Tag Archives: Liza Loop

Interview with Liza Loop by Jon Cappetta

Interview with Liza Loop: Q and A*

Jon Cappetta: What do you think sparked your interest in computers?


Liza: For starters, computers aren’t the focus of my interest – people are. Computers are a technology that people have to adjust to. It was clear to me that the personal computer was a really powerful technology, and it was going to change the way we did things. I was excited to be in at the beginning of the popularization of computers so I could see how people changed.

That’s what was going on in the early ‘70s when I started working on this, but I would have to admit that my family was into computers a lot earlier than that. I grew up in a science and technology household. My father was an audiophile and had done some research on coding, worked with scientists at MIT. It was both questions of language and questions of coding and questions of the use of technology for all kinds of things that were dinner table conversation for us.  Computing isn’t a big leap for me.

‘Technology’ doesn’t mean electronics; it means know how. ‘Technique’ is how you do things and -ology is the study of things. I think you’re asking when did I see the potential of electronic computers for education not [just as] technology? Everything has a technology whether it is a pencil or a digging stick. It is all technology.

Educational technology, when I was in school, was books, what we call ditto sheets or spirit masters, mimeographs, blackboards. There is a wonderful description [from the early 1900’s] of a blackboard as a fantastic new educational technology. But kids were using slates in the 1600’s; so, a big slate in the front of the classroom was a new technology compared with the small slates kids had at their desks through the 1800’s. [When I was in elementary school in the late ‘50s,] we were using what were called programmed learning books. These were little workbooks, small paper bound books, 8 1/2 by 11 inches, with questions or exercises on one side arranged so you folded a paper over the answer. Then you can slid the paper down to get the answer. You would look on the left hand side of the page — left because we are working in English, because I’m American — and the question or the exercise would be on the left hand side and you had the answer page closed. You wrote your answer down; then you slid the cover sheet down so you could see the answer. Then you could correct your own work.

My first introduction to computing in educating was automating that process [multiple choice drill and practice]. When we first started using computers they were large computers being time shared, so there were lots of people using the same computer. It was a no-brainer to go from that to communicating between those people. There was no Internet but you could send a message to somebody else. So the idea of creating simulated classrooms both synchronous (meaning everyone is communicating at the same time), or asynchronous (meaning one person puts in their ideas comments, responses and another person can see those later and interact in time segmented ways, asynchronously) arose quite easily.

Those were radical ideas for ordinary classroom teachers but for those of us who were trying to imagine what the future could be like, they were pretty obvious. That was a formal education aspect of educational computing but the non-formal education aspect of it was there, too. Here were these new instruments that we wanted to learn how to use – how were we going to learn how to use them when nobody else knew either? I think even more important than the effort to automate existing teaching techniques was the growth of peer interaction. You go study, or experiment however you can, then you come together in a group and you share what you discovered with everybody else and you hope they discovered something different so each one can teach each other. [The contemporary term for this, coined by Howard Rhinegold, is ‘peerogogy’.]

Two social technologies combine to create today’s educational technology landscape: studying by yourself and then coming together in a group to peer teach and the growth of what were originally printed newsletters or how-to-do-it manuals into what has now become the internet and all the how to do it YouTube videos — that was a pretty smooth transition. But back before today’s technologies were available we could imagine using these instruments to create that world.


Jon: You, Dean Brown, Stuart Cooney, started LO*OP Center, what were the main objectives?


Liza: Well, I was here at Sonoma State University at the time. My fellow students, and the professors as well, had access to the state college computer system — the actual computer system was at Cal State Northridge. We were sitting in Stevenson Hall in a little room with what were called glass teletypes. They were terminals with keyboards and screens and we were timesharing with Cal State system’s computer. There were what we would now call applications. In other words, if you wanted to crunch some numbers you could get a program to do that. There were games and lessons and programming languages available. There were about 6 or 7 seats in that little timeshare room and everybody was hunched over their keyboard. When somebody had a question, if they didn’t know how to do something, you turned to the person next to you and asked.

It was a real privilege to be able to use those. There were also, by the way, outside of the timeshare room, 3 or 4 punch machines so you could make your own deck of cards and submit your own deck to be batch processed which was more common at that time. In the early 70s, batch was the more normal way that people did computing – you didn’t do it in real time [on a keyboard and screen]. Unless you were a student at a university or working for a company that used computers, nobody had access to them. Nobody else could get to them. They couldn’t learn about them. They couldn’t access them. They couldn’t use them for their own purposes.

I thought that these things would infiltrate society, as they did. There were going to be two kinds of people in the world in the future: the kind of people who knew about computers and computing and how to control them, and the people who were controlled by them. To me that was a real anti-utopia. [LO*OP Center] was a way for ordinary people, those who were neither university students or people working for companies that had computers, to get access to them, learn about them, use them either for their work, for their play or for their education.


Jon: What are some opportunities LO*OP Center allowed the people?


Liza: We were right on the bus line between Petaluma and Santa Rosa [California] because we were in downtown Cotati.

There were almost no computers in schools so kids could come after school to LO*OP Center and do whatever they wanted with ours. We taught programming. We taught applications as they came up. We had games that required logical thinking. We had simulations.

We had the only publicly accessible copy machine as well. At that time, there were no copy centers; so, if you wanted to make a copy of something — I’m trying to think of where one would go aside from the LO*OP Center. Xerox machines (and there were only Xerox machines, that was what you could get) were just not publicly available. Big companies had them; otherwise, if you wanted a copy of something, you retyped it. When you knew you were going to want copies, you used carbon paper when you typed it. That was just a sideline but it actually brought us enough money to keep the doors open. People would come in and pay 15 or 20 cents a page.

