.

My generation is probably the last to have grown up with typewriters and library card catalogs, and without mobile phones. When I was eight, my family inherited an old Tandy 2000 PC, which I used mainly to play Lode Runner and text-based games like Zork II. When we upgraded and got internet in high school, I felt awed that I could send messages instantly through the phone lines and adored hearing AOL’s “You’ve got mail!” I also remember using a giant car phone that barely fit in the palm of my hand. Ahh, the days of yore. How did we ever live without Google and pocket-sized cell phones?

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