The Technology Dance — Part 3 — Rockin’ and a Rollin’ All Night Long


As we enter the new 2010-2011 School year we are all busy with anticipations and preparations for what lies ahead.   With “Middle States” and another Diocesan Review facing us this year, we have a lot on our plate in addition to just the usual routines.  So I would like to suggest some ways we can address the Technology Issues in both the Middle States and Diocesan reviews that might make the technology dance more lively and move more quickly for all of us.

As with my previous tomes in this area, I’ll begin with a story from my dance experience.

In ninth grade I entered a whole new dance experience.  The school year was 1962-1963 so we had entered the 60‘s among the rapid transitions in music and culture that would shape that decade.  Dance classes continued on Saturday nights at the Women’s Club, but on Friday nights a new dance experience awaited, the “Nine Y Jive” with “Freaky Freddy Milander” DJ “extraordinaire” as our Friday night dance host.  These Friday night spectaculars kicked off early in September at the new YMCA/YWCA building on 15th Street in Allentown, PA.  Unlike the formal wear I had to wear on Saturday nights, the only dress requirements here were a sports coat and tie.  For me that was “dance casual” and I was thrilled.  I had progressed significantly in dealing with my fear of girls but still didn’t feel comfortable asking one out to go with me to these dances that fall, so I decided to go with a buddy of mine from shop class, Charlie “Fabian” N…(I’m leaving off the last name to protect the innocent — namely me).  Charlie was a five foot six inch dynamite good looking guy that all the girls swooned over.  He was a classic 50‘s rocker.  He wore a black leather jacket and jeans to school with his black motorcycle boots.  A long silver chain hung from his back pocket with his switchblade neatly concealed.  He wore a white tee shirt with rolled up sleeves in which he conveniently hid his cigarette pack when his jacket was on.  He had a well-groomed Pompadour haircut substantially greased with Brill Cream, and a large black comb in his back pocket that he used as proficiently as J. Cookie Burns on “77 Sunset Strip”.   Charlie was “Mr. Cool”,  and he was the kind of guy that would help get you in just enough trouble to earn a reputation in the school so that if you hung out with him, a lot of the really cool girls and guys would include you as well, even if you were on the geeky side like me.  Charlie took me under his wing in metal shop that fall, and I quickly learned that attempting to make a zip gun in metal shop would get me a quick trip to the principal’s office and a stern warning about suspension and possibly expulsion if I got caught doing that again.  It also got me the “rep” that made it possible for me to hang out with Charlie and be seen as “okay” by the other “hoods” in the school.

To my surprise, it was Charlie who broached the idea that we go to the “9 Y Jive” together.  We agreed to meet at the Y building around 6:45 pm since you couldn’t get in until then. The dance started at 7:00 pm and lasted until 9:30 pm.  I guess I expected Charlie to show up in his usual school attire but maybe wearing the required tie.  Instead, he showed up with a very slick no lapel white sports coat, a long skinny black tie, black chino pants, and pointed wing-tipped shoes that looked more like the front end of a pair of high heels my mother might wear.  He reminded me a bit of the hero of the Saturday Atlantic City Steel Peer Dance Show, “Twinkle Toes Wilson”.  It was a look I definitely wasn’t expecting; kind of Dick Clark  American Bandstand.    He had his comb in his inside breast pocket, and he had conveniently placed his switchblade inside a rolled up monogram handkerchief in his right coat pocket, just in case there was trouble on the parking lot after the dance.   I had come in a pale blue sports coat, navy blue tie, a white short sleeved shirt, and my Cordovan penny loafers.  I had wisely foregone carrying a switchblade or cigarettes, lest I be soundly beaten by my father if I had been caught carrying either.  I did have my black pocket comb to spruce up my “Tab Hunter” style haircut, which was a far cry from Charlie’s “dew” but one that my parents could live with a whole lot better.