There was one man who had a stock investment scheme who was working out his process on our computer, which was a PDP-8, a Digital Equipment Corporation machine. He came in often. Computer time was $10 an hour [on a walk-in basis]. If you wanted to rent time on one of our computers you could choose one of the 3 or 4 we had. You could rent private time on the computer for $10 hour, but for $10 a month you could become a member of LO*OP Center. The members could use the computers anytime [there was no walk-in traffic]. Kids came and played games. Schools brought field trips. After the first or second year we started taking the computers over to schools because people became more interested. [LO*OP Center] was also a place where people could just meet and greet. We had a lounge, and people could come, sit, and talk about their interests.


Jon: Can you further explain the story of the LO*OP Center being a milestone 1976 in the development of the internet and its significance for education?


Liza: That’s what happens when people who were not there try and rewrite history. I don’t think we were instrumental in the internet. All we did was show people that you could use a computer in a remote place over the telephone.

When we first opened in December 1975 we were on East Cotati Ave. in a second floor office. You had to get a special phone line to send data over the phone line. For starters, you couldn’t send it through the air [wi-fi didn’t exist]. We used what was called an acoustic coupler. You had your data conditioned line and an old fashioned telephone handset which had two round circles in it: one for the microphone, one for the speaker. You dialed up the computer line to someplace where there was a computer that had a modem at the other end. When it started buzzing and clicking, then you took your handset and you pushed it into two rubber cups on the modem. Modem, which stands for modulator-demodulator, took those audio clicks and buzzes and turned them into audio signals, which was the modulation. At the other end, the other modem demodulated, sent it as an electronic signal into the computer. Of course, if there was any noise or static on the line you got an error in the computer signal and would have to resend it.

We had an account with an organization named Call Computer in Mountain View California, which just sold time on their HP computer.  We also had an account with Lawrence Hall of Science. That is how we opened. We did not have our own computer when we first opened. There was no Internet. There was the phone company, only one-phone company, which was AT&T. There were no alternate competing phone companies at the time. We had a teletype which is what they used to send telegrams through. It was all uppercase. The modems and the phone line went directly to the computer time that we rented on somebody else’s computer.

Just popularizing and letting people know that they can get access to a computer over the phone lines was, I think, creating the social context for the internet; so, maybe that’s what the person who wrote [about us contributing to the development of the internet] was talking about. Arpanet, the precursor to the Internet, existed at the time; but it was only [accessible] through universities and government agencies. It was started as a military communication device and there was connection at Moffett field in Mountain View with another connection at Stanford Research institute. There was no connection up here so if I wanted to get on Arpanet, I had to make a long distance phone call. There was a connection at UC Berkeley. it was probably a connection at Stanford University. Each of the connections was called a tip.

This was a time when there were a lot of counterculture people out there, some of whom were actually in the military and were in big corporations. A friend gave me the access codes for the Arpanet tips. Some of us got on the Arpanet and used it to send messages, precursors to email, to our friends across the country or the world. I think the person that picked up that we were doing Internet kind of stuff was just looking at us using telnet, which was an intermediate service you needed in addition to the phone company. I’m trying to think of what the relationship was between them — you had to have both an AT&T account and a telnet account. The telnet number called the computer number and both the sending terminal and the receiving computer had to have telnet accounts.

I want to do HCLE [The History of Computing in Learning and Education Project] so people have a concept of how complicated it was to do what we take for granted today. I have lots of manuals showing, telling, how to use this stuff and what exactly the process is. Of course because we had a public access computer center I had to write instructions for how to do this for people who came in off the street and wanted to use computers to play computer games [that were only available remotely].


Jon: How did HCLE come about?


Liza: Well actually there were two triggers. One was that I had to close the storefront several years earlier. HCLE started in 2003 as a dream, not as a reality. The LO*OP Center had been closed as a  storefront computer center for over 10 years. The public access dream was not happening at that time but I [had collected everything I could find about using computers in education and] never threw anything out. I had it in storage and had to move all that stuff. I said to myself, “Well, I have to get rid of most of this. Either I can throw it out, or I can assume somebody might be interested in it and make a museum out of it.” As I was trying to figure out what to do one of my board members for LO*OP Center, Jackie Hood, said she would really like to do the museum project. She started working on it but we ended up deciding to take it in different directions. Since I was the founder the project took my direction but Jackie was instrumental in getting me going.


Jon: What are your thoughts on the use of computers as an educational tool and where do you see the future of this technique?


Liza: Education comes from the Latin word -educare means lead out of. Education is always a way of leading someone out of the way that they are into some new place. I always contrast education with learning. Learning goes on all the time. Everything and every situation is an opportunity for learning. If a person has changed, they learned something. They may learn to be afraid of thunder, or they may learn to calculate differential equations. Those are both learning experiences. Learning to use a new tool is just as much learning as being able to recite the Gettysburg address; even though one may be on some formal curriculum and the other one isn’t.

Learning to use a computer has become a part of formal education. It’s both a school subject and a tool to teach other things.

Another aspect of education is that, in general, we only teach proactively those things that people don’t learn spontaneously. This is becoming a problem because, in a world surrounded by books and writing and computers, little kids often learn these things without any formal teaching. There are lots of kids who get curious and teach themselves to read. Most of us don’t learn to use a modern computer in school. We learn it from our friends at home. There is a tension between the process we see at school where somehow the learner is supposed to wait for the teacher to present information to them and then acquire it through that presentation process vs. the absorbing that we do when learning from our environment.

