HCLE Excerpts from Geekfest Berlin 2016

Thanks to Geekfest Berlin’s 2016 event, we’ve created a series of videos from our founder Liza Loop’s presentation that touch on various aspects of the topic and our organization’s history within it. We pass this information along as possible aids to include in your communications and as an introduction to our mission and current activities.

The History of Computing in Learning and Education Virtual Museum will focus on how the computer revolution upended centuries old traditions of learning and teaching between 1960 and 1990. As our founder, Liza Loop, recently wrote;

Why is it so hard to find participants for this conversation? I think it’s significant that there is no Museum of Learning and Education. This topic is buried so deeply in every society’s culture that, like the proverbial fish and water, it is difficult to perceive and taboo to question or change.

Pertinent excerpts (links to our YouTube channel):

The complete presentation is available at: Geekfest’s Youtube channel.

2016 was the year we at HCLE saw an increased interest in the history of computing in learning and education (hence our acronym, HCLE). We are building a virtual museum to collect and catalog born-digital artifacts and digitized versions of physical artifacts to researchers, scholars, educators, and the general public. Incredible amounts of money are being spent on how to improve education and learning, and how best to integrate technology into the process. Very little is being spent studying the decades of similar attempts, which may be why society continues to ask the same questions and make the same mistakes.

Our museum’s story stretches back to 1975 and the founding of LO*OP Center, (Learning Options * Open Portal), a 501(c)(3) California nonprofit corporation chartered:

To improve the quality of people’s lives by integrating cultural diversity and appropriate technology into local communities through educational projects and events.

The ways that computing changed learning and education have fundamentally shifted our society and civilization. We have found no other institution with a specific focus on formal and non-formal education that is working to preserve that history. If you are aware of any, please pass along the appropriate contact information.


Profile of an HCLE Pioneer – Lewis J Perelman

During the 1980s and 1990s, Lewis J. Perelman became widely recognized as a leading authority on transforming education, training, and employment systems to meet the needs of a post-industrial economy. A post-industrial economy would potentially make traditional education and learning models obsolete, the way jets took over from ships and trains.

“The salient economic connection in both transportation and education is that the success of one new technology wave eliminates the market for the old – not because it is better and not because on a particular test it gets better scores. Rather, because the new takes away enough customers to make the old economically unsustainable.”

“Long before reform of the educational system comes to any conclusion, the system itself will have collapsed.”

He advocated for an expansion of learning systems beyond the classroom and children because the modern world requires everyone to continue learning throughout their life in every aspect of their life.

“Of the more than sixty million Americans who learned how to use personal computers since 1980, most learned from vendors, books, other users, and the computers themselves, not in schools.”

He wrote about a new perspective on learning called Hyperlearning which will be enabled by a convergence of technologies like artificial intelligence, telecommunication, information, and biotech.

“Hyperlearning is a categorical step — the proverbial ‘quantum leap’ — beyond ‘artificial intelligence,’ beyond broadband telecommunications, beyond information processing, beyond biotechnology. Rather, hyperlearning represents the fusion of these technological threads. HL is weaving into the fabric of a new industrial base for a new kind of world economy.”

An additional concept called kanbrain was developed as an extension of the Japanese management system based on just-in-time learning, and collaboration.

As with most of HCLE’s Pioneers, his influence extended beyond education and learning. Dr. Perelman’s work also addressed and continues to address: alternative energy technologies; infrastructure security, resilience, and adaptability; climate change; knowledge sharing and collaboration; human capital investment; and sustainable business and economic development.

Additional information is available on our wiki.

Profile of an HCLE Pioneer – Ted Kahn

Ted Kahn’s work starts back with the names familiar to EdTech historians: Vivarium, Smalltalk, Bob Albrecht, Atari, and Xerox PARC.

Ted was fortunate to be a student in one of the first programming classes, something that was enabled by Bob Albrecht. Soon after, he was involved in research and development of Smalltalk for educational simulation and game design systems (ala the Vivarium Program), and worked at Atari developing innovative computers and products for lifelong learning. He also did research at Xerox PARC developing and marketing multimedia for education and training systems at a time when multimedia was new.