We plunked down our dollar admission fee for the dance and proceeded to the second floor dance area where “Freaky Freddy” was warming up the turntable with a couple of James Darren platters.  Guys and gals began to stream in behind us, and made their way over to a refreshment table where punch, soda, water, chips, popcorn, and pretzels were available for a quarter each.  The dance floor was virtually empty of dancers at this point, but streams of kids paraded back and forth, while Freddy tested his mike and got ready to welcome us to the dance.  Freddy cranked up the volume and the mike squealed as he introduced the first number “Dancin Party” by Chubby Checker.   Fast dancing was something I was just getting the hang of, but Charlie suddenly took to the floor and began “jivin” to the rhythm.  He grabbed the first girl that passed him on the dance floor and pulled her into his dance.  While she initially seemed to object, her objections melted quickly as Charlie gave her one of his trademark winks.  I have no idea what possessed me, perhaps it was a dancin’ demon, but I found myself on the dance floor next to Charlie mimicking his little move with grabbing the first girl that passed me by.  I thought she was going to slug me, but as she was winding up, Charlie kind of leaned over and winked at her, and she just stopped in mid-swing, and settled into the dance with me.  I breathed a quiet sigh of relief and the song seemed to come to a very quick end and my dance partner beat a hasty retreat back to toward the refreshment table.  Charlie stood his ground on the dance floor and waited for Freddy to deftly weave in the beginning of the next song on his turn-tables.  It was “Good Luck Charm” by Elvis Presley.   Having witnessed his classic shimmy and shake several girls proceeded to converge on Charlie.  A number of the jocks standing on the far side of the room gave Charlie the once over and some stern scowls as some of their “girlfriends” were among those converging on Charlie.   With Charlie busy looking over his prospects, I kind of slipped in to the one side and noticed a girl in my Spanish class standing there ogling Charlie.   “Hey Nancy, while you’re waiting how about dancing with me”, I blurted out.  Nancy gave a quick glance behind her to find me standing just about eight inches away.  She was only about 5 feet two inches tall, so she had to look up to see who had made the offer.  When she saw me, she stood silent for a moment or two pondering what my question might have meant, I guessed, and then to my surprise she said, “sure” grabbed my hand and headed to an open spot on the dance floor.  As we did a little mash potatoes to the music, she suddenly smiled at me and I relaxed and really got into the dance.  To my surprise Nancy and I continued to dance for nearly the next half hour.  We talked a bit, laughed at some bad jokes Freddy Milander was telling, and generally enjoyed ourselves until I suddenly felt a hand on my shoulder just after we finished doing the Locomotion to the Little Eva hit.  “My turn Ken”, came a stern voice from behind me.  As I turned to see who it was, Charlie put his hand into his coat pocket.  I waved him off quickly because I knew this voice, it was Mike, a friend of mine from church and from the basketball team.  Mike informed me that he and Nancy were dating and he would have been here earlier, but his brother Jack had a big football game and he wanted to see him play at least the first quarter.  I said I was sorry I didn’t know Nancy and Mike were dating and then headed for the refreshment table where I purchased a Coke, and sipped it slowly trying to regain my dance floor confidence.  Charlie had not stopped dancing since we arrived at the dance.  Girls seemed to line up on all sides of him looking for him to pick them for the next dance.  Charlie was an equal opportunity dancer and wanted to give all of his admirers a little piece of himself.  He kept waving me back to the dance floor between dances, so when Freddy finally played Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” I headed to the floor and headed straight for Jane S.  Jane was another drop-dead gorgeous blonde similar to the Jane I introduced you to in one of my earlier stories.  This Jane was much shorter just about the same size as Nancy, but a real “looker” and the desire of every 9th grade boy in school.  She was a cheerleader, an athlete and active in student government.  Jane and I knew each other from Church, so I thought I might have a shot at asking her for a dance, since at least she knew who I was.  Jane did respond positively to my request and we danced the rest of the night away doing more twisting and shouting than I had ever imagined.  As they say in the vernacular, “she could really shake that thang”.  We even danced a couple of slow dances.  I was one of the few boys who actually knew how to do these faux ballroom steps well and Jane as a dance partner appreciated the fact that I didn’t step on her feet and actually moved her around the dance floor quite gracefully.   That first rockin’ and rollin’ evening went much better than I anticipated.  It had plenty of high energy and excitement, and I maintained my confidence in my dancing which my dance partners quickly detected setting them at ease with my now 5 foot 10 inch gangly frame.  In fact things went so well for me at that first dance with Jane, that she ended up being my regular dance partner on Friday nights and my quasi-girl-friend until I got hurt during Spring Track season when she decided to date my best friend Curt, who was the star pitcher for the baseball team.

