Tag Archives: digital revolution

Exploring Designs for Teaching – Lee Felsenstein on Community Memory, Free Speech and Computing

On June 7th, 2016 we held an Oral History Workshop – How Education Made Computers Personal at Leuphana University (Luneberg, Germany) and online. The workshop was a collaboration between HCLE’s parent organization, LO*OP Center, and Leuphana University to capture more of that history and make it available to modern researchers.

The history of how computing changed education and learning, and how learning and education changed computing is more than the story of hardware introductions and institutional initiatives. As, Lee Felsenstein, observed;

“the 60s – 70s resonated with the counterculture of a search for personal control,
even through technology.”

And, as the motto of the People’s Computer Company stated;

“Computers are mostly used against people instead of for people,
used to control people instead of to free them.
Time to change all that…”

Lee Felsenstein (host of the Homebrew Computer Club and the designer of the Osbourne-1) made a presentation about the Tom Swift Terminal, Applied Conviviality, and…

Much of the early EdTech work was dedicated to applying computers and computing to education and learning; and was done by people whose work challenged conventional institutions: innovators, educators, visionaries, and revolutionaries. Some of the work was recorded. But, much of their work wasn’t recorded because it was easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, undocumented was safer than documented. Now is a good time to refresh our memories to make sure the information is preserved, made available to researchers, and archived.

There is an urgency to record as many of these oral histories as possible. The memories are perishable. The artifacts and documentation are easy for subsequent generations to dismiss without the right perspective. We are endeavoring to record those histories through the workshop, but also through a crowd campaign so many more voices can be heard. The presenters are as well known as many other EdTech pioneers; but there are equally useful stories to be heard from elementary school teachers, hobbyists, and self-taught students. If you have a story, pass it along. If you want to read those stories, visit the HCLE wiki (our digital loading dock while we built our virtual museum.) There are more stories to tell and hear. Thanks for participating.

 

For more of our videos from this and other presentations, visit our YouTube channel (HCLEMuseum).

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Exploring Designs for Teaching – Liza Loop on Distance, Synchronicity, Control

On June 7th, 2016 we held an Oral History Workshop – How Education Made Computers Personal at Leuphana University (Luneberg, Germany) and online. The workshop was a collaboration between HCLE’s parent organization, LO*OP Center, and Leuphana University to capture more of that history and make it available to modern researchers.

Liza Loop’s presentation, Distance, Synchronicity, Control: Exploring Designs for Teaching About and Through Computers, was inspired by the work of Stuart Cooney, Seymour Papert, and LOGO. Asynchronous teaching is very old. Paintings on cave walls, words in books, and files in computers are all stored instructions that control and pass information to later learners. EdTech has been with us for a long time.

The details of the presentations are too much to relay here; which is why we made a few videos of the presentations available and want to focus on one here.

The nature of the collaboration is a good example of creating a bridge between generations. Liza Loop is the founder of LO*OP Center, the co-creator of the event; and brought the first Apple 1 into schools, opened a public access meeting place for computing, and helped write user’s manuals for the Atari 400 and 800 computers. She lived the history, and knows others who also lived it. The other co-creator was Jerry Herberg, a doctoral candidate at Leuphana working on how computers influenced learning. He is studying the history, and finding others who are also eager to study the history; especially, because they realize the opportunity to meet the pioneers is becoming increasingly difficult. This oral history workshop was yet another step in passing along history. There are many more stories to tell and record and study.

The history of how computing changed education and learning, and how learning and education changed computing is more than the story of hardware introductions and institutional initiatives. As one of the speakers, Lee Felsenstein, observed;

“the 60s – 70s resonated with the counterculture of a search for personal control,
even through technology.”

And, as the motto of the People’s Computer Company stated;

“Computers are mostly used against people instead of for people,
used to control people instead of to free them.
Time to change all that…”

Much of the early EdTech work was dedicated to applying computers and computing to education and learning; and was done by people whose work challenged conventional institutions: innovators, educators, visionaries, and revolutionaries. Some of the work was recorded. But, much of their work wasn’t recorded because it was easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, undocumented was safer than documented. Now is a good time to refresh our memories to make sure the information is preserved, made available to researchers, and archived.

