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Lessons Learned from Technology in the Classroom

Jacqui Murray

Life is hard, but lessons are all around us. The trick is to take your lessons where you can find them. In my case, as a tech teacher using technology in the classroom, it‘s from computers. Here are four lessons I learned from my computer. I don‘t know how I could survive without them.

Technology in the Classroom Lesson One: Know when your RAM is full

RAM is Random Access Memory. In the computer world, it controls how much you can work on at any given moment. If you exceed your computer‘s RAM, it won't remember anything else (computer programs start stalling or stop working). Humans have a mental workspace – like a desktop – that controls how much they can keep in their thoughts before it is shuffled off to long- and short-term memory.

For people with eidetic memories, it‘s very large. For most of us, size is controlled by:

  • How complicated the subject is.
  • How many numbers there are.
  • How many specific facts there are.

I know my limits and I don‘t feel bad about grabbing a pencil to take notes or asking someone to slow the heck down. You shouldn‘t either. Figure out the limits of your RAM and accept it. Don‘t be afraid to say, My RAM is full! That‘s what computers do.

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Technology in the Classroom Lesson Two: You Can‘t Go Faster Than Your Processor Speed

Everyone wants a computer with the fastest possible processor speed. That means it will plow through work really fast and we get more done in less time. Even when we have more to do, the computer will only work as fast as its parts allow it to.

This is also true of your personal processing speed. It is what it is. You can only think through problems and consider issues as fast as you do. No amount of lusting after those with a photographic memory will change your circumstances. Accept yourself for what you are. Revel in it. Own it. Enjoy your strong points and work around the weak ones.

Here‘s something you may not know. No one is perfect and everyone has weaknesses. Successful people form arguments and situations to accommodate their strengths and ignore their weaknesses. You can too. Who cares what your processing speed is if your hard drive is to die for?

Lesson Three: Take Shortcuts When You Can

Don‘t you love keyboard shortcuts? Instead of mouse-clicking through all those steps to get something done, a quick Ctrl+I italicizes or Ctrl+S saves. This is so much more efficient.

Life is like that. You can do it the long way or the short way: Reinvent the wheel every time you are faced with a problem or learn from experience.  Here are some examples:

  • Learn from your mistakes as well as other peoples’ mistakes.
  • Accept advice from people you trust.
  • Don‘t feel you have to go it alone. There are lots of friends and family, and sometimes new friends, who will help you get things right.
  • Go with your strengths. They have been honed by use. Your weaknesses, well, you never quite know how they‘ll work out.

You‘re not capitulating if you take the road more traveled.

Having said all that, sometimes these shortcuts don‘t work. At that point, try something else. One feature I love about Windows is it has multiple solutions to every problem–drop down menu, mousing, shortkeys. Incorporate that into your life. If one solution doesn‘t work for you, try another.

Lesson Four: Be Patient When You‘re Hourglassing

Everyone who has used a computer understands the annoying, time-wasting hourglass (which has become the swirling circle). You‘re trying to perform magic on a deadline and the computer screen pops up with an hourglass that lazily pours sand … for. Ever. You think it‘ll continue until Harvard wins the Super Bowl. You can't rush it -- the computer moves on when it‘s ready, with complete disregard for your frustration.

There‘s a lesson here. Life includes predictable, spontaneous hourglassing. Patience is the key. We teach our children that patience is a virtue, but we don‘t embrace it as our own. Anger won‘t get rid of the hourglass and stress won‘t make it go faster. Sit down, relax, and check your email if it takes too long.

Four nuggets of wisdom to be learned from computers. Do you have any you'd like to share?

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor/author of dozens of tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and dozens of books on how to integrate technology into education. She is webmaster for six blogs, CSG Master Teacher, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, a tech ed columnist for, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.