Tag Archives: history

Exploring Designs for Teaching – Howard Rheingold on Counterculture + Social Media = Edupunk Pedagogy

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.

Howard Rheingold (technology innovator, inventor of the term “virtual community”, editor of The Whole Earth Review, and participant in The Well) spoke on Counterculture,  Social Media, and Edupunk Pedagogy.

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…”

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.

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

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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).

Apple in April at the Living Computer Museum

What was it like to be at the Apple in April event at the Living Computer Museum on Wednesday, April 12th? I’m sure the experience was different for each of us but I can tell you how it was for me.

First came getting there at all. I didn’t know about the meeting until a few days before (Monday, April 10) when HCLE consultant, Tom Trimbath, sent me a copy of a message he had received from Living Computer Museum + Labs marketing coordinator, Lauren Bayer. Tom keeps up on social media while I am sort of a recluse so I really appreciated his heads up.

Lauren’s note was inviting Tom to visit Living Computer’s new exhibit. It read:

“Continuing the momentum, we’re excited to share that LCM+L will be hosting a new, permanent exhibit dedicated to the to the first two decades of Apple! This will include three original Apple I computers, Apple’s first-ever product, including the only operable Apple I in existence available for use by the public and a unique demonstration model that was housed in Steve Jobs’ office until he first left Apple in 1985.
The Apple Exhibit will open to the public on Friday, April 14. We appreciate your support in helping us spread the word within our community. In addition to a few images available for sharing on social channels or in a newsletter, we also crafted sample posts to leverage for your social media channels.
  • Our partner @LivingComputers will open a new exhibit dedicated to the first two decades of Apple Computers on April 14! #ComeInGeekOut
  • Get hands on with the only operable Apple 1 @LivingComputers Apple Exhibit, which opens to the public on April 14! #ComeInGeekOut
  • From a garage start-up to a global leader in computer technology, the @LivingComputers Museum + Labs is opening a new exhibit dedicated to the first two decades of Apple on April 14. Visitors can interact with the only operable Apple 1 available to the public, along with other computers that helped spark Apple’s growth.”

Hmmm…LO*OP Center owns the first-ever Apple 1 off the assembly line and I had visited Living Computers two years ago. Somebody there knew about our machine but staff had changed. I wondered if they were interested in our Apple I so I telephoned Lauren.  She was exceedingly cordial and promised to ask around the organization. I later heard that my call had caused quite a stir.  Within hours an email arrived from Executive Director, Lath Carlson, with an invitation to Wednesday’s invitation-only party. I was thrilled. I didn’t pay any attention to who was going to be there but I wanted in. Luckily I didn’t have any pressing appointments to keep me from hopping on a plane to Seattle and my dog sitter was available!

By Tuesday afternoon I was ready to go and I began worrying about what to wear – evening attire? Cocktails? Business casual? Jeans? Then I realized this was Homebrew. I’ve known some of these people since I was in my 20’s and I’m now over 70. It doesn’t matter what I wear.  I decided to relax and have fun.

Meeting Old Favorites. There were only a few minutes between checking into the hotel and catching our ride to the Museum. Standing in the lobby were magazine editors David Ahl of Recreational Computing and Tom Hogan of Infoworld, neither of whom I had met in the early days of reading what they wrote, but it’s not hard to identify aging geeks swapping stories. Four more new faces were in the limousine that picked us up. Museum staff welcomed us on the first floor. I glanced over the badges still waiting on the front desk. Oh, nice crowd! Haven’t seen him/her in quite a while.

It was hard to tear myself away from the exhibits that have been installed since my previous visit and head upstairs to the party proper. Mike Willegal of the Apple I Registry sought me out, introduced himself and asked for a photo of the jumpers on our Apple I. There was Jim Warren from the West Coast Computer Faire, People’s Computer Company and many of my other old haunts. I hadn’t seen Gordon French from Homebrew since the reunion at the Computer History Museum in 2013. I’ve been working with Lee Felsenstein (designer of the Osbourne 1) recently so we were already up to date on our goings on but  it has been perhaps 10 years since I’ve had a chance to chat with Len Shustak, co-founder and Chairman of the Board of the Computer History Museum in Mt. View, California.

I’m actually not a very technical person and I remember struggling to hook up Apples, Pets and Radio Shacks to the Nestar network that Len and Harry Saal put together in the early 1980s. In those days, school kids who wanted to swap computer games really had to learn a lot about operating systems and hardware at a level way beyond scripting with a drag-and-drop interface. Many of the conversations I listened in on at this party were recaps of the hardware and software repartee around personal computers that has now been going on for more than 50 years.