There is an urgency to record as many of these oral histories as possible. The memories are perishable. The artifacts and documentation are easy for subsequent generations to dismiss without the right perspective. We are endeavoring to record those histories through the workshop, but also through a crowd campaign so many more voices can be heard. Howard, Liza, and Lee are as well known as many other EdTech pioneers; but there are equally useful stories to be heard from elementary school teachers, hobbyists, and self-taught students. If you have a story, pass it along. If you want to read those stories, visit the HCLE wiki (our digital loading dock while we built our virtual museum.) There are more stories to tell and hear. Thanks for participating.

Which comes first, the message or the audience?

Comments by Liza Loop, HCLE Founder & Executive Director

Earlier this year HCLE applied for a grant from California Humanities, a state-wide calhum_logoCouncil that gets its support from the US National Endowment for the Humanities. We didn’t get the grant. In the proposed project, entitled Hopes for a Future of Education: 5 California Ed Tech Pioneers Tell Their Stories, five pioneering California educators from the 1970s and 80s will tell us what inspired them to introduce computing into their classrooms, how it changed their teaching and how they hoped this would benefit their students. They will also share their thoughts about the status of ed tech today.

Since the deadline for another round of funding is approaching I asked CalHUM for feedback on our previous proposal. The program officer sent me the review sheet from one of the reviewers saying that the other reviewer basically agreed – their comments were more direct about the limited audience appeal demonstrated.

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. During my 15 year association with Stanford’s Graduate School of Education I saw almost no initiatives to explore paradigm shifts in teaching or learning (although there probably were some in other departments). “Educational Reform”, a catch phrase from the period (1960-1990), meant tinkering around the edges of conventional, class-room based, teacher-centered educational practice. My hypothesis that schools and class rooms may not be the best technologies to support learning was summarily dismissed. And that was the response in a community of practice dedicated to education.

varveltrojanhorse
Source

In the larger (developed) world remarkably few people enjoy or thrive in schools but even fewer are interested in working to invent something better. Instead we continue to export this institution throughout the lesser developed world and systematically plow under all vestiges of indigenous ways of cultural transmission. In 1985, I and my colleagues in educational computing saw the personal computer as the Trojan Horse that would allow us to break down the walls of the conventional classroom and conquer the status quo. I thought the audience for this message would grow.

And the audience has grown but it has split into two very different channels. The current HCLE  crowd is  an audience of rebels. Many of them are pioneers in different aspects of the electronics industry. They are the ones who were bored in school and were also able to access external sources of teaching so that they could learn to create new devices and functions. They have become the world’s intellectual and economic elite. They understand that there is something wrong with our educational system (and by “our” I mean those of India, Japan, Russia, Indonesia and others, not just the US). Unfortunately, few of them have turned their prodigious analytical skills to the problem of building better scaffolding to support learning in the broad “normal” population of the planet. Some don’t understand that, by definition, most people have an IQ of 105 or less and do not fall in the upper reaches of the bell-shaped curve as they do. IQ was designed to predict capacity to learn and excel in school-like settings. If we are to have an “educated” world population we cannot teach only the best and brightest. We have to support prodigious learning for everybody. Computing offers a promise of delivering prerecorded, interactive teaching materials to learners around the world — all learners, not just the very bright. Some HCLE supporters are so busy succeeding in their chosen fields they don’t realize how critical our educational failure is to sustaining their way of life.

The audience in the second and larger channel is engaged in a contemporary debate about the effectiveness of electronic devices in the classroom. For the most part they are unaware that their concerns and experiences have been under discussion for over forty years so they keep repeating the same old arguments. They are willing to consider “flipping” the classroom but not eliminating it as the principle way of organizing students.

