World Wide Wonders

We’re just wrapping up a project that we are doing for Intel. We’re providing the content for an app that they are developing that is designed to show users how their new Android devices can be integrated in classroom instruction in powerful ways. The project comes from some other work that we have done for Intel that is based on the Range of Use model that Cheryl and I developed over 10 years ago. The model is basically a way of demonstrating to teachers the universe of uses that one might make of technology in the classroom.

In one of the previous projects we did for Intel, an online course on engaging students in a one to one environment, we worked with programmers in Egypt. In this current project, we are working with developers in Ireland. This morning the app developer in Ireland emailed me looking for some missing links; html that had been lost in the Word doc to text translation. I pulled up the original doc, copied out the links and sent them, and he responded with thanks; all in real time despite the fact that it is 8:30 AM here and 4:30 PM there. This reminded me of one the first experiences that I had with the Internet.
I was technology director for a state intermediate school agency in Lake County, IL in the late 80’s/early 90’s. One of our superintendents in a small elementary district had been to a science conference and had been given a login and email address to the National Science Foundation’s NSFNET, and early precursor of the Internet. At the time, of course, there was no World Wide Web and you used a variety of protocols to access fileservers, messaging boards, and, of course, email.

At any rate Wayne, the superintendent got me hooked up with an account and I brought a modem (remember those?) home with me for the weekend to try it out. I was using TelNet, an early network connection protocol, to gain access to some articles stored on a hard drive in Scandinavia, Denmark I think, when it suddenly struck me that by pressing keys in my living room in McHenry, Illinois, I was making a hard drive whir in Scandinavia! This absolutely amazed me and I literally spent hours that weekend poking around hard drives all over the US and Europe. (That seemed to be all that was connected at the time.) It truly gave me my first solid lesson in a shrinking planet.

I can remember a similar experience the first time I opened a Web browser and used a search engine to search the World Wide Web. While I was amazed at all the information out there, I can remember doing a search for “American Indian Tribes” and coming up with NOTHING! Still, the fact that I could view images and text stored on a computer in Switzerland was nothing short of amazing.

So now I am sitting here in Lake Arrowhead, California, casually sharing files and communicating in real time with Eddie in Ireland and it’s no big deal. I know, though, that we have come a long way and the world has changed radically. And it’s happened entirely in my lifetime.

One more thing that caused me to think about globalization and a changing planet: Eddie is in Ireland, I’m in the US. I am also, as the name Coughlin should lead one to surmise, Irish American. All four grandparents… you know the drill if you’re Irish American. So I am here and Eddie is there. Eddie Wong, by the way. Small world.