It is important to think about those issues and the relationship between computing and school because the modern computer does two things. First of all it has become ubiquitous. 2 or 3 year olds are learning how to use computers the way they are learning how to use crayons, which doesn’t necessarily happen in school. In a home, one which wouldn’t be considered a ‘culturally deprived’ home, every kid learns how to use a computer and probably learns how to hold a pencil. Today, lots of kids are learning how to use computers without needing to be formally taught. The fact that the computer is part of the home environment and you learn to use it from your older brothers and sisters means it is not a school subject. Once you know how to read and use a computer there is a huge world of information that is open to you which didn’t used to be open to people.

We used to be pretty much limited to the knowledge that was available in our family, in our neighborhood, through our teachers, through our school. Once you have a computer and its related connections to the rest of the world it becomes a window on a world that is much bigger than the funnel through which any single teacher could feed you of information. I had that particular concept in the early 70’s and was really excited about empowering people to be self-directed learners. In a sense, that’s a very disruptive function for the machine. It disrupts the function of the school.

I am a rebel and didn’t much like school, was always bored. I  saw computing as a way for everybody to break out of the classroom, to break out of the lockstep of school, to be able to access the information you are interested in, follow your dreams, learn what you wanted to learn. In a sense, when you have that kind of access to the world of knowledge, a teacher becomes an accessory to your world of learning, the learner becomes the center of the activity, and the teacher becomes one of many different tools that you use to learn. It is a completely different way of thinking about growing up and continuing to grow, growing out. Once you’ve grown up you still keep growing out. It’s a different way of thinking about the teaching process than the teacher-centered classroom.

In a way, the computer is a Trojan horse that would break down the walls of the school. I was very excited about that possibility. I’m also really unhappy when I see schools try and lock down the computer —  close it up. I think that is a defensive move to try to preserve the status quo of the teacher-centered classroom. I think it is doomed to failure. The sooner we reinvent the way we scaffold learning the better. The computer is now actually being the Trojan horse that I thought it would become.


Jon: What is some key knowledge you gained and some lessons or facts about computers you feel everyone should know or be aware of?


Liza: I think the key facts in learning are not about technology; they are about people. I think, since we are humans, we live in our own psychology and our own bodies. Knowing ourselves and what keeps us happy, active and interested are the most important things we can know. I know that I can not sit in front of a computer forever. It is really important for each person to experience computing but not to become enslaved to it. Because the computer is a window on the world it is very addicting to sit looking out that window. We have to understand the danger of that addiction and learn to cope with it. We must not lose sight of all of the other joys that are available to humans.

So that is number one. Number two is that the computer with its associated telecommunications breaks down both time and space between us as individuals. It gives us opportunities for social relationships that we have never had before. This society, whether we are talking about American or western or global, doesn’t yet know how to use our newfound ability, talent, opportunity. I think we are going to have to do a lot of — I like the term ‘social engineering’. I know a lot of people think the term is pejorative but I see it as building and inventing new ways of relating that enhance the common good.

The anti-utopia is the possibility that those folks who know about computers will use them to control everybody else. That is why I started LO*OP Center. I didn’t want that scenario to become reality. In a way it is becoming a reality. An awful number of modern jobs basically use the person, the worker, as a peripheral to a computer. When I call a helpdesk or customer service, I’m really not interested in having the person I talk to read to me what is on the screen — what I could read for myself. To me that is an example of being a peripheral to a computer. If I’m going to talk to a human I want him or her to be a thinking, feeling person. I don’t want the customer service person to give me an apology which is written on his or her screen, or to tell me “Thank you for my patience.” when I have given every indication that I was not patient at all.

This suggests another opportunity for reinventing our society — to make sure we stay honest and do not let ourselves become what I perceive as slaves to the machine. Really, the danger is not being slaves to the machine; it is being slaves to the person behind the machine. There is never a case when the computer will not let you do something because the computer never gives permission. The computer just does what the computer is programmed to do. If somebody tells me he or she can’t do something because the computer will not let him, I respond: “that’s a small matter of programming.” I have to get through the shield people have used the computer for, use it to protect themselves with. The key is to get to the person who is doing the instruction of the programmer. That person is telling the programmer what to have the computer tell the customer service representative what to tell the customer.  The customer is the consumer, the user, the poor bloke who wants to get something done.

Why did I start LO*OP Center? – So that we, as individuals, would be inoculated against this tyranny of the machine — really the tyranny of the people behind the machine. A computer literate public  just wouldn’t fall for that. I don’t think I have succeeded. This story needs to be told and told over and over again. It is a rallying cry.


Jon: What is the ideal future of HCLE?


Liza: There are three ideal futures. My intent is for LO*OP to be an ongoing institution.

One ideal future is that the virtual museum survives in some form. I really want to preserve the story of how computing got from being completely irrelevant to education to being considered a foundation stone of teaching and learning. That story is getting lost. People do not know anymore what we went through to get here and what we thought about how to create the future we are living in now. Having a sustainable format and keeping the history of computing and learning in education accessible is just one ideal.

Having HCLE be a force for keeping people from being terrorized by the machine, oppressed by the shield that the machine is used for, is another ideal for me.

That credit is given to the visionary people who worked very hard to  bring about the personal computing revolution is another ideal. They had foresight and now they are dying and being forgotten. If I’m forgotten that is not so important. But if all of us are forgotten, that is a bad thing, I think. It is a story of innovation. It is a story of change and it is a story of a great deal of creativity. I think it would be fun to have it told.


Jon: What is the best way for an individual to handle technology that they might feel is out of their control?


Liza: That is a wonderful question. There are a lot of different ways of controlling, different kinds of control.

When I was teaching at LO*OP Center, when it was open for 3 years as a public access computer center, the kids were often excited about robots. The best way to control a robot, the sure fire way to control a robot, is to remove its power supply. If it doesn’t have some source of electricity it is dead. Whether that meant unplugging it, or taking its batteries out, or turning it off – that is the number one way of controlling electronic technology.