It is important for our potential funders to understand that the current size and composition of the HCLE audience is the very reason they can benefit from supporting us. The people we can reach without additional funding are those who can catch the message without extensive curation and professional-level presentation techniques. But progressive social change is not a popularity contest. It’s a search for meaning and likely to be unpopular in it’s early stages. That’s why it needs partnerships with government agencies and philanthropic organizations. If it was popular Jane or John Q. Public would just buy it and we would not be asking for support.

Online Museum Working Group Introduction

Digital technologies mean a new definition for the word, “museum.” What makes a museum a museum if its entire collection in online? The following post discusses an initiative and conversation inspired by IMLS (Institue of Museum and Library Services)  and implemented by HCLE.  We are pleased to be a part of this work and hope you will join us. Read on to find out how to participate and follow the progress.

(excerpted from a working page on HCLE’s wiki.)


 

Online Museum Working Group

Introduction

How do we distinguish between someone’s fly-by-night website that shows pictures of their favorite things and a serious ‘virtual’ or ‘online’ museum?

This question was recently posed by staff at the US Institute of Museum and Library Services (1). Current legislation (PUBLIC LAW 111 – 340 – MUSEUM AND LIBRARY SERVICES ACT OF 2010) includes the following wording: Section 273(1)(20 U.S.C. 9172(1)) is amended by inserting

includes museums that have tangible and digital collections and

after “Such term”.(2)”

This wording permits IMLS to address digital holdings but only in museums that also have a brick and mortar facility. True “virtual” or wholly online museums are not eligible for these funds.

Congress will reauthorize the Museum and Library Services Act in 2016. The purpose of this group is to recommend wording for the new bill that will enable IMLS to make grants to purely digital museums without opening up the application process to every blog site and online picture gallery.

You may participate in this effort at any of three levels.

  1. As a member of the public you may leave a comment on this blog or on this wiki page. No signup, registration or personal information is required for the wiki.
  2. To join the working group, please send a message to workinggroupimls@hcle.org requesting membership and briefly outlining your expertise in this area.
  3. Once some progress has been made by the working group we will convene a smaller drafting committee to craft the wording we suggest for the upcoming legislation. Members of this committee will be chosen by the working group.

The draft legislation will be passed back to the working group for approval and/or revision. A final document will be offered to the correct Congressional Appropriation Committee for its consideration.

(1) personal communication via telephone with Liza Loop, Susan Hildreth, Christopher Reich, June 19, 2014

(2) URL http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-111publ340/content-detail.html accessed June 19, 2014


Some first thoughts by Liza Loop, June 19, 2014

Some types of web sites:

  • Simple, informally-formatted, picture collections (with captions but no interpretation)
  • Illustrated blog sites that include situational explanations, narrative or interpretation
  • Linked blog sites that include graphic images, narrative text and links (on or off site) to further information about an item
  • Cataloged picture galleries that include searchable catalogs with standardized metadata for each image
  • Virtual world sites that provide the visitor with a 3-dimensional, first person view of a simulated physical museum exhibit hall

…to be continued…

MW2014 Provided Perspective

A week ago, Liza and Tom represented and presented HCLE at the Museums and the Web conference. Like many of the attendees, we published a blog post to collect our thoughts. This last week was a good opportunity to read posts from others to get a different perspective. Many of them are useful (search on #MW2014 if you want a long list) and one in particular struck a chord in ways the author probably didn’t intend. Thank you, Kati Price, for an inspiration and a reason for reflection.

Kati summarized the conference in “Ten Digital Lessons”. Taking the headings alone points out the similarities between technology entering the museum space and technology as it entered the classroom – decades earlier.

1. Digital transformation is hard – Change is rarely easy, and change that involves technology introduces change in capability, control, and complexity. If capability didn’t promise an improvement the change wouldn’t happen. While technology is potentially enabling, it also shifts some of the control to the computer, and the computer operator. That can be an uncomfortable challenge to existing authority figures. Computers make our lives simpler? Does anyone expect that, even with today’s mature technology? Imagine what it was like for a teacher in 1976 operating without support.