Hobnobbing with the Living Computer Museum Staff. While visiting with the computer aficianados of now and then was pleasant I found I had more to talk about with the young and enthusiastic educators and curators who comprise the staff of this unique museum. I slipped out of the party to chat with Nina Arens, education coordinator, about how to engage kids in coding activities and with Cynde Moya, collections manager and several others. I went back the next day for more and hope this is just one episode in a long, fruitful collaboration.

Reflecting on the Experience. I won’t bore you with more name dropping but there were lots of other old acquaintances to say hello to. I was honored to be in the company of these pioneers of the computer industry but I was also aware that my own trajectory has always been a tangent to theirs. My passion is how people learn and how we can facilitate that learning more effectively, not bits, bytes, electrons and gates. I’m fascinated by how people think, especially people who think differently from the way I do. I love watching them solve problems but I don’t have much to say to them. It was fun to observe the renewal of long-term friendships and to hear the exchange of stories, of appreciation and of genuine concern. At the same time I realized that I did not form firm connections with those who were so instrumental to my career. I felt welcomed but still an outsider. Maybe it’s that reclusive aspect of my personality or maybe I’m just so oppositional that I’m always heading upstream when everyone else is floating down with the current. That’s what I was thinking about when I looked up and saw that the group picture was being taken from the side of the crowd where I was standing. I had thought I was in the back and instead I ended up in the front, near Paul Allen, co-founder of MicroSoft and the man behind this wonderful museum — whom I had not even met.

Thank you, Paul, for hosting such an interesting party. Next time I’ll make a point of saying hello.

Apple Group with Labels V3
photo courtesy of Living Computers Museum + Labs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Steve Wozniak and Number 1 Apple 1

The story of the first Apple 1 (#1 Apple 1) may not be what you expect, but that’s the reality of history.

It may seem ironic that a virtual museum would have such an historic artifact, but LO*OP Center, the parent organization of the History of Computing in Learning and Education Virtual Museum, received the first Apple 1 from Steve Wozniak, personally – back in 1976. Woz has always been an education advocate. When he saw a non-profit that had similar ideas, he decided to help by donating a computer he’d just designed. It happened to be the Apple 1, the first Apple 1. The story is best told by our Founder, Liza Loop, the recipient who then took the computer into classrooms. Here’s a link to the video, and other videos from the GeekFest event.

Steve Wozniak’s gift of the first Apple 1 to LO*OP Center 

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 technology’s effects on education 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 – 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.

Vivarium

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

Smalltalk

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.

HCLE Summer 2016 Progress Report

HCLE Summer 2016 Progress Report

 

Welcome to the summer 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, several volunteers and many outside collaborators reached the following milestones in the winter (July through September) of 2016.

 

 

Fundraising

  • We updated our strategy to take advantage of our Oral History Workshop and our Make versus Buy process.

Catalog

  • The initial phase of our Make versus Buy process resulted in a trial of Collector Systems and a potential $300K savings.

Collaboration

  • The content of the Oral History Workshop is being edited prior to publication.

Outreach

  • Liza’s presentation at the Geekfest 2016 Berlin conference was well received.

 

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.


A Pioneer has passed

Seymour Papert, co-founder of the MIT Media Lab (then known as the AI Lab). Liza worked with him briefly in the 1980s and taught his childrens programming language, LOGO, in several California schools.

Although Seymour’s work is already well documented, his death highlights the urgency of our museum’s oral history work. Other prominent Pioneers are approaching the end of their lives. Many have not had a chance to provide such a complete legacy. We are working on a virtual exhibit to highlight Seymour’s numerous advances and accomplishments within the field of education and computing. His work is appreciated. His loss is felt.


 

  • Fundraising

    • Strategy

We updated our fundraising strategy to take advantage of our inaugural Oral History workshop (see below), the opportunity to refine our Cal Humanities proposal, and the preliminary results of our Make Versus Buy process (see below). In general, we intend to use feedback from our recent CalHum proposal to update our appeals. The results of the workshop are also an opportunity to demonstrate some of what we hope to preserve and accomplish. The results of the Make Versus Buy process help demonstrate one way we intend to support the creation of the museum.

After we’ve incorporated the feedback from CalHum, we intend to contact Foundations and NGOs with the news of the various updates.

If there are no direct responses, we intend to revisit the Kickstarter campaign, contact key foundation board members for advice, referrals, and hopefully resources.

We’re revisiting our list of foundations and so far have researched candidates to contact from:

      • Kresge
      • Moore
      • Broad
      • Sloan
      • Carnegie
      • Kresge
      • MacArthur

We welcome suggestions about who to contact.