Another aspect of control, at least with respect to computer and internet technology, is privacy concerns. This includes maintaining and protecting one’s identity on the web and whatever other information one wants to keep out of public knowledge. I think the best way to do that is not to put it on the internet in the first place. If it is on the airwaves, on the net, in a computer that is connected to anything else, you might as well kiss it goodbye. It is public. Sooner or later our whole banking system is going to get hacked and we are in for an amazing surprise. That’s my personal belief. If you’re trying to control your privacy then don’t put the information on a computer. Another way to control secrets is not to have any. If you do put it on the computer be prepared for the public to know, for the world to know. I like the no secrets approach myself, but in those few cases where I don’t want the public to know I just do not put it on the computer.

One additional form of dealing with a technology is to learn a lot about it. Again technology is not only computers, not only electronics. Technology is know-how and, in a sense, without know-how there is no electronic technology. You don’t want the other guy to be the only one who has got the know-how. If you want control, you have to have to know and understand what you are dealing with.

Learning the basic principle of ‘garbage-in, garbage-out’  is incredibly important. There was a management textbook that I read when I took a management course here at Sonoma State. It cited a study of whether people had more trust in content that was handwritten, typewritten, or presented as computer printout. Those were the days you could tell the difference between a computer printout and a typewritten page. At the time the study was done in 1965 people believed the computer printout first, the typewritten second, and the handwritten third. That’s backwards. Anyone can make a computer print out anything they want. The fact that it is on a computer is totally irrelevant to its accuracy. That is what the ‘garbage-in, garbage-out’ principle means. You’re more likely to get something honest if somebody wrote you a handwritten note than you are if you are to find it on Wikipedia. Another way of taking control is learning what messages to trust and what messages are suspect and learning how to verify. How do you triangulate? How do you figure out whether something that somebody is telling you, I won’t say ‘is real because I don’t know what reality is, but has a high probability of being reliable in this small piece of the universe that we live in?



About Jon Cappetta: HCLE Intern

One of my favorite things about being a Communications Major at Sonoma State University would have to be the elective credit classes that they offer. One of my all time favorite classes I have ever taken would have to be Coms 365, which is Sonoma States radio class. I took Coms 365 first semester of my senior year and loved the freedom of playing my own music on air live and loved the opportunity to bring in my friends and talk about anything that we to. Even though I’m no longer taking that class, i still find myself in the KSUN studio every once in a while as a celebrity guest on my roommates show. My roommate’s partner this week happened to be out of town for the weekend so I stepped in as a co-host replacement. I thought it would be a cool opportunity to tell Sam and his viewers about my internship at History of Computing in Learning and Education and what I have learned so far. It was fun yet different being asked questions about HCLE, because in my newspaper class I was always was so use to being the interviewer. It was fun because I felt prepared with the questions Sam had for me because I had recently interviewed Liza and many of Sam’s questions were questions that I had for Liza in our interview. Speaking of the interview with Liza, I found myself to be very appreciative of that interview for it bettered my knowledge on HCLE to where I now feel as though I can fully explain the history and objectives behind HCLE. I had a blast on Sam’s radio show this week and glad he gave me the opportunity to talk about HCLE. Every week I feel as though I’m learning something new about HCLE. That being said hopefully Sam will need me on his show again, so we can talk more about some of the new discoveries I learn from HCLE.


*  Interview paraphrased for clarity.

Early Apples, I And II, At LOOP Center

(An observation by HCLE’s founder, Liza Loop)

Stories about individual action are easily lost to history.

Not only did Steve Wozniak give the first Apple 1 to LO*OP Center, Inc. (now the host organization for HCLE), as noted in this article, he also gave the 10th Apple II.

Woz and Wayne

The $300 Steve Jobs made Woz pay for it was a big deal at the time, which made it a super generous gift. I hope we repaid him by taking the Apples to schools and teachers’ meetings beginning in 1976!

HCLE is working to gather stories like this from those of us who were present when this history was being made. If we leave the task to memory and anecdotes the facts are likely to get garbled leaving posterity with inaccurate cultural memory. Historians try hard to get it right but they need our active cooperation to get the story right.

What makes a ‘virtual’ museum a museum?

We are involved in an interesting conversation about virtual museums going on in the Museums and the Web group on LinkedIn.  We are asking the same questions in the Online Museum Working Group

The LinkedIn discussion began with this post:

Is A Title a Definition? The Virtual Steam Car Museum.

 Donald Hoke, Ph.D.Co-Owner of Vintage Steam Products, LLCTop Contributor

The Virtual Steam Car Museum has applied for an IMLS CAP grant and been denied for the past two years. The rational is that IMLS does not fund virtual museums, but the Virtual Steam Car Museum has thousands of artifacts. Our exhibits are on line, but our collections need help just as does every museum’s collections.

After several comments from others, Eric chimed in with:

Eric Baird Content Creator at Brighton Toy and Model Museum

Wouldn’t a collection of images of 2D material like brochures, advertising documentation and literature be more easily referred to as a “virtual archive” rather than a “virtual museum”?

“Virtual museum” sounds sexier, but “virtual archive” may be easier for funding bodies to understand, and an “archive” has existing well-defined functions that translate well to an online environment.

There are already a number of major organisations that collect and display 2D artefacts and increasingly put them online ( in the UK, the British Library, the National Gallery, etc), but I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of these organisations refer to their online collections of 2D material as “museums”. So I think that perhaps “museum” is understood as referring to collections of artefacts that aren’t just simple 2D objects.

