Saturday was the fifth anniversary of the day when we received our middle child, Penelope, in China. My wife and mother-in-law traveled to China to receive her and complete the adoption process, while I stayed home with our then-2-year old (who was also adopted from China). Celebrating “Gotcha Day” for our two daughters is always a fun and meaningful time for us. But there’s another anniversary that shares the same date as Penny’s Gotcha Day: It’s the day that I mark as the precise moment in time when I became 100% sold on the power of technology, both in my personal life and in my teaching.
- At about 2:00 PM local time in Nanchang, China on January 27 — a Sunday — Penny was brought into the room where my wife and mother-in-law were waiting, and they met for the first time. Lots of pictures were taken with our Canon PowerShot digital camera. This was 2:00 AM local time in Indiana.
- A couple of hours later, the three of them were back in their hotel room. My wife plugged the camera into the laptop we’d borrowed from my college and downloaded the photos.
- She then proceeded to go to Walgreens.com (of all places), upload the photos, and request print copies to be picked up at the Walgreens that was on the way from our house to church. She also sent them to me through email.
- At 6:00 AM Indiana time (6:00 PM China), I woke up to find the photos — just a few hours old — waiting for me in the inbox. In return, I made a quick video recording of myself saying hello to my newest daughter, so she could learn my face and voice before they all came home, and sent that to China.
- At 7:30 AM Indiana time, the older daughter and I left for church and swung by Walgreens on the way to pick up the print photos that my wife had sent in from the hotel room in China.
- At 8:30 AM, we were passing those photos around to our church family.
So within six hours of receiving this beautiful child to our family, we had snapshots plastered all over the walls of our house and our friends’ houses and were swapping photos and video back and forth across twelve time zones. It was as if Penny were already home.
It was at that moment that I realized what a force for good technology can be in the lives of human beings, and it was the moment I realized I wanted to commit myself to understanding ways technology can be used to make life, and learning, more meaningful. We can’t accept technology uncritically, either personally or in education, but we also can’t ignore the power with which it can enable us to engage with our own humanity and become more fully human to ourselves and each other.
Image: Photo I took at the Indianapolis airport when my two daughters first met each other.