Tag Archives: CUE

Saving Stories From California’s EdTech Pioneers

California Humanities is conducting a storytelling grants program that will,

“illustrate the diversity and breadth of the California experience”. – California Humanities

Much of EdTech’s history began in California because many of the technologies were developed there, and many innovators pioneered technology’s introduction into classrooms. We want to share the kind of work we are pursuing within this grant, via collaborators with similar interests, or even as inspiration to others. In this case, we are focusing on the work that happened in California, but Pioneers worked around the world.  The Pioneers are a resource of lessons learned decades ago that are applicable today. The sooner we start the work, the more we’ll be able to document and preserve. Wish us luck!


 

The Introduction to our proposal

A California cultural revolution made computing necessary in the 21st century. These stories, forgotten amid the rush bringing new devices into classrooms, informs us about a history we may have missed, urging us to reconsider how technology impacts our lives and learning. A web-based exhibit of five 10-minute videos, accompanied by images, documents and interpretive narrative, and several live presentations will be embedded within the larger HCLE project documenting the impact of computing on learning in the 20th century. This grant underwrites and publicizes three new educational technology pioneer interviews and integrates two previously collected interviews. Storytellers are: Ann Lathrop, of San Mateo County Office of Education’s SoftSwap; Sandy Wagner, math teacher and co-founder of Computer Using Educators (CUE), Bob Albrecht, programming teacher in the 1960s and founder Peoples Computer Company, Ted Kahn, computing teacher at Lawrence Hall of Science, and the late Bobby Goodson, Cupertino teacher and CUE co-founder. Education is a concern of every member of any community; everyone needs to understand how change in education takes place and impacts their future. This project fills two historical gaps: how teachers became involved in computing; how schools struggled with a profound shift in communications media.

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I just love “open source” people!

The other day I had two awesome conversations with folks who work with CiviCRM, an open-source, constituency relations management platform we are considering for HCLE.  Each of these young gentlemen was knowledgeable, cordial, helpful and imaginative.  Of course they would be — they donate a portion of their work time and know-how to support free software used by nonprofit organizations world-wide. One of them loaded up CiviCRM on our host server so we can try it out without charging a consulting fee. Thank you, Joshua.

One of the most important themes HCLE has to develop is the many ways edtech pioneers, computer hobbyists, students, teachers and company employees found to contribute their efforts for the benefit of all. Sometimes the contributions were intentional – as in the formation of SoftSwap by Computer-Using Educators and the San Mateo County Office of Education. This was before there was much educational software available so teachers wrote their own and put the programs in SoftSwap. From there, anyone could get and use a copy. Talk about “Open Educational Resources“! At other times someone’s creation became “open source” without the expressed consent of its creator — I’m thinking of the episode when one of the Homebrew Computer Club members made copies of Microsoft BASIC and handed them out at a meeting. Bill Gates wasn’t happy about that but once the cat was out of the bag there was no putting it back in. Actually, that event may have been instrumental in spreading Microsoft’s popularity.

The challenge of the “open” movement is how to participate generously in the “sharing economy” without starving in a world dominated by “the dismal science” (economics – meaning a money economy). The fundamental assumption of economic theory is “scarcity” — that to have economic value there must be a shortage or limited supply of something. Software, like many other informational products has an interesting property that puts it in a different category from either “material stuff” (whether raw material or manufactured) or “labor” (which is limited both by the energy of the laborer and the time it takes to do the work). The first instance of a software program may be very expensive to create but the cost of replicating subsequent copies is negligible. How does one make a living in either open source software or open educational resources?

I can think of two solutions: 1. Have a paying gig in some other field and only contribute your leisure time to “open” projects. Geeks who love to code often choose this route. 2. Give away the central core of the software and then let your developer community sell their services to customize these generalized products. That’s how it will work with at least two of the software packages HCLE is trying out: CiviCRM and Mediawiki. That’s how teachers who write open textbooks continue to pay the rent.

So HCLE probably won’t get its open source infrastructure entirely for free in the end. We will have to raise enough money to pay consultants, perhaps the overall expense will not be that much less than buying a pre-configured museum relationship management package. But we’ll get to work with kindred spirits, with people who understand that nickel- and dime-ing a fledgling non-profit doesn’t help build the industry, with seasoned collaborators who regularly participate in “code-a-thons” and have a mission beyond the money.

A lot of people have gotten rich in the computer industry; but a lot more, including me, have gained a supportive and fascinating ‘sharing’ community. Come to think of it, even those who got rich have figured out that they can’t take it with them and have created charitable foundations. I’d better sharpen my proposal-writing pencil so HCLE can afford to stay open-source itself and give away the history we collect.

HCLE Pioneer – LeRoy Finkel

LeRoy Finkel is a recent addition to our wiki’s list of Pioneers. We wanted to bring attention to him now because we just discussed one of his compatriots: Bob Albrecht.

A list of pioneers can seem like a long string of individuals. While many educators were alone in their struggles to bring computers into classrooms, many were also fortunate enough to find support from other educators and advocates. As the referenced article states;
“he showed the way, cajoling, nudging, encouraging, criticizing, as teachers struggled to integrate computers into their classrooms”. He, Bob Albrecht, and several others came together to create People’s Computer Company,

LeRoy Finkel’s work is easier to access than most because he published his work. Particularly, Technology Tools in the Information Age Classroom, a book that “is designed for use in an introductory, college level course on educational technology, and no prior experience with computers or computing”. When he published the book in 1991, most people knew of computers, but not about computers; yet, many were confronted with having to quickly become comfortable enough with them to incorporate the hardware, software, and topics into existing classes. LeRoy Finkel is one that led the way.

It is too late for this year (the deadline was mid-December), but there is a Fellowship Program in his honor that promotes leadership in the field of educational technology because the task continues. Know someone who fits that description? Pass along the word so they can apply for the next grant.

Thanks to iae-pedia and Computer-Using Educators for the background so far. Please pass along additional information so we can all expand the stories of the Pioneers.