Here’s my response:

 Liza Loop Vision Keeper: History of Computing in Learning and Education

IMHO the issue is about the various functions of a “museum”. One function is ‘exhibition’ to the public. Before the internet, museums had to provide physical walk-in facilities in order to provide access to the public. Now many established museums are supplementing their physical exhibits with online galleries of images. But many of us who manage significant collections and archives either cannot, or choose not to, take on the additional burden of administering a physical space open to the public. We perform all the other functions of a museum: collection, preservation, cataloging, curating, interpreting, lending artifacts, researching, educating, etc. The only function we don’t have is physical exhibit space. Public access is either via images, text, video and software on the web or at partner institutions that mount temporary exhibitions of our materials.

It’s not just a matter of whether the collection contains 2D or 3D objects. 3D scanning and printing is opening up the study of physical objects to a much broader audience and can be used by virtual museums. We need to elaborate the definition of ‘museum’ beyond the public access function. Is having a walk-in gallery of physical object the sine qua non of being a museum? It is in the current IMLS enabling legislation. Do we want to keep it that way or modernize our thinking?

Virtual or online museums can ‘exhibit’ 3D objects. There is no question that the experience of being in the presence of an object, an ancient throwing stick or the Enterprise space shuttle for example, is different from viewing a digital surrogate of it online. What we do ask is whether both experiences should be considered ‘museum experiences’. I vote ‘yes’ and cite the crowds of visitors huddled around video screens in walk-in exhibit halls. No one questions that viewing a screen along with the physical exhibit is ‘going to the museum’. But the significant change is from physical artifact to screen display, not where that screen is located. And, even within a physical space, the experience of handling an object differs from viewing it enclosed in a plexiglass case.

Depending on one’s purpose for the museum visit, each of these interaction techniques has its advantages and shortcomings. When embedded in a richly contextualized web site (as contrasted with a simple, captioned, online picture album) the visitor can learn an immense amount about an artifact even though the ‘vibe’ of the physical object is missing. These virtual exhibits are accessible to a much larger public and often enable deeper exploration of the object than physical exhibits. This is not to diminish the awe and reverence that many of us only feel when standing physically close to the ‘real McCoy’. We need both/and, not either/or.

This discussion isn’t over yet. Join in either here or through the Museums and the Web group on LinkedIn.

I just love “open source” people!

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

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

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

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

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

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

HCLE Second Quarter 2014 Progress Report

HCLE Second Quarter 2014 Progress Report

Welcome to the second HCLE quarterly report (second quarter of 2014). We share many of these news items via our outlets (wiki, blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) and collect them here for your and our convenience.

So much has been going on that we’ve barely had time to reflect upon our progress. The following is a long list of items that we’ve worked on in the last three months. Consider them headlines, and if you want more details behind them, send us a note if there isn’t a link. (You’re also invited to browse our wiki, the virtual museum’s electronic loading dock, where many of these topics have working pages.)

Please pass it along, especially if you know someone else who will want to contribute money, time, artifacts, stories, or connections. Even by glancing at what we’ve done, you’re helping make HCLE happen if you pass along the story. Thank you.


  • Digital Repository
  • Stanford
    • Henry Lowood enabling digitization of HCLE collection
    • Fred Turner using HCLE archive as class material
  • Internet Archive
    • referred us to Mark Pilgrim who will copy all Apple II disks
  • database
    • preliminary screens running on HostGator.
  • Writing Competition / Story Project
    • two winners: Delia Caban & Jane Wilson
  • example exhibits being reviewed to aid design
  • Proof of Concept
  • Back Office Thinking proposal incorporated into program plan


  • government and institutions
    • Proposal applications submitted
      • NEH – Preservation and Access
        • recommendations on how best to archive HCLE’s collection
      • ESA – Oregon Trail
        • build exhibit and research platform for study of games and education
      • NEH – Digital Projects for the Public
        • production and publication of Design Document for HCLE’s Virtual Museum
    • Proposal applications in process
      • NEH – Humanities Collection and Reference Resource
        • digitization and cataloging of documents and software in HCLE collection (cancelled after conferring with NEH)
      • Cal-Hum – California Humanities
        • Oral History project of California EdTech Pioneers
    • Complete list of proposals available on the wiki
  • Individuals
    • Vision Club – Lisa Webster, Joi Ito
    • Vision Club newsletter
  • Corporate & Foundations
    • Google NYC
    • GE Foundation
    • Vulcan
    • Hewlett Foundation
    • Mellon Foundation
  • Associations – ACM, IEEE,  ISTE
  • Reviewing Foundation Center
  • Reviewing GetEdFunding.com
  • HCLE to donor introductory letter prepared for:
    • Liza to individual – done (HNW letter)
    • Liza to organization – done but up for revision
    • HCLE to individual (Fundraising Letter HCLE-to-one Vision Club invite)
    • HCLE to organization (Fundraising Letter HCLE-to-many)
  • Funding database updated and planned to be ported to CiviCRM on HostGator
  • other contacts made:
    • Brabson Library & Educational Foundation
    • Tech Museum of Innovation
    • EMC Heritage Trust Project
  • in search of: volunteer to implement CiviCRM on HostGator


  • Social Media traffic report
1/1/2014 3/29/2014 6/29/2014
Facebook 59 71 80
Twitter 67 98 194
WordPress 18 29 31
Wikispaces 12 25 28