Sadly I discovered somewhere around 1972 that a lot of the Rock n Roll dancing was very individual and not very relational.  While we gyrated our bodies in all sorts of contortions to the pounding beat, we rarely paid attention to the lyrics, let alone really focus on our partner, in fact sometimes with line dancing we really didn’t even have a partner it was just whoever you happened to be across from when the line started and when the dance was over you wandered off in separate directions.  We rarely had any real contact with our dance partner.  You did for the slow dances, but most of the dances I went to, maybe played a half a dozen or so in a night, so there wasn’t a whole lot of close-up action.  I realized that my ballroom dancing was a lot more intimate that Rock n Roll.

This rock and roll phase continued through my senior year of college and into graduate school.  Along the way I had awesome   opportunities to see live acts like “The Dave Clark 5, Herman and the Hermits, the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead, the Fifth Dimension, Dione Warwick, the John Myall Band, Jay and the Techniques ( a good friend of mine played trumpet in Jay’s band so I got into that concert for free), Jefferson Airplane,  and Jethro Tull to name just a few of my concert experiences in the 60‘s.  Unfortunately I passed up a free ticket to Woodstock to attend a wedding of one of my college classmates.  He’s still married so I’m glad I went to his wedding, but sometimes I have this deep yearning to have been at the greatest classic rock event in history.   There were great dances as well at Castle Rock, Notre Dame Bandstand, and Dorney Park and Saylor’s lake in the summers.  I was kind of a Rock’n Roll fool in those days, so much so I even joined a band for a brief time, the now defunct “Orange Peel Sampler”; not to be confused with the current group of that name from Portland Oregon.  I played guitar, but I preferred to sing since my guitar playing was mediocre, my singing was much better,  and the three other guitar players in the band were way better than I was.  Unfortunately my singing was only good enough for the backup role since the lead singer, Eddie B, had that kind of hard driving raspy voice that let him carry tunes like “House in New Orleans” by the Animals, “Light My Fire” by the Doors, and “Eve of Destruction” by Barry McGuire a whole lot better than I could.  Actually, I didn’t stay with the group that long; they were big into the British sound, and I still dug the Beach Boys; so  I decided to follow my second passion at the time which was playing folk rock in small clubs or in folk music church services (like the Hootenanny of the early 60‘s the folk music worship service was very popular during that time).  Playing small venues was less intimidating.  If you were going to be booed there were fewer people to do it, and the overall atmosphere was a lot different, usually very dimly lit, a bit on the somber side at times, and most of the time the audience couldn’t see you for the smoke in the joints (pun intended). Playing for church worship services always resulted in lots of positive feedback even if the group was a bit off key.  The church worship group was where my next oldest brother, Barry, met his first wife Dotty, years before they were married.  Barry was and is a really fantastic rock and roll guitar player who used to jam with quite a variety of rock stars including but not limited  Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel in New York.  My last gig was one with my brother Barry and a friend of his, Reed , who could make a Gibson Black Beauty sound just like Les Paul or B.B. King.  We played at the Lambertville Music Circus.   My performance there was sadly mediocre and I actually didn’t even come out for the second set, letting my brother and Reed finish up themselves.  I drove back to PA and I decided I just didn’t have what it took to be a first-class rock musician or folk musician.  I quietly took my leave of the performing end, put my guitar up in the attic and decided to stick to dance.

So what does this all have to do with Technology and our preparation for the Middle States and Diocesan Reviews? I’m glad you asked.

