Tonight I flipped open my MacBook Pro and for some reason it made me think of my first experience with a computer word processing program – Bank Street Writer.
I wondered, does anyone else out there remember this floppy disk program?
In 1985 I was in my first year of teacher’s college. When our cohort graduated it was the ‘death’ of the Diploma of Teaching and it was rebranded into a teaching degree. In a handful of years it would become a four year, Bachelor of Education.
However back in the 80s, during the DipTeach, assignments were typed and for a few of us, our papers were created on this early word processing program in the computer lab. Really, it was a converted classroom with eight computers which could take a disk and the concept of computer banks, let alone laptops was a good chunk of years away. In my second year I could always access a computer but one year later, rarely was there a spare seat as the notion of processing was taking off.
My program was a copy. One of the clever tech kids copied his program onto my disk and the wonders of editing and a saving capacity unfolded. Technology was on the move but the Bank Street held on for several years. Can you imagine a time when the cool academics used over head projectors and might have gone to the bother of gathering colored pens. Sounds boring I know, but there were many lively debates and copious note taking!
In the late 80’s James Cook was a small regional university which attracted some young and dynamic academics. I am guessing it helped with the visa process – well, lucky us! The teaching was exceptional and decades on it was not surprising to see more than one of our younger professors in some of the top academic posts in the nation. We were also fortunate to have a dedicated group of successful teachers who came onto the campus for tutorials – ‘they knew what they were talking about’ – says it all really. The practicum schedule in schools started early in our course and fabulously for us we spent far more time in real classrooms than contemporary courses. Our academic subject schedule was greater also – my own kids who have all graduated from rigorous universities are amazed that we had such a heavy study load. That is not a complaint as it went a long way to preparing us for the real deal!
As well as typing assignments (I clearly recall a lecturer stressing that no handwritten papers would be accepted ) the sophisticated system of handing in assessments if the tutor was not in the office (which was rare as most were full time teachers) was to drop your assignment in a cardboard box left outside their door. Guess, we were all trusting and honest back then!
It still makes me smile to recall running through the campus gardens when tutorial listings were put on the notice board as the goal was NOT to have a Friday afternoon tutorial or best of the best, clear the whole day. One had to write their name on the sheet – first in, first on the tutorial. Easy! With our schedule then, uni days were generally eight in the morning (always a compulsory lecture which could not be got out of – there was a roll call back then and attendance was a requirement) until late afternoon. Finishing classes for the day by lunchtime was an absolute treat!
It meant that generally students were on campus all day. We had lunch together, we used spare time between classes to work on group activities and we loved being in the library, the only air-conditioned building on our campus! Northern Australia is relentlessly hot for most of the year so the library was a popular destination. This small college made my experience all the richer. We had no paid parking, no security guards as wonderfully they were not needed, things left behind could be retrieved at the library as someone always handed them in. Small was good, great even.
Some students left, a few changed courses but at the close of this academic journey nearly all of us celebrated as one large group with wood fired pizzas and many, many drinks overlooking the Ross River. It did not escape us that we witnessed a spectacular sunset that evening.
Our teaching appointments scattered us around the state and I commenced my first teaching appointment at Wilston State school in Brisbane.
Many years and an array of educational experiences later I would once again be on campus although this time it was in America and I was teaching – Foundations of Education Psychology. Email had arrived but was still not widely used by many of the professors and my students were delighted that I used this format to keep in touch with them.
My campus experience came full circle at the University of Canberra when for one year I shared it with my three children. Kiddo one and two were completing post graduate studies, law for Alex and diagnostic pathology for Harry and Miss Annie was in her second year of journalism. I was tutoring that year and though I parked beside their cars, caught up for the odd coffee we never all made it to the beautiful university sign for a group photo – one big fat missed opportunity!
That was not so many years ago and by now everything was electronic – phones do just about everything, apps, computers and the online world shape learning and teaching. Resources are incredible! Timetables and tutorials are organized from anywhere one happens to be when they become ‘open’ – no more running across campus! Lectures can be accessed on line and of course, many subjects are taught and completed with great success in this format. No more massive packets of photocopied readings for those doing ‘distance’ studies.
Whilst I have seen a great many changes in campus life, some aspects do remain. On a sunny day the warmth draws students to the grassy areas and the coffee shops are full of chatter and flirting. There is always someone running – literally running to be somewhere. Sure, the phones are out and the earphones are in but that invisible presence of promise is still very much everywhere.