I'm baaaaaaack.

Hoarding All the Glitter Since 2001.

13 January 2013

Educational Technology Adventures of the 1980s

I attended elementary school during an ed tech boom.  And indeed, through the wonders of technology I learned many things.

Awesome Technological Advance: LOGO
Intended Learning Outcome: Learn all about shapes by programming the turtle to draw them.
Actual Learning Outcome: Programming the turtle to do things like

REPEAT 8763
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will make the turtle go nuts.  This is very funny until you get caught and the teacher momentarily believes that you broke LOGO and the computer.

Awesome Technological Advance: BASIC
Intended Learning Outcome: Prepare children for the Jobs of the Future, because all future jobs involve programming in BASIC.
Actual Learning Outcome: By pecking laboriously and copying exactly, you can make the computer add.  Just like a calculator or your brain, except longer.

Like, hours longer.

Once you master this, you can go on to copy programs submitted to  3 2 1 Contact Magazine.  These programs are written by children who are way more ready for the Jobs of the Future than you are.  By laboriously copying, you will make the computer do other things that are easier to do yourself.

Given the horror that is BASIC, you become consumed by how terrible Jobs of the Future must be.  You wake up in the night to worry about your Job of the Future.  You resolve to seek out jobs that do not involve BASIC.  When you report this intention to your teacher when caught not programming in BASIC but messing around with the LOGO turtle instead, you are told that all future jobs will require BASIC.

You think about this for a significant portion of every school day.  It consumes you to the point that there is significantly less paper snow around your desk from illicit adventures in cutting (although you begin to get your finger stuck in your hair from twirling it repetitively).  You identify jobs that seem unlikely to ever involve BASIC:

  • playing baseball
  • becoming a member of a religious order
  • driving a big rig
  • cooking
  • cutting hair (plus: involves scissors!)
and resolve to pursue these options.

Awesome Technological Advance: Oregon Trail
Intended Learning Outcome: Manifest Destiny is really hard!  You have no idea how much cholera and river fording it takes to steal territory.  Also, it is far easier to buy your way to Oregon as opposed to fixing and hunting your way there, so definitely aim for a high-paying career.
Actual Learning Outcome: Who wants to get to Oregon?  It's boring.  With your class, devise new ways to "win":
  • spend an entire class period hunting
  • Who can starve the fastest?
  • Who can leave tombstones in the most locations?  (It's boring when everybody gets dysentery.)
  • Who can give their pioneers the most hilarious names?
This game is so fun that you will go to great lengths to find a copy of it after one of your college friends finds an Apple II cleaning out a professor's storage room.  A party will be organized to enjoy the game, because almost everyone else also learned all about the importance of vaccination that death can be funny feeling bad about drowning your computerized oxen American history through this technological wonder.

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