In preparation for the next Kickstarter campaign that will target funding our Proof of Concept, we’ve drafted a series of interview questions from which we’ll create a video interview of Liza. A good video is highly recommended for Kickstarter campaigns, which is why we are focusing on a simple, yet hopefully effective approach.

 


  • Collection

    • social media

Our social media campaign is predominantly for advocacy, collaboration, and fund raising, but it has also been uncovering and collecting digital artifacts, online collections, and oral histories. We conducted a review of the discoveries and compiled them for eventual inclusion in our Catalog.


  • Catalog

    • Catalog Maintenance System – Make Versus Buy

We completed the main selection phase of our Make Versus Buy analysis. After reviewing approximately two dozen candidates, we decided to begin a trial of Collector Systems. Estimated savings are of ~ $300,000 and a shortening of the software timeline of approximately six months. Collector Systems was chosen because it is a cloud-based solution, with relatively low recurring and non-recurring costs, that is somewhat customizable, and that can be readily scaled as needed. The cost of the study was ~$800.

Our preliminary evaluation of the trial is inconclusive because of an interruption in communications, plus a miscommunication about the particular software package we should be using. Liza’s conversations with their CEO enabled a free extended trial until we’ve made our decision. At the close of the quarter, Collector Systems was shifting us to the software package more appropriate for museums, and using our map of the metadata crosswalk to modify their displays to match our needs. They were very receptive to suggested improvements such as including social media in the contact information. A gallery was created with relative ease, but will be probably be replaced after the account is switched to the museum system.

Concurrently, we will continue to use HCLE’s Catalog Maintenance System because it is our established process and we may need to return to it.

One consequence of our review has been an improved documentation of our current digitization, cataloging, and artifact management process. If we choose Collector Systems, we will similarly document the process.

We continue to improve our Catalog Maintenance System by fixing bugs and improving functionality.


  • People/Volunteers

    • Student Project

Liza attended the Sonoma State Internship Faire to recruit interns to work on any of eleven tasks.

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

Kimberly Loop has been contracted to edit the videos from the Oral History Workshop held in June.


  • Outreach

    • Events

The primary event was Liza’s participation as a presenter at GeekFest 2016 in Berlin. It was a two day event that “brings together the founding fathers of the early personal computer era and the first Hacker scene and there will be a panel of memories from this era.” Liza was invited partly because of her involvement in the Homebrew Computer Club and the West Coast ComputerFaire. Videos of the presentations are available on YouTube.

We are also preparing a workshop for next year’s 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 critieria and situation.

1/1/2014 12/29/2014 12/30/2015 9/30/2016
Facebook 59 91 104 137
Twitter 67 271 408 469
WordPress 18 42 49 49
Wikispaces 12 41 62 68

  • wiki

    • The HCLE wiki continues to act as a communications center and as a digital loading dock. An alternative format was proposed and is undergoing outside review.

We continue to refine the videos from the Oral History Workshop that was conducted in June with Leuphana University in Luneberg, Germany. The goal is to create a series of videos, one for each presentation.

We are also in discussions about possible publications, both informal and academic, based on the event.

No decision has been reached on holding a similar event in 2017, partly because of insufficient funding.

Inspired by the event, we are considering producing a monthly series of Oral History videos and podcasts. Each video would be an interview with an HCLE Pioneer. Questions would be standardized. The interviewee would have the opportunity to present several slides, which is one of the benefits of a video rather than a podcast.


  • Exhibits

    • Thanks to some auspicious networking, we are in discussion to create a demonstration exhibit using virtual reality.

  • Operations

    • There are continuing efforts to improve our processes within CiviCRM and our gallery exhibits.

  • LO*OP Center

    • No significant support efforts were required in the quarter.

  • admin

    • A web site and domain name audit was begun to manage site and file proliferation.

 

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.

Our Inaugural EdTech Oral History Workshop

A first workshop

On June 7th we held our inaugural 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.

LLOHW image from Twitter

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…”

Our first workshop expanded on that theme with the influence of Montessori logic, applied conviviality, designs for teaching about and through computers, and pedagogy.