Education and training isn’t confined to the classroom. Ted Kahn developed educational multimedia products with the National Geographic Society (three products won national awards), an educational technology policy study for the U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment, and a training system for a Fortune 500 pharmaceuticals firm.

Ted’s work continues in an organic fashion. He’s also been involved in the design of PicoNet, a telecommunications network as well as one of the first home-school computer networks. Currently, he and his wife, Frona, have founded and operate DesignWorlds.com where they help students make better decisions about colleges and careers. There’s always more work to be done.

HCLE Pioneers are frequently known for more than one contribution. In the continual drive to improve education, learning, and training there are always opportunities. One accomplishment leads to another. The organic nature of the evolution of the way we teach and learn means paths inevitably cross, which is why we are developing a virtual museum for the history of computing in learning and education. Each person leads to another. We’re connecting those links on our wiki.

Additional information is available on our wiki.
Several of his videos have also been added to our HCLE Pioneers playlist on YouTube.

Profile of an HCLE Pioneer – Don Bitzer

Don Bitzer saw a new way to aid education and learning through the use of innovative hardware and software in 1960. PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations) was a computer-based, interactive communication system developed to connect a variety of students, instructors, and resources. It existed before the ARPANet and social media which would eventually have much in common in PLATO.

The system allowed lessons to be stored in the computer and accessed by students at their convenience. It was also a distributed system which allowed access by multiple users in multiple locations. Eventually, a communication element was added called Notes, which allowed user-to-user discussions that didn’t require any action by the administrators.

To aid in learning, two other sensory interactions were enabled. Audio was provided that helped language instruction. Touch was added so students could select words or figures and learn more about them.

PLATO continues to exist in archive sites and in descendants that have evolved into commercial services.

PLATO is equally well known for the consequences of its creation.

Many of PLATO’s connectivity features were eventually echoed in the ARPANet and subsequently the internet. It took ARPANet about a decade to exceed PLATO’s traffic.

The Notes program became one of the first online communities, an ancestor of online bulletin boards and social media. It and its architecture enabled game play among multiple users, similar to today’s online games.

Don Bitzer is particularly known for the invention of the gas plasma display that was developed for PLATO. The addition of touch enabled more direct contact for the student. That ability and technology went on to create the gas plasma display industry. While PLATO’s goal was to improve interactivity, the television and monitor manufacturers were drawn to such displays to be thinner than conventional displays. In that regard, Educational Technology is like any other technology, advances in one field can have far greater impacts on other fields.

Don Bitzer is currently a Distinguished University Research Professor at North Carolina State University after having taught for several decades at the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois.

Additional information is available on our wiki.

Several of his videos have also been added to our HCLE Pioneers playlist on YouTube.

Profile of an HCLE Pioneer – Alan Kay

Alan Kay’s accomplishments created the foundations for so many of today’s tech advances that advocates of his work have dedicated a wiki to him, yet the foundations are so fundamental that the billions of people benefiting from his contributions probably aren’t aware of his influence. HCLE’s focus is on the history of computing in learning and education which is why we are collecting information about his work with the Vivarium Program (See our post about Ann Marion for another perspective), Smalltalk, and Dynabook.


The Vivarium Program created an innovative learning environment that was one of the earliest attempts to shift the school environment from a teacher educating passive students from a set curriculum, to students actively learning in ways that they inspired which were facilitated by teachers. Instead of reading about biology, students created simulations of biological systems that they could modify to better understand cause and effect as well as interconnectivity. It was the precursor to the personalized learning that is becoming more familiar


While there were programming languages available for the Vivarium Program, Alan Kay saw a need for a different architecture. Some students may prefer text-based programming languages, but he saw the need for a language based on objects. Our world is built from objects, and programming based on objects allowed the computer to operate on things that had a variety of characteristics. The result was Smalltalk. The concept gained wider acceptance after the user community shifted the definition slightly, and modern object-oriented programming languages were born. Though it strayed from his original intent, object-oriented programming languages have become the basis of much of today’s computing.