2. Measure what you value not value what you measure – We manage best when we can measure the critical outcome; yet, that’s always been an issue with education. Computers allowed data collection, but it wasn’t necessarily the right data. If it was, there’d be far fewer debates in the education field. The sooner the right measures are found, the sooner things improve.

3. There’s a load of brilliant free stuff out there – That wasn’t as much the case with the early computers, and yet, somehow teachers with very little budget found supportive companies and organizations that would open access to closed systems; or, with the right convincing, provide a machine or two. Software was free. All you had to do was write it up and type it in. Good luck, and celebrate the fact that it will be a learning experience.

4. Everyone loves a good metaphor – And metaphors were necessary as computers were introduced. Many administrators and others had no frame of reference from which to build an understanding of what was possible. A lot of good stories were told (and we’re collecting them for our museum.)

5. Modes and motivations are more important than segments and sectors – Much of human progress is driven by passion, curiosity, and necessity. Educators were motivated by a love of helping others learn; regardless of logic about markets and demographics. They aimed at a future that redefined segments and sectors.

6. Responsiveness is not just about devices – A common mistake in any technology introduction is to focus on the equipment. A lot of effort and expense may have been involved in acquiring it, so naturally it draws attention. But it is necessary to remember why the device was introduced. Hardware without software is useless; and software that provides solutions that have nothing to do with the problems is equally useless. Remember #2, what is truly of value?

7. There’s a fine line between content curation and creation – The analogy may not be as strong here, but we at HCLE have to deal with what to curate. What was truly created in a classroom in 1976: a piece of software, the beginnings of a network, a new way to learn and teach, or a group of educated students?

8. Work out your MVP – At MW2014, MVP was Minimum Viable Product, to distinguish if from Most Valuable Player; but for HCLE, Most Valuable Player is important to us. We are trying to identify and understand the influence of the Most Valuable Players that influenced the way we learned a new way to learn. See our Pioneers list for a start.

9. US Museums rock – This is true, and we are impressed. (We’re also impressed with their budgets, but that’s another issue.) As we develop our museum though we’re becoming that much more aware that our issue is global and that HCLE may eventually not be considered to be a US museum. The nature of a virtual museum means we may be sees as international, and necessarily multi-lingual and multi-cultural.

10. Museum digital folk are awesome – Yep. No argument there.

The question arises, “Why got to conferences?” HCLE lives at the intersection of so many fields (e.g. museums, history, computers, computing, education, learning) that the only conference that targets us would be one that we held, and it would be very small. But Kati’s post is a good reminder that the insights are powerful even if the specifics aren’t exact.

Thanks to everyone for their points of view. And keep in mind, the transition museums are going through now may be very similar to transitions that have already taken place. It is a good reason for all of us to look outside our own fields. (Which is something we are doing too, but that’s another story.

Peoples Computer Company At Stanford

Thanks to our new (2014) arrangement with Stanford University Libraries Special Collections, you can now see the first issues of the People’s Computer Company (PCC) newsletter. (Here’s a partial index.) People learned how and why to use computers through such newsletters.

It is easy to stereotype the era as a time when every computer user thought computers were panaceas. PCC didn’t hide the fact that it saw big topics ahead.

Computers are mostly
used against people instead of for people
used to control people instead of to free them
time to change all that –
we need a . . .
People’s
Computer
Company

Welcome to 1972. Much of the debate about computers and their influence on education, life, and society was carried out in handwritten, handdrawn newsletters published by passionate people. They were urgently trying to affect change.

Welcome to 2014. Most of those newsletters, notes, brochures, and pamphlets were printed for the moment, which means they weren’t archival. Forty year old mimeographs and xeroxes are fading. We are urgently trying to save those records.

