Cathy Frank

Memories of CCV circa 1983-1999

(With a little help from Dr. Suess’s “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away”

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
ny direction you choose….”

My first memory of CCV was of the large high ceiling classrooms in the Champlain Mill in Winooski, 2nd floor, northeast corner. Mica DeAngelis had asked me if I was interested in teaching a computer class. My total computer experience had been on our family Apple II. CCV was using PCs. I had never used a PC before but I cavalierly said “Yes”. That first semester I spent more time in the computer lab than my students! Talk about a learning experience.

Tim Donovan was then the Northwest Region coordinator and the person most knowledgeable about computers on the entire CCV staff. I learned a lot from Tim while trying not to let on how much I did not know. Tim claims we were only a few steps ahead of our students back then but from my vantage point and skill level, that was being generous.  On some days I was only a day or two ahead of my students.  In 1983 windows were still things that allowed light into rooms. DOS was the operating system of the day and it had not been designed with humans in mind. Computers were not networked and the World Wide Web (www) was nonexistent. Viruses, worms, Trojan horses and spam were unheard of.  The lab had one computer for every two, sometimes three students, and the software was loaded onto each computer from 3.5 inch disks, one disk at a time. It took for forever when it worked and even longer when it did not. What kept us going was the excitement of the potential these computers held for learning. That and a great little coffee shop on the first floor of the Mill, a small Vermont company called Green Mountain Coffee Roasters that roasted its own coffee beans right in the building. No K-cups back then but did they create a great coffee aroma on the first floor.

In time CCV outgrew that space and moved to Dorset Street in South Burlington. The staff was excited that there was now an Art studio and science lab. No one seemed to notice that the proximity of the computer lab to the kitchen might be a problem. The little kitchen area, comprised of a microwave, refrigerator and sink, was right outside the computer room door.  No food or drinks were allowed in the computer lab but that did not stop the inevitable and irresistible smell of freshly popped popcorn from wafting into the computer room during class.  I never succeeded in convincing the staff that this was cruel and unusual punishment and that popcorn popping should be prohibited when computer classes were in session.

Meanwhile it felt like technology and software were evolving and changing by the day. We instructors debated which software we should use to teach – Microsoft Works or WORD, or Word Perfect and how much of the Operating System our students needed to know. We each had our own strongly held opinion as each of us had invested a lot of time in learning and developing classes around the software we knew. And, bless him, Tim, the maker of all software decisions,  accommodated all of us.  Meanwhile every semester brought software upgrades to all the software, changes we had to adjust to. I envied the people teaching English literature. My lesson plans were never good for more than one semester.

“Wherever you fly, you’ll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don’t
Because, sometimes, you won’t.”

Because we were operating a student lab and the computers were not yet networked, there were no passwords required to use a computer. “Logging In” was a concept yet to be created. One day when no one was looking, a mischievous student who was familiar with computers set a password for each of the lab computers. The first class to arrive the next morning, my class, was totally locked out of the computers as we had no idea what the password might be. Eventually we figured out how to get into the computers and to prevent anyone from thereafter setting a password.

As time went on we again ran out of space. CCV moved to Pearl Street in Burlington to accommodate its continually growing enrollment. By now our computer lab had a computer for each student but we were still loading the software one disk at a time, as many as 30 disks per computer, one computer at a time.  It took all day if all went well which it still never did of course. Each student saved their work on a floppy disk but their floppy disk went home with them to be used in multiple unknown computers. One day one of those floppy disks came back to the CCV lab infected and in no time the entire complement of individual computers was infected as the first computer to be infected then transmitted the virus to each new disk that was inserted into its disk drive. None of the computers would start.  Classes had to be canceled for a day and the clean up and reinstallation process done all over again. Thereafter anti-virus software, then in its infancy, became a mainstay of our software load.

“You’ll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.

 While the courses I taught were called such sterile names as “Microcomputer Applications” and “Spreadsheets”, I often thought that whatever specific skills I taught about how to use a particular software at a particular point in time as a tool in learning and in life, were not nearly as important as the problem solving skills we all learned in dealing with such wonderful but problematic machines called computers.

Over the course of the 16 years I had the honor of teaching at CCV, there is no doubt in my mind that I learned far more from my students than they from me. Perhaps that is what has made and continues to make CCV so special.

Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored.  There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.

One thought on “Cathy Frank”

  1. Kathy, what wonderful memories you brought back as I, as a fellow computer instructor, can relate to SO much of what you have said. Thanks so much for sharing.

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