Dynabook Learning Today

A natural extension of Alan Kay’s desire to transform learning was the Dynabook, a device that didn’t exist at the time. He saw a need for a thin and portable computer that would fit in a child’s hands and that the child could operate. Such a device would work well in the environment that was part of the Vivarium Program, as well as outside the school. A logical choice for the programming was Smalltalk. The three could be combined to dramatically expand learning opportunities, especially with advances such as the PLATO network and other innovations he worked on at Xerox PARC.

Learning Today

The Dynabook wasn’t created, Smalltalk became something different, and the Vivarium Program was eventually cancelled by Apple; but their influences have come together for children who learn while pursuing their curiosity when they use and play with tablet computers. A child learning to read at their own pace from an app downloaded to an iPad is remarkably similar to at least some of Alan Kay’s original intentions. Maybe the rest of the vision merely requires a bit more patience.


Additional information and pertinent links are available on our wiki.
Several of his videos have also been added to our HCLE Pioneers playlist on YouTube.

Profile of an HCLE Pioneer – Ann Marion

Ann Marion has long been a champion of novel solutions in educational technology to accomplish the integration of science and technology subject matter into the curriculum.

Ann Marion is primarily known for her work on the Vivarium Project, but her work extends before and after those ten years. Prior to working at Apple on Vivarium, she was at HP, Atari, and MIT. After Vivarium she worked with Houghton Mifflin on multi-media projects and also at her own business Marion Works.

Her primary role at the Vivarium Project was as Program Director, the person responsible for budgets and organization of the 10-12 person team: Alan Kay, Kim Rose, Lori Weiss, Programmers: Scott Wallace, Ted Kaehler, Larry Yaeger, Jay Fenton, Hardware: Tom Ferrara, School Coordinaor: Dave Mintz.

Ann’s work typifies the progression through the introduction of computers: from print publishing to personal computers to online; and from passive education to interactive.

She collected a series of videos for her YouTube playlist which we have included on our wiki and on our YouTube channel under the HCLE Pioneers playlist. We plan to do the same for other HCLE Pioneers.

The following videos are from the Vivarium Project, an open school developed and exercised in Los Angeles in 1977. The thesis was that school should not be a teaching shop but an exploration directed by the children based on what they want to learn. Their curiosity provides their incentives, and they value the knowledge more highly because it has already delivered a benefit. The teacher becomes a facilitator rather than lecturing to everyone at once. Basic tenets were:

  1. the room should decentralized and flexible
  2. children are free to explore
  3. the room is rich in learning resources
  4. teachers work with small groups or just an individual.

Vivarium -Learning About Learning http://youtu.be/eOxH8oUo-AA

Vivarium – Example Class http://youtu.be/PlR1cg1pF8I

Vivarium – Example Learning Material https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebdVQr-lVgo
Vivarium’s work has continued, but it has been subsumed into many other things, just like many of the innovations like the mouse, graphical interfaces, and interactive media.

Additional information is available on our wiki.
Additional videos are available on our YouTube channel.

HCLE Autumn 2016 Progress Report

Welcome to the autumn quarter of 2016 HCLE report. We share many of these news items via our outlets (wiki, blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) and collect them here for your and our convenience.

Our staff of 1.4 FTEs, volunteers and outside collaborators reached the following milestones in the winter (October through December) of 2016.



  • Our cataloging process was documented to aid training and make comparisons with outside suppliers.


  • An initial and encouraging contact was made with Greta Nagel from the Museum of Teaching and Learning.


  • Liza Loop addressed Jerry Herberg’s class on “Computing in the 21st Century Classroom”


  • We solicited and are reviewing bids for outside suppliers to produce our Proof of Concept.