The four main presentations were:

  • Jeremias Herberg: IT Became Personal – Montessori Logics in 1970s Computer Hobby Groups
  • Lee Felsenstein: The Tom Swift Terminal and Applied Conviviality
  • Liza Loop: Distance, Synchronicity, Control: Exploring Designs for Teaching About and Through Computers
  • Howard Rheingold: Counterculture + Social Media = Edupunk Pedagogy


(June 2017 update: select videos available)

The workshop was well attended, considering that it was as much a test as it was a research opportunity. A few dozen people attended at Leuphana and online. Scheduling had to accommodate a 9 hour difference in time zones. It was impressive to see how many people were willing to stay up late or get up early to participate. As a reflection on the history of computing, such an event would have been prohibitively expensive and unpredictable decades ago. Now, the system we used was new, familiar to many even with a mix of languages, and was effectively a test for Leuphana. It worked more than well enough for us.

For about 5 hours, the attendees listened and participated in a discussion of the objective and subjective aspects of early EdTech. Dates and data are more readily researched; but oral history captures the subjective aspects like the motivations and circumstances that led to decisions, actions, and also abandoned ideas. Anecdotes may conflict, but they also reveal the various perspectives that existed and influenced those times and these times. Even though Jeremias didn’t work in the ’60s and ’70s, he was able to put the workshop in perspective thanks to his research. Lee, Liza, and Howard were active in that era; their presentations provided insights and inspired questions as well as possible further investigations by researchers.

Education made computers personal

Much of the early EdTech work which was dedicated to applying computers and computing to education and learning was done by people whose work challenged conventional institutions: innovators, educators, visionaries, and revolutionaries. Some of this work was recorded. Much of it was never written down in the rush to turn new ideas into programs, lessons and new ways of teaching or learning. The workshop helped to refresh our memories, to ensure  that the information is preserved, to archive it and to make it available to researchers.

The nature of the collaboration between Liza and Jeremias is a good example of creating a bridge between generations. Liza Loop is the founder of LO*OP Center and the co-creator of the event. In the early days of personal computing, she brought the first Apple 1 into schools, opened a public access meeting place for computing, and helped write the user’s manuals for the Atari 400 and 800 computers. She lived the history, and knows others who also lived it. Jeremias Herberg is a post-doctoral fellow with the Complexity or Control Project at Leuphana University and works on how computers influenced learning. A sociologist, he is studying the history of science and technology, and finding others who are active in this field. These young scholars realize that the pioneers from a pivotal era are reaching the end of their lives and opportunities to meet them and capture their stories are becoming increasingly rare. This inaugural oral history workshop was yet another step in passing along history. There are many more stories to tell, record and study.

Lee was involved in the creation of several countercultural movements and in computers, including the Free Speech Movement where he created the famous “Community Memory”. In 1975, Lee co-founded the Homebrew Computer Club, where many early Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, including Apple inventor, Steve Wozniak, used to gather to swap stories and expertise. As an engineer, Lee created the Sol-20, and early desk-top computer and the Osborne 1, one of the first portable computers. Choosing from a breadth of influences, he chose to talk about the Tom Swift Terminal, a pre-PC device that would have enabled personal access to remote computers and could also be expanded into a quite capable stand-alone machine. As for how “Education Made Computers Personal”, he noted that the 60s – 70s resonated with the counterculture of a search for personal control, even through technology.

Howard was one of the first writers to point out the educational values of digital networks. He was involved in the WELL, a “computer conferencing” system and, drawing from that experience, he coined the term “virtual community”. As he pointed out, many of the issues encountered in those early days still remain after decades of development, partly because;

“Technologies, including EdTech, are changing faster than society.”

Computers and computing have changed society and the way we teach and learn; but, fundamentally, many organizations and institutions continue to struggle to adapt.

Because the details of the presentations are too much to relay here we are working at making the presentations and the video available. (You can follow some of the proceedings via #LLOHW on Twitter.) When they are available we’ll post them this blog and publish announcements on our LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter pages.

One workshop is not enough. There is an urgency to record as many of these oral histories as possible. The memories are perishable. The artifacts and documentation are at risk of being dismissed or overlooked by subsequent generations unless they are combined with contemporary, interpretive commentary. We are endeavoring to record those histories through the workshop and also through a crowd campaign so many more voices can be heard. Howard, Liza, and Lee are already well known through their writing as are many other EdTech pioneers. However, equally useful stories from elementary school teachers, hobbyists, and self-taught students, have yet to be captured. 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 build our virtual museum). Keep next year’s workshop in mind and let us know if you would like to be kept abreast of our plans. There are more stories to tell and hear.

Thanks to everyone who made it happen.

Gaps In EdTech History

There are gaps in history, eras when important things happened but no one properly preserved the records. If you study history, you probably have your favorite examples of mysteries that will only be resolved with a time machine – or a very lucky find. The history of education is facing such a blank space.

