History of Computing for Learning and Education (HCLE)


Draft document developed by David Moursund and Ann Lathrop. Original version is dated 7/18/2013. Recent edit, revision, and posting by Liza Loop, 12/11/2013

This document is based largely on notes taken by Ann Lathrop that summarize key ideas discussed in a June 25, 2013, meeting of Ann Lathrop, Liza Loop, David Moursund, and Sandy Wagner. All four of us are Pioneers in the field of computing in education. The main purpose of the meeting was to discuss Liza Loop’s project on the History of Computing for Learning and Education (HCLE), and the roles each of us might play in advancing this project. Over the years Liza has collected more than 10,000 artifacts relating to the field of computing in education. Most of these are print materials.

David Moursund and Ann Lathrop have expanded the notes and integrated some of their ideas that might help to further define and advance the project. We (Ann and Dave) have made a number of assumptions—and some of them may be wrong. For example, it is assumed HCLE is mainly interested in precollege education and in the United States.
LL note: My intention is to look at the use of Computing in Education globally and across all age ranges. UNESCO has been promoting this field since the mid-eighties and the experiences of learners outside the US can contribute importantly to educational practice both inside the US and abroad. Of particular interest are computing projects situated in low-literacy areas and among peoples with little or no access to formal education. It is also informative to explore how people of varying ages respond to computing resources. The phrase “digital native” is used in the 21st century to describe learners who were born into societies where computing devices are ubiquitous. Understanding whether and how digital natives may think differently from those who have not had this exposure will help educators design more effective learning support tools. It may also help us distinguish between age-related and technical environment-related differences. With these goals HCLE will not limit itself to precollege education.
The project could be expanded to include other levels of education and other countries. Alternatively the project could serve as a role model for other countries that are undertaking similar projects.
Pioneering people, projects, organizations, publications, and so on do not always result in easily discernable long-term change. We are interested in both those that have made a very long-term difference in education and those that have come and gone, having had less of a long-term impact on our educational system.
Invitation from Liza Loop
Quoting Liza Loop’s Website:
This is a project to develop a virtual museum documenting the early use of computers to promote learning and education (approximately 1970 to 1990) (Now 1960 to 1990). I have a huge collection of documents and artifacts housed in an office in Milpitas, CA. There are old computers and computer controlled toys, hundreds of programs developed to teach you-name-it, newsletters from early computer clubs, research reports, books and magazines, personal correspondence and much more. Most of this material is not currently available on the web. It should be accessible for scholars, teachers, learners, hobbyists and history buffs. I have started a rudimentary database and begun scanning documents but the task is overwhelming for one person. Please join me to explore the collection, add your personal recollections to the archive, move the scanning forward, design the web interface, get the web site launched, reminisce about old times in computer education and share our experience with the next generation of educational innovators. See HCLE.org
Note: HCLE is attempting to distinguish between computing in education and computers in education. This is not an easy task. The two fields strongly overlap. One major distinction is that the topic of computers focuses primarily on the hardware and secondarily on the software of the electronics industry. In contract, computing focuses on the activities of people around the machines and on the impact of these activities on both individual lives and the greater society. The development and evolution of computers is well documented by museums, science centers and libraries. Names such as Charles Babbage, Alan Turing, Thomas Watson and Steve Jobs are now icons of US history. Corresponding contributors in the field of computing in education, Seymour Papert, Arthur Luehrmann, or Bobby Goodson, for example have had almost no exposure in spite of the immense impact they have had on how learning is supported in both formal and non-formal education today. HCLE’s object is to fill in this void in the historical record.
Ann, David, and Liza recently visited the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. It is a magnificent computer history museum focusing largely on hardware and some of the major supportive pieces of software. This is in sharp contrast to the HCLE focus on education and people. Currently a working model of Babbage’s automatic computing engine is a feature exhibit. Quoting from this exhibit:
Charles Babbage (1791-1871), computer pioneer, designed the first automatic computing engines. He invented computers but failed to build them. The first complete Babbage Engine was completed in London in 2002, 153 years after it was designed. Difference Engine No. 2, built faithfully to the original drawings, consists of 8,000 parts, weighs five tons, and measures 11 feet long.