Magic In The Machine

I really enjoy asking people about their dreams as it relates to teaching and technology. I encourage them to speak their minds about what they’d like to see and how it can help them in their contexts. When I was an administrator at a community college near a very large city, this was a safe question. A conversation starter. An ice-breaker.

I knew the context. The complications. The population. The capabilities. The network.

It was a safe question for me to ask because I could connect those dreams to our collective reality in a positive way. I could predict the answers because I was very interested in the history of the questions.

Now when I ask this question, it’s a lot more complicated. I’m in a position to help. Or I’m perceived that way. Now when I ask this question, I see many perspectives at once at all levels of the organization. The same dreams. The same concerns. The same realities. The same dreams for students and teachers. The same complications and joys of teaching and learning.

My dreams have slowly progressed from those of a teacher, to a committee member, to an administrator, to a council member, to a system advocate, and to part of growing team. I’m shocked at how my dreams are now so very different yet so very much the same.

What are the barriers to actualizing those dreams?

Sometimes it’s time and money.

Mostly lack thereof.

Sometimes it’s knowledge about technology. Its flaws. Its capabilities. Its potential. Its connection to humans. Its limitations. Its inconsistency. Its unreliability. Its abilities.

Sometimes when I hear what people want for their dreams of technology, I have to politely tell them that we aren’t there yet. It’s just not possible, I’ll say. Someday. We’ll get there. I cite research. Quotes and statistics. I tell anecdotes. I loop back to what’s possible now. What’s impossible now.

In the meantime, what’s the workaround? What’s the best way we can co-create what will solve problems for people in different contexts? What are the best connections to maximize the time and energy of people looking better solutions?

Here’s the thing. Let me tell you a story that keeps spinning in my mind.

I’m old enough to remember record players. My dad used to call me from my room to flip over the record he was listening to while he stayed on the couch reading the newspaper. He’d yell for me when the needle hit the paper on the record. I’d have to leave my kingdom of barbie dolls to flip the damn record.

Before the creation of the remote control, I’d stomp down the damn stairs to change the channel on the television for my dad.

I used to dream of record players that didn’t need a human to flip the album over. TVs that didn’t have dials. I’m sure I prayed to all gods I no longer believe in to make that happen for me. It would be magic, I thought.

One can now talk to remote controls to change the channel or bring up catalogs of movies on the television.

One can plug in a small device that holds 10,000 songs.

Somebody had my same dreams and created the machines to make it happen.

Somebody co-created the magic brain in the machine.

About Alyson Indrunas

Always learning about instructional design, educational technology, professional development, adult education, and writing.
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