HCLE is Unique: Please Prove Us Wrong

Please prove us wrong. We’ve researched the field, cruised social media, attended conferences and seminars, and have yet to find any institution that is working on the same thing we are: collecting, preserving, and providing access to the history of computing in learning and education during the crucial period from 1960 to 1990. There’s an entire planet to pick from, so it won’t be a surprise if we missed someone, which is why we ask. We’ve Googled, Binged, Yahooed under ‘educational technology’, ‘history of education’, ‘history of technology’,  ‘history of learning’, ‘contemporary history’, ‘cultural studies’, ‘cognitive development’ and so forth. We’ve talked to scholars, museum folks, hobbyists, teachers, curriculum specialists, principles, parents and pupils. We find loads of material on the computing industry, computer games, brand-specific personal computers, 18th, 19th and early 20th century schools, and e-learning post 1990. The surprising thing to us is that, while educational technology is recognized as vital to society’s future, there seems to be disproportionately little recognition of its history and its effectiveness during its formative stages. Are we alone? Is anyone else interested?

As we’ve said before;

“Our Virtual Museum sits at the overlapping boundaries of history, computers, computing, education, and learning.” “There are plenty of natural and national history museums. Computers are finally being recognized as historically significant, with increasing traffic to computer industry sites as proof. Computing (as compared with computers) as a museum focus may not be as obvious, yet playing vintage games online is growing in popularity. Education, a fundamental activity in all our lives has very few museums commemorating it.” “If there’s a museum of learning, please tell us about it.”

Education technology (#EdTech) is a multi-billion dollar industry. Education can always be improved, and therefore represents a need. Technology has become more available and ubiquitous, and makes new tools available. There’s big business in selling devices to teachers and students with the hope of improving education, and ultimately learning. Despite those billions, relatively little seems to be spent on collecting data that proves the claims found in the sales pitches. There are decades of data, which is part of what we’re trying to collect, preserve, and provide, but the data is not being used.

Civilization progresses because each generation learns from earlier generations. The old may attempt to educate the young, but progress is only made if the young learn. When computers became available to the public they changed what, how, and why we learn. Prior to computers and computing, educators were predominantly lecturers. Students tried to learn through attendance, testing, and reading books.

  • The ‘what’ has increased because computers and computing have become topics along with more traditional 3 ‘Rs, the arts and the sciences. The ‘what’s’ we deal with include the computers that now augment our phones, cars, and houses.
  • The ‘how’ has changed because lectures can be accessed at the student’s convenience through devices they control. The educator is no longer the primary source of information. Students can operate at their personal pace, practice trial and error in simulated worlds, and schedule instruction when they need it without disrupting a room full of other students.
  • The ‘why’ has changed because the changes in technology are continually changing the world. Instead of learning something once and using it for life, the same topic must be relearned with each new version, and new topics must be learned as they supersede suddenly obsolete subject matter.

With so much money and so much influence it would seem natural that there’d be several research institutes, museums, and archives for studying the history of education in general, and the revolution incited by computers specifically. You’d think this material, primary sources and commentary, would be discoverable and accessible via the modern medium of choice — the web. There are several institutions that touch on the topic, but few devote themselves to it, except possibly, HCLE.hcle-wordpress-header.jpg

We’ll be represented at a couple of conferences in April (Museums and the Web, and American Alliance of Museums). We’ve attended before, and we continue the search by meeting new people, asking these questions in person. If you’re attending, please contact Liza Loop, who will be at both. Ideally, we’d attend every education conference, technology conference, history conference, and museum conference, but then we’d have no one left to build the museum.

That’s why we’re asking for your help. Prove to us that we are not alone. If there’s another similar sized organization in this niche, then maybe a collaboration will help us both grow. If there’s a much larger organization, great! Maybe we’ll find that most of the work is already done.

In the meantime, we’ll continue alternating between building the museum, growing our network, and looking forward to the day that the popular hashtag of #EdTech has a similarly busy hashtag of #EdTechHistory.

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