No, I’m not writing a paper on the history of the Internet, only MY history with the Internet. When did you first go “online?”
I started teaching in 1989 and there were computers in the classrooms. We taught word processing, data base, and spreadsheet. Research was still done with books, in a library. My students would call businesses if they needed information. Or, they would go personally to interview the owner/manager. We had a FAX machine in our office that students occasionally used to communicate with their sources.
Then the librarian started sharing database disks with me. These were fascinating, but they were often out of date. I realized that there was a world of information out there on this thing called the Internet, and if I could connect my classroom, then I could connect my students to a bigger world. I started to investigate.
I got online at home first, with a dial-up connection, with Compuserve. I started signing up for forums, as they were called back then. Women’s Forum, California Forum, Travel Forum. I was meeting interesting people. I started connecting with a few teachers. We emailed one another and shared out stories. Remember “you’ve got mail?” I had lots of mail. I knew this was what my students needed. To meet people from other places.
It was now 1992, and I figured out how to connect ONE computer in my classroom to a phone line and access a free AOL account. Afraid that the phone line, which belonged to the school and was charged by the minute, would get me in trouble, I quizzed a school board member about this. He said no one monitored the phone bills, and if I was using it with students, then he saw no problem with it. But, he had no idea what the Internet was.
My students loved doing research and making connections online. The search engines weren’t too great back then. Remember “Ask Jeeves?” That was a favorite of mine. We only had one computer, in one classroom, to do this, but we were online, learning how to do this. Then the library got a connection. My students could go there. They were pretty much the only ones using the library computer as they were the only ones on campus who had been trained to search.
Finally, the school caught up, put in a server, and we were going places. This was long before blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. The students were doing research not only for my class but others. They were looking at colleges online and scouting out scholarships. Teachers came to me to find out how come my students knew all this stuff and could access the Internet. It would be a long haul to get the other faculty up to speed. Most of them still allowed their students to HANDWRITE their papers. Wasn’t allowed in my classes. Every paper had to be word processed. By this time all of my students sat in front of computers, connected to the Internet, every day, in my classroom.
Of course, now there is wi-fi at every school in the district. Students can access the Internet from anywhere with all sorts of devices. They are not limited to the classroom or library, just as I am not either. I am typing this on my laptop in the family room. We’ve come a long way from 1992 when I first signed on.
So, what prompted this reminiscing? I just got a Facebook message telling me that the Women’s Forum on Compuserve is being shut down as there is little traffic on it. I’m not surprised. We’ve moved on to other social media sites. And yet, I am fond of that first place I connected with women all over the globe, many with whom I am still friends. I cut my online teeth on Compuserve, and in doing so, guided my students to do likewise.