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Raw Materials for the Mind

by David F. Warlick

Table of Contents

ISBN 0-9667432-0-2

I found the viewpoint so electrifying that I had to read parts to some of my teaching friends.

...much of what we do in writing process, reading process, whole language classrooms connects with these ideas.

Of course, I loved the parts about restructuring teacher's days. It's fascinating that this year I've been saying, teachers need to work from 9 to 5. There just has to be time to do more collaborative planning, etc.

-- Hope Jenkins
Learning Consultant
Cherry Hill, NJ

My first experience with educational computing was a visit to a commercial learning clinic in Monroe, North Carolina, in 1981.  It was owned by a professor, Dr. Funderburk, at Wingate College, whose course, Diagnostic/Prescriptive Reading, I was taking.  The first thing that I saw when our class entered the clinic was a computer.  It was was mostly colored gray and looked like something from the bridge of a battle ship.

trs80-1.gif (14861 bytes)At that time, I knew nothing about what personal computers could do.  I imagined that you turned them on and lights started blinking on the screen. Dr. Funderburk took us on a tour of the clinic, conspicuously avoiding the computers.  As he dismissed us at the end, I asked, pointing toward the computer, "What do you use that for?" 

He responded with a grin, and motioned me over toward the machine.  I sat down at the computer, he flipped it on and when the word "Ready" appeared on the screen he leaned over and started typing words.  I was absolutely floored.  He was talking to this computer through the keyboard.  After a moment a cassette deck started whirring and a moment later a list of options appeared on the screen.  He called it a Menu.  The professor pressed a couple of more keys and then said, "solve this problem."

I was confronted with a long division problem for which I was to type the answer.   I calculated the answer in my head (it wasn't very hard) and then typed in the answer.  At Dr. Funderburk's prompt, I pressed the Enter key and for the next twenty seconds, pixel by pixel, a smiling face appeared.  I pressed the Enter key again, and it gave me a second problem.  This time I entered a wrong answer and for twenty seconds I watched the computer, pixel by pixel, display a frowning face, indicating that I had entered the wrong answer.  Then it gave me same problem again.

I was sold.  Since that day, I have been fortunate to have witnessed a tital wave of technology wash through our civilization and through our classrooms.  For many of us, it has flowed over.  For others, the wave has swept us along on a great adventure, where each year holds so much more than teaching the same thing with the same textbook and same worksheets.  Many of us know that the classrooms that we retire from will be radically difference and intensely more exciting than the ones we entered out of college...and this is electrifying.

All of the years since that time have culminated in this book, Raw Materials for the Mind.  I've thought about this book since leaving the NC State Department of Public Instruction and becoming an education consultant (trying to make a living as an educator without a job). I was told that the best thing a consultant could do for business was to write a book   But for me, I love to teach, and this book is another way of teaching.

I discussed my project with friends who have written books and as a result of their advice, came to the conclusion that the best route for me was to self-publish.  The most important reason for self-publishing was my erratic schedule teaching workshops for teachers and conference presentations.

PlaneProp.jpg (9219 bytes)So I set about to write, edit, reorganize, draw, layout, reorganize again, read and reread, and rewrite.   This happened in my basement office, in hotel rooms and restaurants, in airports, and once or twice at 30,000 feet.  I refined and focused my messages at workshops across the country and continued to adapt my writing to what I continued to learn.

Finally, I started printing the book with my DeskJet printer and giving it to friends and associates to read, edit, and react to.  The reaction was enthusiastic, the edits were voluminous, and my confidence rose.  I edited, refined, added and continued to edit. Finally I laid out the text and images, constructed the table of contents and index, saved it as a post script file, and had it printed.

This experience has furthered my belief of how the Internet and personal technologies can help us accomplish seemingly impossible tasks.  Through this technology I produced a book, I researched and learned about self-publishing.  I ordered and paid for my ISBN number, contracted with another company to produce the bar-code image through the Internet and received the bar-code file by e-mail.  I learned about copyright and the process for registering my book with the library of congress.  I learned how to layout the book and how to talk with printers.

To me, this was an example of distance learning...being able to find and retrieve the information that you need, to learn what you need to know, to do what you need to do -- right now.

All this being said, perhaps the most challenging endeavor has been finding a way to accept credit cards through this web site.  As is my fashion, I set to the Internet and searched for companies that would process credit cards online.  Using the process described in Raw Materials for the Mind, I settled on a company in The Netherlands.  Then I spent parts of three days trying to figure out how to evaluate the company's reputation.  I talked many times with people at MasterCard.  Then I went on to the Better Business Bureau and then to the Department of Commerce the Federal Exchange Commission and even the FBI.  The person with whom I spoke at the FBI said that Holland has quite stringent laws regarding business practices, which was the best advice I'd gotten, but it still wasn't enough.

Finally my wife (she dislikes computers which is actually a move in the right direction) picked up the phone book and found three companies that provide the service here in Raleigh, North Carolina, in just 10 minutes.  I called two of them, she called one, and she talked her company down in price.  Another lesson in using the right technologies.

I hope that you enjoy my book, Raw Materials for the Mind.

-- David Warlick