  • Stanford
    • Henry Lowood enabling digitization of HCLE collection
      • People’s Computer Company
    • Fred Turner using HCLE archive as class material
  • Internet Archive
    • referred us to Mark Pilgrim who will copy all Apple II disks
  • Living Computer Museum
    • Justin Speilmann
      • Discussion of designing and operating our Traveling Exhibit
    • Cynde Moya
      • Archiving practices and consultation referrals
  • HCLE is now a partner in the National Digital Stewardship Alliance
  • The Made (themade.org) Peter Suk & Alex Handy
    • How early games designers learned their craft
  • Southampton, Earl Graeme – possible UK trip and talk
  • RICHES Mosaic Interface – innovative online museum
  • New York School – LL intro
  • NIU – Blackwell Museum of Education – email intro sent
  • NMOE – National Museum of Education – email intro sent
  • American Folklife Center, Library of Congress – Nicole Saylor (Nicky), Head of the Archive, – technical connection
  • David Larsen – @Apple1Computer
  • U of MD – Porter Olsen
  • Cathleen Wiggins, Dir. Museum Ed & Leadership in Tech and the arts, Bankstreet Sch of Ed – lft msg
  • Pratt School of Library and Information Sciences, Craig MacDonald, Prof Interested in collaborating and will connect us to other Pratt profs., specifically Anthony Cocciolo who is teaching “Projects in Digital Archiving”
  • Alex Lin, http://faculty.ndhu.edu.tw/~aleck.lin/#pr
  • Karen Kroslowitz, Dir of Collections, Computer History Museum
  • EMS museum – Kristy vanHoven

People – staff, volunteers, participants, unaffiliated, possible contractors/consultants

  • board development
  • Vision Club – Walter Isaacson NEH talk & NPR interview
  • Delia Caban – volunteer, retired for now
  • MsBosh – volunteer
  • Diana Morningstar – professional databaser
  • new volunteers
    • Shalinie De
    • Jonathan Straus
  • PCGuy (Stan) – catalog team
  • Jessica Sullivan – possible consultant
  • Ekatarina in  Ontario with McMaster Online Museums
  • Roy Pea, Stanford Sch. of Ed.
  • Peter Sessions – HCLE Pioneer
  • Marvin Wisenread


  • Program Plan – updated to support operations, internal budgeting, and proposals
  • Reconciling previous budgets with current proposals
  • Dunn & Bradstreet registration and update
  • SAM registration and update
  • In search of: a volunteer accountant willing to work on non-profits that are in the midst of grants
  • In search of: an HCLE logo


Notes on Education Domain Modeling

Note from Liza Loop (June 17, 2014)

The word, ‘Education’, is derived from two Latin roots: ‘e’ or ‘ex’ meaning ‘out’ or ‘out of” and ‘ducare’ meaning ‘to lead’. Education leads you away from where you are to someplace new. It is related to teaching, learning and schools in complex ways. It also entails a vast number of ‘learning objects’, ideas, stories, documents, physical objects, situations and events. How do these various elements relate to each other? Perhaps more important, how may we characterize the learner as he or she begins when we first look at him or her learning and as he or she is led out of that place? All of these relationships can be seen as the domain of education. Modeling this domain is a challenge. Meeting this challenge becomes important as we move away from storing our cultural heritage on paper, which can be accessed by sorting through piles on shelves and in boxes, and begin to keep our records in the digital where only a rational machine (computer) can place it before our eyes. The machine relies on the model to locate the item we’re looking for. Unless we have created an effective model it will be very difficult to retrieve the information we seek.


This post is inspired by Jon Pearce’s course in Domain Modeling at San Jose State University in California.

Jon Pearce’s old course post

Additional details, and an opportunity to expand the discussion are available on our wiki.

HCLE Catalog Progress – The Three Cs

One of the most important parts of our Virtual Museum is the catalog, the place where everything will have its place, and from which we will build exhibits and connect items in the collection to related people, institutions and topics. Rather than wait until it is done, we’ve decided to share our progress. The three C’s: Collections, Constituency, Content.

The following is mostly written by Liza Loop. This page, like all pages on the wiki, is a work in progress. Want to help?



Here’s the challenge. We have a collection of physical items – books, papers, letters, videos, audios, software on all media, urls, program listings, course syllabi, etc. Most of this “stuff” is on paper. I expect to have at least 10,000 items and grow from there. In addition we have hundreds of web links to digital items other people and organizations have posted on the web. By combining these items in many different ways we can tell the story of how computing was learned and became a tool for learning in general. We need a comprehensive catalog to help us find these items.

We have three types of information to be managed — three C’s. Physical paper needs to be scanned to create digital images readable online. Computers, robot toys and ephemera need to be photographed. Then both physical and digital items need to be cataloged. All of this stuff is the “collection” and should be described in the Collection Catalog (first C). We also need some kind of constituency relationship management software (CRM) to keep track of members, donors, potential funders, authors, staff, volunteers — all the people and institutions that are related to a museum or library or archive. This will probably start with about 3,000 entries and grow. “Constituency” is the second C. I want to relate the people with the items catalog without having to double enter any of the data. For example, the volunteer who enters a piece of software into the catalog should have a record in the CRM and an identifying field (element) in the catalog. The third C is Content, specifically, the content of the web site we are building as a Virtual Museum. So our Collections Management System has to talk to our Constituency Management System and both have to work with our (Web) Content Management System. What are the best (most functional and easiest to maintain) open source tools to use for this? Simple, eh?

A Few Terms, Tools and Standards

2014 is a banner year for museums, libraries, archives and private collections to go digital. If each of us invents a different way of describing what we have to the world of web users most of our valued items will not be found. Hence the need for a common vocabulary (or “ontology”) and global standards. These indexing systems are not handed down from on high by some higher-than-human authority, they are created by groups of humans. The process comprises holding a series of meetings (who attends such meeting is a whole other issue), proposing a list of terms with descriptions, publicizing this list among potential users, trying it out over several years and eventually converging on a single “core” list with idiosyncratic additions (extensions) needed by differing communities of practice (say, automobile parts dealers and 4th grade school teachers). The builders of HCLE wish to be as compatible as possible with global standard as they emerge. The commentary in this section is aimed at exploring the major standards now being developed for describing the kind of “stuff” in our collection.

