Amazing Knowledge Keepers

When I think of technology I think of this word:

Cree Definition for ‘Computer’

mamātāwi-āpacihcikan /mΛ mæ tæ wI æ pΛts chi: chI gΛn/n. computer


mamātāwi (something that is ‘amazing/incredible’)

āpaciht (root word meaning ‘to use’)

-kan (cree suffix meaning anything that is a ‘tool’ of some sort)

Literal translation:  ‘the amazing tool’


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This is the Cree word for computer. This Cree word was created within the past few decades and is now the word for computer. The Cree language is a descriptive language. The Cree language literally describes the functionality or physicality of objects. With new technology, such as the computer, we just know that it does amazing things, hence the word: mamātāwi-āpacihcikan-the amazing tool.      

It’s amazing how things have changed throughout the years with human culture, especially the way people communicate and share knowledge. Information sharing is so much easier now than it was when I was young. I remember writing letters to pen pals from another school and sending them out and waiting for a response a week or two weeks sometimes. It was just amazing to see email when it first came out and the potential for immediate responses. My first experience with educational technology was in my elementary years. I had to do an assignment interviewing Elders in the community using a tape recorder to record them discussing topics such as local history. I sometimes wonder where those cassette tapes went with so much knowledge contained in them and so much Cree vocabulary that hasn’t been spoken in years. The Elders or knowledge keepers have since passed on and where is that knowledge now? Have the tapes been kept in a secure place? Has the terminology in those recordings vanished into the spirit world and never to be heard again?

I have always been fascinated with technology but never made the time to learn how to use it. I’ve tried teaching with software such as; Microsoft power point, projectors, overheads, ipads, laptops, conferencing rooms, live scribe and youtube videos, but I’m still an old school teacher. My 7 year old girl reminded me of this last year of how old school I am. I took her to work with me for the day and during lunch break we were sitting, eating, chatting and she was walking and looking around my classroom when suddenly I heard her say: “Dad, what is this?” I asked her “What is what?” She was pointing to one of the walls in my room, but there was a lot of stuff on the wall and she didn’t really specify what she was pointing at. I told her that she needed to be more specific at what she was asking about. She proceeded to walk towards the wall and started tapping on the chalkboard with her finger and she asked again: “this, what is this?” I said: “it’s a chalkboard.” Then I had to explain to her how a chalkboard worked. She thought it was pretty interesting and her response was “I’ve heard of those”. In my mind I’m thinking my 7 year old just asked me what a chalkboard was and I had to explain, wow I’m so old school. This got me thinking that maybe I should learn how to use the smartboard I have in my room. Yes, I have had a smartboard all this time while teaching with a chalkboard, I always just thought it was in the way of my chalkboard I had to write around it.

Defining education technology for me is using electronic tools to assist the educator to pass on knowledge in an easy appealing way to fit all types of learners. My hopes by furthering my learning in education technology, such as this course, will keep me current with what is out there technologically and in turn make me a better educator.  With that said, how do I use technology to adapt cultural and traditional knowledge that typically requires hands on learning without decreasing the value of that knowledge but rather enhances the experience by reaching a wider audience.

In last week’s first online session there was a brief discussion about technology being a trade-off. It got me thinking afterwards of how verbal conversations at home were essential in my family gatherings. When I was younger, this was an opportunity to discuss family; issues, up-coming events, birthdays, weddings or funny memories. This was a good opportunity to share stories of how our days went while sitting around the living room together as a family. Now with electronics so accessible to anyone at any time and any age, everyone seems to be on some sort of device even when they get together. This sometimes takes away physical human interaction and, depending on the conversation topic, the opportunity for knowledge sharing is missed.

I’m not saying that technology is taking over our conversations completely, but there should be a time and a place for it. For me I see future and opportunity. If I want to pass on knowledge to the next generation then I must adapt to the times. If I want to be a good educator in this ever changing world I must be forever changing with it to keep up. So I say to all educators, if you feel technology can help you pass on your knowledge to the next generation then you might as well use some of these amazing tools to assist in your attempts to educate and preserve knowledge.


6 thoughts on “Amazing Knowledge Keepers

  1. Thank you for your insight, Bill! The next time I’m frustrated with my smartphone or laptop, I’ll remember the Cree translation that you provided: the amazing tool. I really appreciate your comment about conversations (or the lack thereof)… I feel the same way. I’m working to change this… To return to some true story telling.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Awesome post Bill. It’s interesting taking a look at the cree meaning of computer. It’s very true that #edtech is an amazing tool that we have the power to wield. It’s an amazing opportunity. I find myself asking myself of the benefits for students every time I use a tech tool in the classroom. Thanks for sharing!


  3. Your story about your daughter inquiring about the chalkboard made me laugh out loud! It made me think…what will her children point at and ask her about in the future? Could they be unaware of what a smartboard is? Edtech is so rapidly changing that it’s difficult to imagine what they next 10, 20, 30 years could look like! Thanks for sharing!


  4. Reblogged this on Site Title and commented:
    Thank you for your post Bill! I always find it fascinating how much insight there is to gain into a culture when words are translated from one language to another, or in the case of “computers” in the Cree language, a word needs to be invented.. One can learn so much about the communication, thinking, lifestyle, and ideals of a culture. I would be interested in hearing more about the Cree language, how it is descriptive and how it might compare to English…
    I identify with missing the times of sitting around with family and friends and having those face to face conversations which allowed for an opportunity for us to learn from our elders and for them to pass on their legacy whether it be cooking, telling stories, etc. I also agree that there is hope technology can mean we do this in a different way!

    Liked by 1 person

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