Within the last decade, conversations about #EdTech have been accelerating and expanding. More material is being produced than anyone can assimilate. The born-digital portion of the discourse is impressive. Even the research, analyses, and insights being developed today aren’t always archived correctly; but academic studies are more likely to be preserved by their institutions, unofficial but effective efforts like Internet Archive save many of the web sites, and popular press collections by journalists, bloggers, and commenters are more likely to be preserved (at least temporarily) by whoever hosts them. Today, born-digital means easily transferable, and possibly preserved.

The decades before the Internet became a common (and largely chaotic) depository for all of human information weren’t so fortunate. It was an era that started with discussions about students possibly being interested in getting jobs that would develop computers, up through the period when computers dominated classrooms but were largely constrained within the walls of the schools. It was an era that had governmental and institutional initiatives; but it was dominated by pioneering teachers, administrators, and students who didn’t wait for official approval to expand what, why, how, when, and where they taught and learned. Compared to today, there was far less material produced, which means each artifact is that much more valuable. We at HCLE (the History of Computing in Learning and Education Virtual Museum) are focused on that era and those people, and are surprised that we can find few others doing similar work.

The teachers, administrators, parents, and students then asked the same questions being asked today. How much screen time is appropriate? What lessons are best taught by the teacher lecturing versus the student exploring software? Does the cost of technology create a digital divide based on wealth? EdTech’s historical gap is filled with insights and answers that apply to questions today.

EdTech’s blank space exists because the pioneers who didn’t wait for approval also didn’t necessarily document their intent or process. Sometimes it was unintentional, because the pioneers were so busy pioneering that they postponed documenting their progress. Sometimes that was intentional, because official records could trigger official demands to cease and desist. 

The documents that were produced were usually printed on non-archival paper. They are perishing through age and neglect. The hardware is becoming more fragile, and possibly impossible to repair because of the lack of replacement parts. The software is being lost because it was stored on a variety of media, some of which are degrading quickly, some of which are orphaned because the hardware readers are no longer available, some of which are orphaned because the operating systems no longer operate, and some of which might work but no one remembers how to run the programs. The most valuable and ultimately most perishable information are the stories stored in people’s memories; the true source of the research, analysis, insights, and wisdom that may or may not have been documented elsewhere.

Liza's van with computer monitors, wheel barrow of monitors and Stephie dog
News “Managing the not-so-virtual assets of HCLE” – by Liza Loop

It is a sad, yet unavoidable, reality that the pioneers are reaching the end of their lives. The era we study began in the mid-fifties, sixty years ago. As people age, memories fade, and are ultimately buried. After they’re gone, their descendants are tasked with sorting through estates that may include boxes of old notebooks, personal letters, newsletters, photos, home movies, computers, programs – a massive amount of work given to someone in mourning who understandably wants to get past a difficult part of their life. Artifacts are easily tossed away. Our awareness of the urgency is why we are preserving our document collection, recording stories of the pioneers, and reformatting born-digital information that was almost orphaned. (Thanks to the volunteers and collaborating institutions that are making it possible.)

The loss of artifacts and first hand accounts is not unique to our museum. Any museum that is working with the history of a topic from the fifties through the nineties experiences the same urgency.

Change in society is accelerating, but today’s efforts are more likely to be born-digital in an era when the awareness of preserving the information is being discussed. The efforts of decades ago didn’t benefit from the preservation efforts; yet, those efforts were the enablers of today’s acceleration.

Change requires adaptation and learning. A hundred years ago there was change; but a person could learn skills that would be useful for decades. Very little retraining was required. It was the era of lifelong careers. If you needed or wanted to learn something new, you found a class and learned from the teacher. Today, the skills you learned to operate your computer, your phone, your car, and your appliances may become outdated with the next overnight update. If you need or want to learn how to use the new version, you expect to teach yourself, possibly by communicating with peers. We’ve become less reliant on authority figures and more reliant on ourselves and our community, online or offline.

Understanding how we adapt to change is becoming more important because change is accelerating and adaption becoming more necessary. And yet, the history of our adaptations to one of our most important changes is being lost.

Civilization was enabled by education. What, why, how, when, and where is largely different from a hundred years ago, and even fifty years ago. Our civilization is entering a new era that is dramatically different from the previous era. Between the two was a transitional era, an enabling time that is easy to ignore, overlook, and even throw away. We are working to defend against the growth of that blank space in our history, to save enough of the artifacts and first-hand accounts to tie the eras together, to document a time when change accelerated – a useful study considering how understanding change will be necessary for understanding our civilization. If you’re doing the same, great! Thanks for doing what you do, and thanks to everyone who is helping.