Technology has grown and changed exponentially over the past years -- this is quite an understatement! As WATG and other organizations approach fifty years of organized advocacy for gifted education, historical documents provide insights and appreciation for those who began the process.
Many of WATG’s early letters and memos from the 1970’s were crafted in longhand and then typed, presumably by a secretary (if the author had the good fortune to have access to one). Interestingly, some were copied with carbon paper, as evidenced by multiple addresses appearing on their office copy. Phone calls were one-on-one conversations, and letters were sent via the United States Postal Service.
In the 1980’s we had some of our first virtual learning opportunities! However, the programs were broadcast on Wisconsin Public Television on Saturdays across the state. Dr. Robert Clasen and Dr. Donna Rae Clasen organized and recorded the programs, and produced booklets of readings and resource information manuals to accompany each series. There were weekly discussions on Mondays throughout the state on the Educational Teleconference Network (ETN). Participants needed to go to specific sites in order to participate. Coursework was available for credit, but it may have been Continuing Education Credits, which no longer exist. Who remembers?
There were five separate series of twelve sessions each with all of the accompanying readings, assignments, and projects. Series included guest lectures and articles from national giants in gifted education such as:
During all of these years, paper newsletters were composed, printed, and mailed to members each month. These newsletters were the standard communication mode for organizations at the time. They were also a major expense for the organization’s operation.
During these years, WATG’s Annual Conferences provided vital professional development for teachers, administrators, and parents. Conference planning also provided an opportunity for Board Members to have extended face-to-face meetings to strategize and plan. For the first 30 years or so, WATG sponsored fall and spring conferences. The spring conferences were usually smaller in scope. but were also vital for additional face-to-face Board Meeting time. Eventually, school budget restrictions, and multiple duties assigned to coordinators made leaving one’s district more difficult. As attendance dwindled, the spring conferences were eliminated in the early 2000’s.
With the advent of conference calls, monthly Board Meetings were conducted using new technology. Board Members were scattered across the state, it was finally possible to connect easily in new and exciting ways without traveling. While muting options were eventually available, sometimes evening conversations were difficult in households full of kids, dogs, dinner dishes, etc. Personally, I know I dozed off once or twice, hoping I was muted at the time!
With the advent of email, connections were fast and easy. The possibilities seemed endless. Listservs distributed news and ideas. Technology (when it worked!) was indeed a blessing. Computers and the Internet obviously expanded possibilities greatly. In 2002, I remember being so impressed when a member produced a PowerPoint of the mission, goals, and definitions of gifted education in Wisconsin on a three by five ‘floppy disk” that could be played on a loop in the lobby during Conference Registration.
In the early 2000’s WATG’s newsletter went online via a much-expanded and interactive website. Registrations, fee payments, and communications could now happen online, and instantaneously! Communication possibilities were once again expanded.
During this 21st century, student and educator coursework has changed dramatically; teaching has also changed dramatically. Students now have their own laptops or I-pads, usually provided by school districts. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 saw more virtual learning at all levels than ever anticipated. The educational scene has changed dramatically with the help of technology.
So many things that had to be produced and collected on paper are now available electronically, and with much more efficiency. Collaboration in real time is possible. Of course there are new issues to resolve, but technology marches on. Think about just going from impossibly slow dialup Internet connections, to wifi, to 5G!
In the history of WATG, there are more events that have evolved and changed our organization over the years; this history will be shared at another time.
Going forward into the 21st Century, it would be wise, I believe, for WATG to continue to have a technological archive of the website, newsletters, articles, and blogs. We are looking for ways to digitize and preserve our past. Current Board Members and interns who are digital natives should take over from digital immigrants like me! We certainly welcome their expertise.
Ruth Robinson, Past President, WATG