Please pass our news along, especially if you know someone else who will want to contribute money, know-how, artifacts, stories, or connections. Even by glancing at what we’ve done, you’re helping make HCLE happen as you pass along the story. Thank you.

  • Fundraising

Following our fundraising strategy defined previously, we are preparing news releases based on the Make versus Buy process and Liza Loop’s Geekfest presentation. The releases will be used as introductions and reminders to possible funders, both individuals and organizations.

We were encouraged by the response to our submission to “A Great Tweet Will Win $10,000 Each for 10 Small Nonprofits”, an innovative funding instrument exercised by DeluxeCare. HCLE was not in their fields of study for 2016, but they encouraged us to look for 2017’s topics.


  • Collection

Liza Loop added items by Murray Turoff and Starr Roxanne Hiltz, key contributors to online conferencing starting in the 1960s.


  • Catalog

Our trial of various suppliers of catalog maintenance systems continues. To aid in making comparisons we documented our current cataloging process using our proprietary Catalog Maintenance System. The documentation will aid training of volunteers and staff, and provide a benchmark against other suppliers.

The Collector Systems trial has been delayed awaiting changes in their software, a migration from our original import to a more proper variation of their software, and a review of the crosswalk linking pertinent field names from the HCLE list to the Collector Systems list. In the meantime, we will continue to use our Catalog Maintenance System.

The criteria list for ranking suppliers is being reviewed in case we decide to not use Collector Systems.

In conjunction with our Proof of Concept effort, two contractors, Logikbar and Webhelper, are also tasked with estimating the effort required to provide an alternative cataloging system, whether custom-built or using something like Salesforce or Adobe Catalyst.


  • People/Volunteers

Our current team of volunteers and consultants continue to help with specific issues with the Catalog Maintenance System and miscellaneous system administration tasks.

We are pleased to introduce new volunteers and enthusiasts that have experience in the history of computing in learning and education.

Previously, we mentioned Chuck House and Jenny Better House. Chuck House has released a book on interviewing, which is being reviewed.

Andy Molnar may aid in promoting existing interviews, conducting a Future Flashback interview, and contributing to possible exhibits such as NSF impact and military origins of educational technology.

Murray Turoff and Starr Roxanne Hiltz, as well as Marie Hicks are becoming familiar with our efforts.


  • Outreach

Liza Loop addressed Jerry Herberg’s class on “Computing in the 21st Century Classroom. The slides are available on our blog, Are my old lessons still needed in new classrooms?

In support of our planned virtual reality exhibits, Liza Loop attended VR for Good in Esalen from October 9-14.

GeekFest Berlin 2016 made Liza Loop’s video available online and also provided a copy so we may create more succinct excerpts. The editing has begun on five topics.

  • LO*OP Center’s history
  • How LO*OP recevied Apple 1 #1
  • Distance Learning
  • Computer Literacy
  • Moving Electrons versus Moving People

We proposed a workshop for the 2017 Society of California Archivists Annual General Meeting (AGM) April 27-29 in Pasadena. The workshop will convey our experience with our Catalog Maintenance System Make Versus Buy process, and will help others modify HCLE’s process to meet their criteria and situation.

We are considering attending various events in 2017. Final decisions have not been made pending responses to various presentation proposals and funding constraints. The following are the candidates as of the end of December 2016.


blog posts published


Social Media Traffic Report

1/1/2014 12/29/2014 12/30/2015 12/31/2016
Facebook 59 91 104 171
Twitter 67 271 408 493
WordPress 18 42 49 50
Wikispaces 12 41 62 69


  • Wiki

The HCLE wiki continues to act as a communications center and as a digital loading dock.

We conducted a link check to eliminate or correct broken links. The exercise emphasized the value of PURLs, Permanent URLs, and regular maintenance.


  • Collaborations

An initial and encouraging contact was made with Greta Nagel from the Museum of Teaching and Learning. This is important and fortuitous because there are very few museums or institutions devoted to preserving the history of teaching and learning. Mutually supportive initiatives are being discussed.