Digital Resource Locators

As our collection grows, more of our digital items are being hosted (stored on a computer connected to the Internet) by other institutions, (e.g. Stanford University Libraries Special Collections and Internet Archive) and not necessarily in HCLE’s own digital repository. To make these items show up on a museum visitor’s screen requires each one must have its own internet address. There are several competing methods for identifying online resources and HCLE is working on choosing which one to use. For those of you interested in this issue here’s an excellent explanation: About Persistent Identifiers.

Metadata and Ontologies (Specific HCLE details at HCLE Metadata discussions)

The question of how to describe different kinds of objects (items) online is being hotly debated today. Books are fairly straight forward since librarians have been exploring this issue for thousands of years. Other media, such as software, or complex content, such as a programmed teaching workbook, may require more description. HCLE needs a volunteer specialist who can advise us as we proceed down the metadata path. So far we have identified the following resources:

Metadata Agencies and Standards Committees

Some examples of metadata schemes

HCLE Tools

So far I’ve explored MS Access, MySQL, Omeka and I want to look at CiviCRM. One of our volunteer consultants has suggested that we should think of the task as implementing CiviCRM and extending it to include the catalog. I prefer to have the catalog be a single, simple, flat table rather than a complicated relational structure. I’m collecting opinions on this from advisers who have experience in this. I will either have to be dependent on volunteers or raise the money for paid consultants.

Stay tuned.


There is plenty of work to do, and much of it is industry-wide. If you want to do more than just “Stay tuned”, then let’s talk about how we all can work on this together.



We finally made it. HCLE was represented at AAM2014, the 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Alliance of Museums, a four-day event attended by thousands of museum professionals. While the program emphasized the formal aspects like the sessions and exhibits, the greater value for HCLE were the one-on-one meetings with potential funders and the informal networking. The parties were good too, so I hear.

Washington State Convention Center - Seattle
Washington State Convention Center – Seattle

Conferences and conventions aim at the mainstream. That’s where the majority live, so that’s where the majority are served. HCLE fit in nicely at the previous conference, Museums and the Web, because it was organized for more technical issues. Developing a virtual museum is dominated by discussions of technical issues. AAM2014’s main focus seems to be the big museums with sophisticated exhibits of physical artifacts that will be visited by crowds coming through the doors. We won’t have that, but AAM2014 was large enough to include subgroups of small museums, new museums, and technical discussions of digitization and curation. We felt that we were helping shift the mainstream because the issues we must resolve can benefit others that have less urgency.

Recently we’ve been busy applying for funding. Preliminary conversations with the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH which also hosted a major lecture by HCLE Vision Club member Walter Isaacson) and various other agencies helped us submit proposals and inquiry letters to several potential funders. While most funders have submission guidelines, examples, and procudures online, and encourage phone consultations the communication is much better in person. An online document has no intonation. A representative reading the same document emphasizes the key points. A representative listening to our proposed proposal says a lot with body language. We witnessed enthusiasm as well as discouragement, even if no words were spoken.

We learned of the emphasis on including scholars, the importance of board donations, the meticulous attention to grammatical detail, and the legitimacy delivered by a proper program plan.  Decades have gone into defining HCLE’s architecture, but we’ve only just begun to implement the first elements; so, to many in the museum world HCLE appears young. HCLE’s status also means that our needs span the range from individual components to broad campaigns to implementing the main museum. The typical proposals, though, are aimed at incremental improvements to conventional facilities. Finding a good fit for innovative, small, and young museums is difficult.

Fortunately we met with representatives from NEH in several meetings; with representatives from IMLS (Institute for Museum and Library Services) including a mock peer review panel session; and even the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) who pointed out that understanding the effects of computers and computing on the history of education of music fits within their charter. We have a long list of potential grants to write proposals for. Prioritization will be necessary.

This was our first time at AAM’s meeting, but it felt that there was an emergent trend of funding from corporate and private sources. There weren’t any representatives as there were from the national endowments, but several sessions described direct or indirect funding from outside government. The projects tended to be more innovative, more responsive, and less reliant on proper proposal preparation though more detailed as the negotiations developed. Almost all of the projects were thanks to board members, volunteers, and advocates who made personal contacts with key people with familiar corporations. Scholarship wasn’t as important as results, but results had to be measurable and verifiable. A different culture and avenue, and also one that is less organized. Instead of lots of grants being produced by one over-arching entity like the Federal Government, there are at least one opportunities per corporation but each corporation is also a unique process and set of individuals.

The funding possibilities were readily apparent to us because, while we were attending the conference, we were also finishing a proposal for a private non-profit that had some of the structure of the governmental process and some of the flexibility of the corporate approach.

AAM2014 wasn’t all about money.

  • Microsoft Research was nice enough to spend a considerable amount of time building an HCLE exhibit with their Chronozoom timeline tool. Ours is unlisted, but other examples are available.
  • Liza encouraged the crowd of museum professionals to engage via the career development wiki (mlcentral) she built at the Museum and the Web conference.
  • We were even given a shout-out for our extensive live-tweeting of the sessions. Check our tweets (@HCLEmuseum) from May 18-21 for our real time notes.
  • Hopefully an interview or two of Liza will be posted so we can pass along her insights on education, technology, museums, and where we’re heading.
  • We tasked several exhibitors with the same new-technology issue we presented to the funders: How do we integrate collection, content, and constituency systems into one? Currently, each is separate, but we are likely to receive an artifact from someone who is also the subject of an exhibit and who is also a donor. We must pull the systems together, but current government museum funders rarely have grants that fit such tasks and most vendors live within narrow product niches. We are innovators by necessity.

