Tag Archives: Lee Felsenstein

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LOOP Center and Educational Technology

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.

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. One of those videos describes LO*OP Center’s history. Familiar names like Bob Albrecht, Dean Brown, and Lee Felsenstein; familiar concepts like timesharing and the mouse; and historic initiatives like PLATO, People’s Computer Company, and the Computer Memory Project all played their roles. One theme that Liza Loop reiterates is that people should be in charge of computers and not the other way around, and as she puts it; “know when to turn the damn thing off.”

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.

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.

The complete presentation is available at: GeekFest’s Youtube channel.

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.