Thanks to people like our founder, Liza Loop, who stored thousands of documents and to professors like Fred Turner and Henry Lowood, who teach about such subjects we are making those early discussions available for the inquisitive and the academic.

Stanford Libraries has generously begun scanning and archiving Liza’s collection. The results are online. How else can you learn that it wasn’t all about soldering hardware or debugging software?

“THE PEOPLE’S COMPUTER COMPANY
is a newspaper . . .
about having fun with computers
and learning how to use computers
and how to buy a minicomputer for yourself or your school
and books . . . and films . . . and tools for the future.”

We expect everything to be computer-generated. Desktop publishing has become so ubiquitous that it isn’t even mentioned now. Anyone can use templates to create professional looking publications. Software packages proudly proclaim their ease and creative options. Take a look at a few pages of PCC. Handwritten notes meant no font restrictions. Handdrawn graphics meant expressive and unique art. Cut and paste meant scissors and glue which also meant anything could be printed at any angle. And dragons. They made sure there were always dragons.

We’ve mentioned People’s Computer Company before. It was founded by several pioneers, several of whom are described on our wiki, and two that were also described here on this blog. (Bob Albrecht, Leroy Finkel)

If a description sufficed, then there’d be no need for anything more than these posts. You’ve got to see this for yourself. And, if you can, thank and support the people doing this work.

So Glad Our Museum Is not Real

So Glad Our Museum Isn’t Real – It’s Virtual
– An Overlooked Overlap by Tom Trimbath – Project Manager, HCLE

Many museums, libraries, and archives are creating virtual versions; either because of outreach, costs, or experimentation.

Overlaps between museums create niches that inspire small, targeted museums; but, the inefficiencies of small museums can overwhelm small staffs and budgets. One solution is to go virtual.

MW2014 Lightning Talk slide 2

In HCLE’s case, other museums cover History, Education (from the dawn of history), Computers (from room-sized machines down to ingestible devices), and Computing (there’s a demand for games). They overlap, but insufficient funds mean the core missions of museums can fade at the borders. HCLE is preserving the intersection of three.

Funding niches is harder than funding broader museums. The broader the topic, the larger the audience, and the greater opportunity for fundraising. Cover the intersection of two topics, and the remaining set is a smaller number. Cover the intersection of three topics and the population becomes quite small.

Disadvantages can become advantages. Competition encourages HCLE to duplicate each type of museum, which is expensive. Besides, each type of museum has a different culture and requires a different infrastructure. Collaboration instead of competition means duplication and costs are reduced. By contributing appropriate artifacts and efforts to established museums, both collaborators win. Topics at the border are emphasized rather than marginalized.

In HCLE’s case, we need to preserve and make accessible the documents, software, lessons, and experiences that affected how society rapidly learned a new way to learn. All of that material is perishable; particularly, educators rarely formally documented the  techniques they pioneered, except as newsletters and stories. We’ll collect what others won’t save.

But, simply dispersing the various elements and artifacts does not enable the necessary integration for academic research and insight.

Fortunately for HCLE, the remaining unarchived elements can all be digitized; which is why our museum is virtual.

Collaboration eases the overall effort, but it requires above average levels of communication (a potential burden for a small museum.) We must relinquish control of most of our artifacts, because that’s the best way to improve a collaborator’s collection; while simultaneously guarding a core mission. Respecting our mission requires a stewardship of access to the artifacts while developing a common standard across disparate disciplines.

MW2014 Lightning Talk slide 5

The effort is large, complex, and valuable; but, the effort is far smaller thanks to collaboration.

We’re attempting to fill the gap by using open source software, advancing the art of the proper catalog (using Dublin Core+), hosting the database within shareable environments (mySQL), building collaborative exhibits (Omeka), providing provisional access during  development (our wiki), and researching other repositories to minimize duplication and to introduce disparate partners.

HCLE’s essence is like many museums’: deliver a body of knowledge to a diverse users through a variety of avenues. Our avenues must enable: data mining for researchers, archive browsing for participants, and virtual exhibits for the casual visitor.

