Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Educational Computing

In 1983, I graduated from university for the first time with a degree in cognitive science, major research focus: educational computing.

I landed my first real job managing a project for Dr. Seymour Papert. Coleco gave him half a million bucks and 50 Coleco Adams to see what would happen if we placed the computers in four elementary schools. Each classroom had a different ratio of students to computers. 1:1, 2:1, 4:1, and 10:1.

My job was to teach the teachers how to use the things, keep everything running, lead a team of student programmers developing software, supervise classroom observers and do whatever else came along.

Very cool job description for a guy fresh out of undergrad. Would have been more exciting if it hadn't been Coleco Adams. Have you heard of the Coleco Adam? It didn't work out too well. As Wikipedia says:

The problems with the Adam nearly drove Coleco to bankruptcy, and the Adam was discontinued in 1985, less than two years after its introduction.

I kept wishing I knew how to short sell stock and had some capital instead of debt. Because with the first set of Adams, I knew that Coleco at $90 a share was going to be going way, way, down.

Enough reminiscing. All I really wanted to say that I had no idea in 1983, that in 2006, I'd be in classrooms where almost everyone but me had their own portable computer and that they'd be using them to play spider solitaire, to instant message their friends in other classrooms, to watch world cup soccer games and to show me pictures of their children.

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