Chuck House is a long term Computer History Museum trustee and founder and executive director of InnovaScapes Institute. Mutually beneficial activities are being discussed.

Kevin Savetz and Liza Loop are collecting materials from the 1999 Vintage Computer Festival.


  • Exhibits

The previously mentioned virtual reality project has been postponed for reasons outside HCLE control.

The oral history of David Minger, an education administrator, was captured to document some of the systemic implications of computing and automation in managing students, class, registration, and funding.


  • Operations

We solicited and are reviewing bids from outside suppliers to produce our Proof of Concept. A dedicated and well-funded effort may produce a demonstration site that can be used for communicating our vision and to engage collaborators, enthusiasts, and funders. At the close of the quarter, Logikbar and Webhelper were producing time and cost estimates that will be reviewed in January of 2017. The scope of work will include database improvements for our catalog maintenance system, the Proof of Concept (aka our Museum Lobby), and video editing of our 2016 presentations.


  • LO*OP Center

    • HCLE supported the LO*OP Center Annual meeting in December.

Are my old lessons still needed in new classrooms?


Recently, a German friend asked me to speak to his class of German elementary school teachers-in-training about using computers in their classrooms. I worked with teachers extensively in the 1980s and early 90s but have been focused on history for several years. Computing has changed a lot in 3-odd decades. Are my messages still relevant?

The most obvious change in ed tech is that I didn’t have to go to Germany to be a guest speaker. We used Skype to make me a larger-than-life screen presence – a live “talking head” with slides. A more subtle issue is whether, in today’s world of smart phones, MOOCs and You-tube videos, classroom teachers face the same challenges we struggled with in the past. I anxiously prepared my visuals, hoping that my comments would resonate with a room-full of millennials.

In my next several blogs I’ll share the narrative content of this presentation as well as the visuals and perhaps expand some of the ideas. The slide deck I used is available here and I’ll select from it to illustrate the blogs. I hope you will let me know through your comments whether my thoughts are useful to you and where you think I’ve missed the boat.

Here are a few preliminary comments about the slides.

Slide 3: Let’s talk about

This is the overview of the presentation. I always like to understand the participants in a seminar so I start by exploring their thinking. The event as originally given, online and in a foreign language from the students’ point of view, did not elicit the lively discussion I had hoped for.  I would very much like to hear from you as you view this presentation asynchronously. I do not have pat answers to the questions posed and the topics are worthy of slow pondering. Take your time with them and let’s use this social media platform to share our ideas and responses.

Slides 5, 6, 7: Questions

Most of us use our own learning process as a standard to inform the way we teach. These questions are intended to help bring personal learning to a conscious level. By being aware of our own learning we can harness our self-model to benefit those of our pupils who think and learn as we do. This awareness will also free us to adapt new models to help us reach students’ whose minds follow paths different from our own.

Slides 8, 9, 10, 11: 21st Century Skills

Actually I don’t think the skills mentioned are new in any way. Humans have needed them throughout their existence. The “21st century” label is just a way to highlight how essential they are. The questions offered in this section are my suggestions for teachers to pose to their students as ways to exercise these skills.

Slides 12, 13, 14: Beyond Screens

It’s easy to view ed tech as an alternative to teachers giving lectures, but there is so much more we can do with it. This section provides some hints for activities that don’t require each pupil to have a separate screen and keyboard.

Slides 15, 16, 17: Transferring learning from games

Not all students spontaneously transfer what they learn in one context to another. These slides set the stage for discussing how teachers can use simple games (Tic Tac Toe, for example) and complex computer applications (Mindcraft) to acquire skills they can use beyond the game setting.

Slide 18: References

I’ve included links to other web sites throughout the slide deck. Don’t forget to click on them. This last slide offers several more sites I thought might enrich your teaching practice. Please let us all know which ones you found useful and add other personal favorites the rest of us may not have discovered yet.

