What Were We Thinking?

There’s a lot of reflection that happens as the year comes to a close.  Earlier this week, I had written about a chronology of computers in education (as I fondly remember it) “After trying everything, what’s the plan now?”  It brought a small tear to my eye.

Now, what would computer use be without software?

For the earliest part of my teaching career, I was teaching computer science and so it was easy.  A computer science teacher can take any programming language and turn it into great things in the classroom.  The key to success in computer science isn’t about teaching the nuances of any particular language but instead about teaching thinking, problem solving, computational thinking, etc.  It’s one of the reasons why I shudder when someone talks about a course “Oh, that’s my Visual Basic course”.  

Running in parallel to those teaching programming, great educators were using software to help with their subject area.  It’s hilarious to compare what we have at our fingertips today with what was available back then.  Do you want to take a trip through memory lane and appreciate what you have today?  Then, you need to read this article “14 Educational Computer Games That True Nerds Remember Playing“.  Notice that even the word “playing” is in the title of the post!  At the time, I don’t think we truly got it.

When you read it, you’ll enjoy screen captures from some of the leading software of the time.

  • Math Blaster
  • Roller Coaster
  • Oregon Trail
  • Jumpstart Series
  • Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego
  • Putt-putt
  • Lemonade Stand
  • Clue Finder
  • Number Munchers
  • Freddy Fish
  • Reader Rabbit
  • Arthur’s Computer Adventure
  • Kid Pix
  • Amazon Trail

Ah, the classics. Who can’t but salivate with the memory of the block graphics and colours that were available and kept kids occupied for hours?

Can you imagine a piece of software today where you actually virtually die when you’re not successful?

Now, these were developed in the United States.  Here in Canada, we had our moments too.  Who could forget “Off Shore Fishing”, “Cross Country Canada”, “Bartlett Saga”…

While most/all of these pieces of software are/should be memories, it’s interesting to note the titles that persist.  Logo, Programming Languages have all remained as available for use with the current technology.  Is there a message there?

In terms of software, there is a stronger message and those would claim that they’re teaching in the classroom for preparation for the workplace need to pay attention.  The life of software is fleeting.  Instead, teaching needs to focus on what the use of technology enables – collaboration, thinking, planning, connecting…

With that mindset, it doesn’t matter what the next latest and greatest technology will be.  When we think about thinking and learning, we can take whatever they throw at us.

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