1.  Once you’ve begun to get the passion for using technology in the classroom (see Technology
Dance 2 to refresh your memory on this) you need to get some rhythm going.  You need to
to keep dancin’.  One thing that the fast dancing of Rock n Roll taught me was to dive in, don’t hold back, let yourself go, feel the beat, and move it.  That means you need to find ways to incorporate the technology into your lessons on a regular basis.  I recommend at least once a week if not more often.  The more hands-on experience you get the better at it you’ll get so don’t hold back.  If you need help learning the “steps” I’ll be happy to show you.  I might not be a great Rock musician, but I am a great technology dancer.

2.  Second, while not a great trait, one of the things that Rock n Roll dancing taught me was that even though you are doing a lot of moving on your own, that’s okay, because ultimately you can still have fun doing it;  so if you don’t see your colleagues doing a lot of stuff with technology that doesn’t mean you have to stop dancing just because they aren’t.  Keep on dancing.  I learned that there are other people on the floor who will eventually come over and join your dance.  You might find that you even get along with them pretty well and they can be supports for you to keep trying out new steps and finding new ways to use the technology in the classroom.

3.  I learned that Rock n Roll is kind of contagious, once you start the music, it kind of draws people in .  Whether it was young people in the 50 and 60‘s when I was first introduced to this music, or whether its the Rock n Roll of 2010-2011, our students will be drawn to your music if you just start playing it.  Don’t worry if you aren’t great at it.  I wasn’t a great guitar player or even a great rock singer, but later on in life, I used to play this music for my kids and they loved it.  They didn’t care whether dad was a great Rockstar or not, they just loved the fact that he was doing his best for them, and they got a kick out of some of the old tunes that I used to play.  Sometimes even today, 32 years after my oldest were born, they still ask pop to dust off and pull out the old guitar for the grandkids.   Pull out your technology guitars and start strumming, the kids will appreciate your efforts. Remember this generation is and has been growing up on computers so its not a big deal to them.   They may even be a bit more proficient than you at first, but they will still appreciate the fact that you understand the tool they are growing up with and are willing to play it the best you can.

4.  If the Rock n Roll beat is a bit too fast for you, try things at a folk music level.  Simpler, easier to learn, and easier to pass along.  Remember folk music has been passed down for hundreds of years, Rock n Roll has a much shorter history.  Technology too has a short history, paper and pencil and books have been around a whole lot longer.  Technology can seem a bit overwhelming at any point in the use process, so if it gets a bit beyond you, tone down your use to things you feel comfortable with for a while.  Don’t stay there, but its okay for you to manage it at a level that works for you.  Introducing the students to a “folk music” level of technology might seem a bit arcane to some of your more gifted students, but you might be surprised to learn how many of them really don’t know the fundamentals of a particular piece of hardware or software all that well, and you might actually be able to teach them a few tricks they didn’t know.  They will be a bit surprised at your skill level once you show them a few tricks they didn’t know previously and that will get them your attention the next time you are trying to introduce some new technology in the classroom.

5.  Finally, one of the great things about Rock n Roll is that you spend a great deal of personal energy and get the adrenaline pumping.  Once that happens the good old Endorphins kick in and you are soon on your way to being high on life (hopefully without the support of other controlled substances that were so popular in the 60‘s).   So if you start doing the things listed above you won’t have a lot of time to stress about the Middle States and Diocesan Review.  Besides, this is the year that much of this review falls on my shoulders since technology is a major part of both of these reviews and I love to dance.  If you remember that a good piece of what is happening is about the technology that I’m responsible for, then you’ll have to worry less about what your responsible for.  I’m confident that I know my dance steps well enough to be able to effectively meet with the evaluation crowd coming in, I’ve been doing this technology dance thing since 1973.  That’s way longer than most of them have been doing it, maybe way longer than some of them have even been around, so I’m fairly confident I know my way around this dance floor.  So as we used to say in the 60‘s “Rock On!”.

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