Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Museum of Extinct Technology: What My Students Saw and Did

I like field trips.
Alas, field trips are scarce in public schools these days. So I took the Good Ship Knowledge for a sail inside my classroom.
I broke out my Museum of Extinct Technology.
The Wonders in this museum are many, and I don't want to overwhelm you with a full catalogue. Likewise, introducing such treasures to the tender young minds I foster might have resulted in Letters from Parents.
Some concepts need a slow reveal.
I spoke slowly and carefully.
"This," I said, "Is something called a boom box."
Some students nodded wisely. Others looked immediately apprehensive.
"This machine can do several things." I held up a cassette tape, popped it in.
There was absolute silence.
Then I pushed "Play." I showed them how to adjust the volume.
They listened to about thirty seconds of the Rolling Stones singing "Ruby Tuesday."
"I know this band," one of my students said. "That really old guy? He was Johhny Depp's dad in Pirates of the Caribbean."
This generated several minutes of animated discussion.
I pulled them back together by holding up a round, shiny object.
A kid raised her hand.
"We know what that is," she said, with the patience teens sometimes have for old people. "That's a CD."
"But it's not just ANY CD," I said. "See how it's all marked up with a Sharpie?"
They saw.
"THIS," I said, "Is a MIX TAPE."
There were several outraged outbursts of "It's not a tape."
"Sorry," I said. "I am old. I forget. We used to make mix tapes. Then we were able to make mix CD's."
I explained that it was a big deal to be able to choose only songs you really wanted to listen to and play them.
They were aghast.
"There was not a lot of great music in the Eighties," I said. "But here are some songs worth our time."
I played the tapecd and the students got back to work on their projects. I danced a little, and encouraged them to dance.
Some did. It was a fine thing.
Then I packed up the boom box, an American Girl machine a student left in my room about thirteen years ago.
I put the machine and the CD back into the Apocalypse Cave that is attached to my lab.
I considered breaking out the Eight Track Tapes.
I looked at the records.
I did not want their heads to explode. The mess, the Letters from Parents.
We want the Good Ship Knowledge sailing, not sinking.


  1. Ah, here it is. There is good music from the 80s. Run-DMC, KRS-One, Tom Tom Club, Edie Brickell, I could go on, but you should have busted out a turntable.

  2. You must be a great teacher! I can't imagine your students NOT becoming engaged in your classroom. Hope my girlies have passionate teachers when they reach high school.

    I look forward to your A to Z posts!