Computing for truth and lies

Would you agree that a computer, like an empty blackboard, is a blank slate which can be used to transmit both truth and lies? The internet is not just one computer, it’s a huge amalgamation of thousands of connected computers, but one can experience the principle of  ‘garbage in-garbage out’ through learning to program a single, small, general-purpose machine. Once you have programmed a computer to repeat “The moon is made of green cheese!” to anyone who will glance at your screen you are on your way to developing immunity to the huge wave of garbage the internet exposes us to. Even more powerful is the disconnect between you who composed the message and whoever reads it. Unless you choose to disclose your authorship you can make a computer tell any lie you like and no one will be the wiser. Heady stuff for a 10-year-old learning to write her first computer code. Headier still for someone who wants to influence the US presidential election.

In a recent blog, posted on “Internet applications and technology and their LarryPressphoto.jpgimplications for individuals, organizations and society”, Larry Press notes:

Trump supporters seem to worry a lot about voter fraud. They advocate easing mechanisms for challenging a voter’s registration and encourage strict requirements for proof of identity and residence. There is more evidence of demonstrably fraudulent political information on the Internet than fraudulent voting. If their concern is genuine, they should support a real-names policy for domain registration.

It is through the ‘domain registration’ that you can find out who actually is behindICANN.png something you find on the internet. Most domain registration is handled by ICANN, a “not-for-profit corporation (the “new corporation”) managed by a globally and functionally representative Board of Directors”. Larry points out that fraudulent articles posted on the internet before the election may have misled many voters. Current international policy permits individuals to keep their domain information a secret. Just like the mischievous 10-year-old, any one can post anything anonymously. But instead of  reaching only those standing within view of your little screen these messages are delivered to billions of people across the globe.

How is this phenomenon related to HCLE? We are providing an historical backdrop for the contemporary issues and policies you and your children must deal with. What do we need to teach our children today so that they can better distinguish fact from fiction as they surf the web? What were we exposed to during our formative years that left us so vulnerable to the lies computers forward to us? Was this problem anticipated? What did the Educational Technology Pioneers think we should do about it? And what should we do about it now? If you care, read more of what Larry Press has to say.


Does the US Election tell us anything about Computer Literacy?

by Liza Loop

It’s strange how current events bring up old questions. Today, in the aftermath of the US Presidential election, I came across this comment:

(Source: Trump Exposes A Fatal Flaw In User-Friendly Design)

The author,  Cliff Kuang, is keying off a previous piece, Max Read’s article for New York, “Donald Trump Won Because of Facebook.” Follow these links to read their points.

My point is that there are two kinds of Computer Literacy: Technical and Social. There has always been (since the 1960s) a tension between these two.  Some argue that learning to code (write programs that control computer-based devices) and/or build/repair them will lead to modern jobs. This technical approach appeals to STEM types (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) but turns off  most of us.

The Social approach is much more important and accessible. It emphasizes understanding a) how a computer can suggest, say, a list of like-minded Facebook ‘friends’ and b) that designing computer code always requires a series of value decisions on the part of some human. Learning some very rudimentary coding gives one that heady and powerful experience of controlling the computer and makes it possible to take in these messages. But even 10-year-old can get here without a semester-long course in coding. By combining a little coding with a broad look at how computers are used across our daily life activities, the social approach to computer literacy can serve as a vaccine against the kind of group-think that has been rampant on both sides of today’s political divide.

These issues were often the subject of lively debates among the Ed Tech Pioneers we are documenting at HCLE. Some of us worried that using computing to make things smooth, easy, and automated would make it harder to uncover the algorithm, the recipe, the program that drives what the computer delivers to each one of us. These two articles suggest that we were right.

I’m not advocating that computers are evil or should not be used. Quite the contrary; they are giving an immense boost to human productivity, saving and enhancing the lives of billions of people. I am saying that their very existence necessitates more thoughtful and analytical education of today’s citizens. I am saying that to neglect Social Computer Literacy is to create a naive public whose opinions are silently manipulated (whether intentional or not) by those who design the programs.