Tag Archives: distance education

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.

Moving Electrons Instead of People

“You can’t learn to swim on a computer.” Liza Loop

Distance learning was greatly enabled by the technology that made it easier to move electrons than people. Originally, that meant people in remote locations could access far more educational resources. Now, everyone is expected to engage in distance learning whether from a classroom or to understand a smartphone’s upgrade. It is almost seen as a panacea by some. In this presentation made at GeekFest Berlin 2016, Liza points out that;

“There are many things we can’t learn by this storyboarded computer medium, but there are many things that we can.”

and one persistent caution,

“What we have failed to do in the 40 years I’ve been working in this field is to really look at our education goals.”

Moving electrons instead of people is a powerful education and learning tool, but it has its limitations, too. Here’s an excerpt from her presentation;

Geekfest Berlin 2016 – Liza Loop – Moving Electrons

Thanks to GeekFest Berlin’s 2016 event, we’ve created a series of videos from 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 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 nonformal 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 – 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.

1996 Reflections on Technology and “Distance Education”

This post is an excerpt from Liza Loop’s story on the HCLE Wiki

My greatest professional frustrations occur when I encounter narrow interpretations of ideas. For example, many people assume “technology” means electronic gadgets. I think technique is “know-how” and technology is the study of know-how. Certainly there has been an explosion of know-how around designing, building and using electronic devices. But learning to use a pencil and alphabet is just as much a case of mastering techniques as learning to use a word processor. In many circumstances, a pencil is a better tool than a computer for the task to be accomplished. I lose patience with people who fall so in love with the complexity of the tool that they fail to assess its appropriateness for the job within its surroundings.

Here’s a little triumph I experienced at the end of a workshop for teachers who were introducing computers in their classrooms. One of my students approached me and said, “Now I know how to operate my computer, but you didn’t explain how it would solve teaching problems.”
“Wonderful,” I replied. “You have learned that the computer is only a medium of communication between teacher and student. It can never replace the teacher. Solve teaching problems yourself. When you do, the computer may be one tool you use.” When assessing technology, it’s important to remember that it’s people who achieve. As we use electronic and communication technologies, we will open up new ways to distribute know-how, new ways to teach and to learn. I expect to contribute most in distance learning and schools.

Moving electrons is more efficient than moving people.

Distance learning involves learners led by live or recorded teachers who can reach their students regardless of location. Every time we turn on a radio or TV, open a book, magazine or newspaper, receive a telephone call, fax or e-mail message, or play a video game, we use distance education tools. If we are changed by the experience, we have been educated. Today, distance learning is market-driven by consumers willing to pay for receiving messages. Only a small portion of distance education is part of a conscious teaching effort in schools.

However, by 2000, I expect a few struggling organizations will take up the mission of delivering teaching to students wherever they are. The effort will be led by transnational corporations that have learned that any data or information that can be squeezed down a wire or transmitted on the waves, should be. Moving electrons is more efficient than moving people. Traditional schools will compete with new institutions offering quicker, cheaper, deeper, more varied access to know-how in mediated form. We will be trying to figure out how to redeploy physical plants built for an industrial era in an information age. Perhaps 2005 is too soon to expect social acceptance of the paradigm shifts brought about by radical developments in information transfer technology. We may still be mired in the illusion that copyright can be preserved. We may not have discovered that information is only valuable when it is disseminated and does not obey economic laws of scarcity. We may have failed to sort out critical aspects of face-to-face encounter as compared to distance communication. But we will be learning.

This is an excerpt from a longer article. Enjoy