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Creating the "Aha!" Effect
By Predrag Pale

What is teaching like today? Who should do it? And who shouldn't? This Education World series features essays on teaching by teachers as they answer the question, "If you had it to do all over again, would you still become a teacher?"

I met a computer 30 years ago, when I was 16. I fell in love. Instantly. Substantially. Ever since, there hasn't been a day I haven't had a new idea about how to use computers. Some of them I've even made true.

Predrag Pale

Predrag Pale earned his B.Sc. (dipl. Ing.) and M.S. ( degrees from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing of The University of Zagreb, where he currently teachers. A member of several national committees on the application of ICT in public systems, his current scientific interest is in the fields of ICT in education, user and man-machine interfaces, and ICT security. Pale initiated the project of Croatian Academic and Research Network (CARNet) in 1991, the System of Scientific Information (SZI) in 1994, and the National Information System for Libraries (NISKA) in 1996. From 1993 to 2000 he served as deputy minister of science and technology in charge of ICT. To learn more about Predrag Pale, visit his homepage.

However, it took me some years, spent in building computers, operating systems, and "core" technology, to figure out that that isn't what makes me "tick;" rather it's the application of computers. Using computers, even in a non-sophisticated way, to do something useful for human beings is THE right thing for me.

Again, it took me some years of applying computers in almost every aspect of human activity to gain enough self-confidence in my engineering abilities and enough birthdays to ask myself: "What is worth spending the rest of my life on?"

Perhaps I would spend the rest of my life searching for an answer if I hadn't had the opportunity to teach. It took me a very short time to figure out my answer to that middle-age-crisis-purpose-of-life-question: "Teaching!"

Teaching is the only way to truly leave the mark; to make a difference; to build one's life into the future. As someone wisely said, "Teachers are in contact with eternity because they never can tell where (and when) their influence stops."

I am a very privileged person for living in the dawn of the computer age, in the time of the very conception of the information age and the knowledge society. I have this rare privilege to combine my love of computers with my passion for teaching.

Applying computers in education supports and empowers students in their quest for knowledge and, at the same time, liberates me from tedious, routine, repetitive tasks and allows me to focus my resources, attention, and passion on creating the "aha!" effect in younger generations.

There is no greater joy than seeing new synaptic connections form in a young brain, opening possibilities for completely new ideas and insights that the world never has seen before. Knowing I can help that happen -- over and over again -- makes me feel as big as a mountain, as unstoppable as a river, and as essential as the sun.

When I teach, I feel alive!

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