I met my students last evening and had fun getting to know them and starting to dig into the course. I worry a little that I tell too many stories of the old days when it took minutes to connect to the Internet, and we were unable to move from our tethered devices.
Last night, it was the story of my middle school that, via a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, had such early access to the Internet that we went for at least two years without a filter as such technology was still being developed. It was early days so “bad” websites were not as widely available, and we talked to the students about responsibility as well as closely monitoring their usage. Remember, this was the mid-90s so access was on desktop computer in labs or classrooms. 1:1 and BYOD were not part of the regular vocabulary.
I have a few memories of accidental, inappropriate access. Whitehouse.com was a funny parody of whitehouse.gov and one dear child tried to get to Playboy by typing palyboy.com, which then kept coming up in the address bar. The venerable elementary school principal, a wonderful woman, went searching for pictures for her website and we were all surprised when the first one depicted a scantily clad, buxom young woman sprawled on top of a desk in front of a chalkboard. We had a good laugh and moved on.
Oh dear, I just told a story, didn’t I? I threatened to tell my students the origin story of witchyrichy, my standard username since I joined the Internet, but sadly did not have time. I don’t think I have shared it here either so, dear readers, another story for your amusement.
It is Halloween, October 1996, the year in which my middle school received the afore mentioned grant. I was teaching 8th grade communications skills in a computer lab. Yahoo was two years old and the Google of its day. Everyone wanted a Yahoo account but needed some help figuring out how to do it. When I sat down at one of the lab desktops to create a Yahoo account (I think I had been using a Virginia PEN account but that’s a story for another time), it seemed that many variations of my name were already taken. So, I took a look at that year’s costume choice with pointy black hat and long black dress, and witchyrichy was born.
I am a little embarrassed to admit that I did briefly egosurf in front of my students last evening. As I scrolled, I was reminded of all the various sites that have come and gone over the past 20 years from bookmarking tools to online communities. I think I feel a story coming on…