MW2014 Lightning Talk slide 8

To see our progress or collaborate, check out our wiki (for information about our database, catalog, and repository) and the draft of our first exhibits.

HCLE At MW2013

The conference is over and I’m glad we attended. HCLE (Liza Loop and I) was at the 2013 Museums and the Web conference in Portland, Oregon. Days of tours, workshops, sessions, exhibits and demonstrations were overwhelming and useful; though the people and ideas may linger longest. I gained a new perspective on the size and need for our museum, and the state of the museum culture.

OMSI action shot – Tom and Liza (She’s the one in action.)

Museums are in transition. Digital technologies, whether they are the web or smartphones, are changing the way museums are managed and visited. Archives can be tracked more efficiently, and frequently must include room for digital artifacts. Visitors are more likely to begin their visit online where they decide when and how they’ll visit, and during their visit, are more likely to add to their experience by pulling out their smartphone and diving into details (even if those details come from uncurated sources like wikipedia.) This is a major shift for organizations that were built into massive structures, expansive halls, with complete control over the collection and its commentary. Digital technologies usurp some of the control, which sometimes means visitors create an unexpected experience, and sometimes mean they don’t feel the need for a physical visit. Challenges are opportunities.

Other industries are undergoing digital revolutions. To quote from another of my blogs;
Digital technology allowed independent movies to revolutionize Hollywood, garage bands to challenge record labels, ebooks to shock publishing houses, . . .
In each of those industries, new formats arose, surprised convention, and have since lived beside the earlier format; and both continue to change.

HCLE will be almost completely digital. (Details on the HCLE wiki.) The majority of our collection will be either scanned documents or heritage software. Our major physical exhibit will be a traveling show, a replica of a 1980s classroom computer lab. The other major element will be the story project where we collect people’s tales of how they learned and taught, about and with computers. We changed how we learned how to learn. We taught ourselves a new way to teach. It is appropriate that the museum is a new type of museum.

The most positive lesson I learned was that many of the tasks before HCLE have been solved for similar situations. Massive databases of digitized information are becoming the norm. The task remains as large as before, but it is encouraging to know that others have completed similar projects. Maybe none have exactly the same set of tasks, but that isn’t a surprise. And, if there isn’t a museum example, there may be other examples in other industries. As one attendee put it, (pardon me as I paraphrase),
If you think your database is large and potentially slow, go to amazon.com and search for something, anything. Their search will sort through millions of items and an amazing array of possible search terms and deliver a comprehensive result within seconds.
Somewhere starting with spreadsheets at one end and amazon’s monster solution at the other lies what most museums need. As for user interfaces and academic access, Disney has probably solved the one and the Library of Congress has probably solved the other.

I also had my mind opened by a gentleman from Qatar. Without intending to, he made me realize that the history of computing in learning and education is international and multi-lingual. I’ve known that, but a personal conversation can have much more impact than an abstract consideration. Others, without realizing we were focusing on the earliest years of classroom computers, extended the concept to insights into modern day MOOCs (Massively Open Online Classes) and distributed synchronous learning. Our job may have just gotten bigger, again.

Throughout the conference, I was reminded by a role model. Every time I walked outside, I saw OMSI across the river. The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry sat across the Willamette River from our venue. Liza and I have mentioned them in previous posts. They served as a reminder that change happens, and the easiest way to adapt is to accept it early and positively.
OMSI and solutions

Now it is time to sort through the program, my notes (available on twitter @tetrimbath and #MW2013), a stack of business cards and pamphlets, and memories to allow the key solutions to become clear. We have a big task. It could be a lot bigger. But, now I know that there are solutions to problems, and one thing the conference was good for was finding solutions. (Besides, who would want to go to a conference looking for problems?) Thanks to everyone who made it happen. I hope I see you next year.

Tom Trimbath, HCLE Project Director

(For a more personal take on the conference and especially the city, you are welcomed to read my post on one of my other blogs.)