Where we’re heading was a sub-theme to the conference. While most conversations were based on conventional museums and exhibits, the discussions were flavored with the changing technologies and expectations of new generations of visitors.

Because HCLE requires an understanding of computers, computing, technology, and how people adapt we found ourselves in the role of educator occasionally. For two people, we evidently managed to make our presence apparent well through twitter and by asking pertinent questions.

One message from HCLE is that education changed as computers were introduced to classrooms. The role of the teacher changed from lecturer to facilitator. Museum visitors are less likely to absorb static information and more likely to actively research through online sources (wikipedia). Instead of being quiet and eventually telling someone about what they saw, they are more likely to get out their phone and instantly share it verbally or via social media. Recharge stations and good wi-fi are more important than comfortable benches and potted plants.

We are taking the museum to the next step by making our first step a very large one. We can reach the largest community by having the smallest physical presence. HCLE can be more sustainable than most because it requires the least overhead; and, if done right, will evolve with technology rather than have to successively abandon and rebuild.

It was a busy event, and while we did make it to one party (the CEO event), we were busy enough with networking and proposal preparations that we missed the rest of the social events. Maybe next year.

A Level 4 Response to Gamification is NOT a THING

Games and gamification are concepts thrown around within education. They can sound like far more solid concepts than they are. Will Thalheimer’s (@WillWorkLearn) wrote an impressive post, Gamification is NOT a Thing!!, to his Will at Work Learning blog. He included a bit of a challenge;
“To get to WAWL Level 4, create your own list, reflect on what you discover, post it somewhere, and send me the link.”

HCLE’s Founder, Liza Loop (@LizaLoopED) responded.


Liza wrote:

“Bravo, finally some sensible talk about computer games and learning. Let me continue with some nitpicking and further ideas…

1st – A distinction between ‘work’ and ‘play': Work is done for some extrinsic reward; play is done for the joy of the activity itself. The reward for play is intrinsic. Games (exclusive of ‘war games’) are forms of play that are bounded by a set of rules that limit what the players can do during the game. For the majority of young learners, what is offered in schools is ‘work’. Computer games, like recess, have a much larger element of ‘play’.

2nd – ‘Learning’ and ‘teaching’ are different activities, performed by different actors, often on the same stage, sometimes connected by a common intention or outcome. Learning takes place within an organism (and, by analogy, within a computational machine) and is often observable to an outsider by some change in the behavior of the learning organism but often is not noticeable for some time. Teaching is an activity performed by a person either in the presence of a target learner or delivered remotely via a book, video, computer, some other recorded medium or the structure of an immersive environment. Teaching has an intended outcome, some identifiable change in the learner of which the teacher may or may not become aware. Teachers and educators who complain that their students “are not learning” are merely ignoring the palpable but unintended lesson they deliver every day. Most people who discuss “e-learning” are really talking about “e-teaching” and are also ignoring the learning that is taking place within those who contact their products.

3rd – A lesson can be either intended or unintended by a teacher, it depends on whether you are taking the teacher or the learner perspective. From the teacher point of view the lesson is what the teacher wanted to teach and is deemed a success only if the learner subsequently performs as intended. From the learner point of view a lesson is what the learner takes away from the experience with the teacher (or the teacher’s recorded medium, e.g. text, audio, computer game, etc.). For example, one of my sons learned that if he swore at his coach during P.E. he would be suspended from school for the balance of the day. The intended lesson was that swearing at the coach was a bad idea. The learned lesson for this school-aversive child was that getting out of school was incredibly easy.

4th – Different individuals (including humans, chickens and perhaps even flat worms) experience different events as intrinsically rewarding. Just because a teacher would be pleased to receive a gold star doesn’t mean the learner is going to respond positively to having that same star posted next to his or her name on the class bulletin board. In the example above, the school assumed that being suspended would be a negative reinforcement for my son – they were wrong and had inadvertently administered the strongest positive reward for “bad behavior” in their tool kit. Chickens are easier, especially if you keep them hungry. They pretty reliably find a kernel or two of corn rewarding.

5th – A possible definition of ‘gamification’ is the imbedding of teaching (intended lessons) into games (play environments, sometimes presented via computer, always with rules of engagement). Recall that ‘play’ has to be intrinsically rewarding to the player. For the 39 years that I have been exploring computing in learning and education, educators have been dazzled by the seemingly intrinsic motivational power of the computer and computer games. In this thrall they have ignored most of what they know about research and evaluation of varying educational strategies and have used grossly differing situations as study treatments and controls. Throwing in a multiplication problem as an obstacle to continuing along a thematic pathway in the context of a completely unrelated computer game might be considered as ‘gamification’. But it doesn’t address pedagogical strategies for teaching numerical manipulation skills, issues of intrinsic reward or what unintended lessons are completing for the learner’s attention. In other words, most of the existing research on the use of computer games for teaching is so poorly designed that it is useless. No wonder we aren’t seeing replicable results!

To recap (and expand a little), Gamification Factors include:

1. Intrinsic and extrinsic reward structure

2. Rules of the game

3. Medium of access (including type of computer, internet access, game station, etc.)

4. Teaching goals

5. Additional anticipated learning outcomes

6. Presentation medium

7. Learning modalities targeted

8. Characteristics of target learners (age, natural languages, educational level, social context)

9. Prerequisite learner skills needed for game entry (reading, calculation, sensory abilities, eye-hand coordination, cultural context, etc.)

11. Learner’s previous experience with game

12. Embedded instructional strategies All these factors need to be controlled in order to draw meaningful conclusions with regard to efficacy of any game for teaching anything.

Do I get to Level 4?

Please visit the History of Computing in Learning and Education at www.hcle.org.”

Well, do you think she made it to Level 4?