What I didn't realize until recently is that in the 1980s everyone was a Communist. All of our communication was trapped, contained behind walls. We were hidden from others and they were hidden from us.
As a Technology Teacher in 2011, I am constantly amazed at how easy connections form through social media. If I come across someone on TV, YouTube, in a print or digital article, I can probably find a way to contact them in minutes online. Not their agent, not their studio, not their publisher . . . them. When I see these people or read about them, I get that mental flash where I think that is exactly what I am trying to help my kids to understand! So I use the interwebs to find a way to contact them whether it be their e-mail, Twitter account, Facebook page, telephone number it doesn't matter.
A nice percentage of my lessons are collaborations with different fascinating people of all stripes: writers, entrepreneurs, hackers, and students and teachers from across the globe. I wonder if I was transported back to the 1980s if it would even be possible to do any of this. Where would I start?
Let's say it's 1982. Let's say I happened to have a magazine with an article about someone who could add something important to a unit we were working on in class. Maybe I caught a TV show on one of the 5 channels with some fascinating character. I might want to bring them into my class somehow. I certainly couldn't tweet them an invite and Skype them in the next day, that's for sure.
What's my first step, getting the Yellow Pages? Getting the White Pages? Thinking if someone I know might be a degree or two closer to them and leapfrog my inner-circle? Post an ad in the newspaper in the town where they live? How would I even find out where they live? Call up the government? Hire a Private Investigator? Even if I got their number or their mailing address, how would I get them into class? Fly them to my state, ask them to take a train or rent a car, have a 30 minute chat with my kids and then go home?
Seems crazy, all of it. Okay maybe the idea that everyone was a communist in the 1980s is a little crazy too, but the ability to connect and communicate on this level certainly makes it seem like they were. In November of 1989, the BBC wrote an article about the fall of the Berlin Wall that sort of sums up the last 20 years of communications:
"At midnight East Germany's Communist rulers gave permission for gates along the Wall to be opened after hundreds of people converged on crossing points. They surged through cheering and shouting and were be met by jubilant West Berliners on the other side. Ecstatic crowds immediately began to clamber on top of the Wall and hack large chunks out of the 28-mile (45-kilometre) barrier."