Long, long time ago … August 20, 2012Posted by ianinsheffield in Musings, Tools, Web 2.0.
Tags: history, physics, wayback machine, website
When someone on Twitter provided a pointer to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine (WBM), I never really gave it a second thought; it was something I was already aware of. Later however, I got to wondering whether the website I set up to support our Physics Department had been captured? It was a fair ‘way back’ and I couldn’t imagine that any archiving mechanism would have picked up something of such little global significance, but hey what the heck.
On visiting the WBM, the first hurdle was going to be to try and remember the URL of the site, but after leaving it and returning later, the grey cells had done their bit (They do say it’s the short term memory that deteriorates as you get older don’t they?). After typing in the string, jings, crivvens and help ma boab¹, the WBM elves had done their stuff and found my old site! OK, some of the images were missing (I guess they never got pulled through?) but the structure was intact, the links (at least the internal ones) seemed to work … and goodness me, what was I thinking when I made it?!
To be fair, this was the ‘olden’ days as far as the Web was concerned. I guess it was on the cusp between Web 1.0 and 2.0, where social interactions and user-generated content were just beginning to be made more accessible. The earliest iteration captured by the WBM is given as 30th July, 2001; I know I had things up and running before that, but I guess the crawlers hadn’t picked up the site any earlier. So this was just after Blogger had started, around the same tie as Wikipedia, a couple of years before MySpace, Facebook and Second Life, four years before YouTube and five before Twitter². To get anything posted on the Web in those days, you had to work a lot harder. I used some of the free website creation space I’d got when signing up with my first ISP (Lineone, which became Tiscali and later still TalkTalk) – school certainly had none at that stage and VLEs were unheard of in secondary education. I learned the rudiments of site creation and management using NetObjects Fusion (which is amazingly still going, but has moved on from version 5 that I used to version 12!), but as you can see, had little awareness of design consistency. Hey, everyone had animated gifs on their sites then … didn’t they? There was no way for students to submit work, comments or feedback other than by email and the email address I gave was a personal one; we didn’t have a school email address back then either. Looking back, how incredibly naive?
The glaring thing I guess was the pedagogy I was attempting … or the lack thereof. It was very much about providing resources online which we also provided offline; about supplementing and supporting the students’ studies rather than offering an alternative way for them to experience their learning. Or am I being too harsh? Three years before that in pre-Web days, I’d created everything needed to study the A Level Medical Physics module (because we couldn’t afford the books!) using Hypercardon the Macs. An ebook if you will. In the late 1990s! And it all fitted on a 1.44Mb ‘stiffy!’ (Remember them?)
In the eleven years since the website was archived by the WBM, so much has happened, both in the world of ICT and in my own personal development. Only 6 months after that first archive, I’d changed jobs to pursue that developing passion to explore what ICTs might offer and have had plentiful opportunities to investigate more appropriate and effective mechanisms for enabling online learning. Although I wouldn’t change things for a moment, I can’t help but wonder what activities I’d be planning and delivering now, had I stayed in the classroom? Would I have maintained my interest and kept up with the pace of developments? Or would I have burn’t out or become frustrated with the slower pace at which school was progressing?
No regrets. Unlike the Wayback Machine, I can’t go back.
¹ ”Oor Wullie” 1930s onwards
² Social Media Timeline – idFive