Another throwback tangent

Last week, I took a look back at some classic software titles from a long, long time ago in terms of computer technology – KidPix, Oregon Trail, and CrossCountry Canada. It brought back memories from others as well.

It was Sue Bruyns’ Twitter message that got me off on another tangent.

So, I had to see if I could find this classic as well. The old DOS programs are fairly easy to throw up on the internet using DOSBox or other tools and, sure enough, I was successful. There are all kinds of instances of the program installed online for you to play and revisit this “revolutionary” program. Here’s one of them.

You can play your way through this blocky looking software.

You may also recognize the title as a television show from the time period that Sue talks about. I remember watching it with my kids.

Sue’s use of the word “revolutionize” grinds our gears these days.

But, back then, it was seen as a breakthrough use of computers and software. I had the computer lab in our school (three Icons like every school in the province) and the workstations were networked to a fileserver. The operating system was QNX but you could install and run MS-DOS software on it. I remember a geography teacher excited about using Carmen and brought in a copy of the software for me to install so that his students could “play” with it.

It was a real learning experience for all. Not necessarily the software but the fact that he would send students from his classroom to the computers and they would “play” and I was supposed to supervise them as well as my own class. That didn’t always go well. The other big learn was that even though you could do something and make it work doesn’t mean that you should do it. In this case, taking a single license product and expecting that it could be run over the network. The issue was big in my mind learning about the QNX network from scratch as was everyone in the province.

There was also the mindset that you could send students to computers without a specific task and expect that educational magic would happen. We now know so much more about how computers and technology should be deployed. As Computer Science teachers, I think we were probably the first to understand because all we did was use computers as a tool to create something. The magic came from understanding programming concepts and applying them to create something new.

I smiled with the comment from Sue as I’ve been to her school a couple of times as part of an EdCamp experience. I’ve seen her green room for creating videos and so many of the sessions were about building things and constructing new knowledge.

It’s hardly the type of experience that is gained from working your way through a game with limited options. That’s not to say that Carmen wasn’t worth it. It just required a lot of other resources to help you work through and learn so much more than just visiting a world location and then moving on. For the most part, I think we’ve understood the concept and have moved on.

We know now that learning to use technology effectively is a big job. Lots of learning and lots of application to the actual subject area is required. Sadly, I think we’ve all see instances where “learning” can be lowered to the watching of a YouTube or TikTok video and expecting the same amount of deep learning that comes from the complete classroom experience. I fear that some students may be subject to this come September with “hybrid” classes led by teachers with no expertise in teaching in that mode.

Carmen was good at the time. It spun the whole notion of Edutainment and certainly others have followed. It’s interesting to see what pieces of software have lasted long in education. Typically, they are the tool type that rely on students to learn by creating something.

I would hope that the idea of just dropping and running with new software and new technology has long past. Sadly, I had dinner last week with an educator and found out that that really isn’t true everywhere.







One response to “Another throwback tangent”

  1. OTR Links 08/19/2021 – doug — off the record Avatar

    […] Another throwback tangent – doug — off the record […]


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