I have found it both exhilarating, depressing, and a bit annoying to work my way through the 1985 book. Ill comment on these three sets of feelings in reverse order.
I am annoyed at myself and the staff who aided in the publication of the editorials and other the book contains. I found a number of examples of sloppy writing (on my part). Better proof reading and copy editing would have helped. I am embarrassed that no one caught the error that I skipped over the number 36 in numbering the editorials. I found that the quality of my grammar sometimes left much to be desired. I use Microsoft Word, and it generously provided a wavy green underline for text that it considers to violate common grammar rules. It identified quite a few such places. The most common was my use of the word witch in places where I should have used the word that. Microsoft Word also found some spelling errors. Spelling has always been one of my weaknesses, but I would have expected that the production staff would have found these errors.
As an aside, I am impressed that the grammar and spelling checker software in Microsoft Word is so good! This represents substantial progress over that years. Both the grammar checker and the spelling checker were quite useful in the overall task of cleaning up the scanned test. I was particularly intrigued by the fact that the Hewlett-Packard scanner I used employs a software package that is about 123 megabytes in length. Downloading the newest version of this software over my DSL line (about 45 K bytes per second) took a long time. However, the 123 megabytes hardly made a dent in my available hard drive space. I thought about my first 300 baud (30 characters per second) modem I bought about 20 years ago and the fact that the first Macintosh computer I bought about 20 years ago made use of a 400K byte, 3.5 inch floppy drive. (Less than a month ago my wife added an internal 200 gigabyte internal drive to her Apple G4 computer, at a cost of about $165!)
It has been fun to be involved in the computer in education field during much of its early development and during a time of rapid progress in hardware and software. In reading over the old editorials (from 1974 to 1985), I was struck by how many of my ideas have proven to be good ideas. (And, of course, I was struck by how many of my ideas have proven to be bad ideas. But I wont dwell on these.)
The October 1977 issue of the Oregon Computing Teacher contained two position papers that I had written and sent to the Oregon Department of Education (and also used in other endeavors). At that time, Oregon may well have been the top state in the nation in its progress toward effective use of computers in precollege education and in education of preservice and inservice teachers. Certainly it had made good progress and had a sense of direction. However, even by then it was evident that there was little leadership coming out of the State Department of Education and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Thus, those two editorials made me feel both good and bad at the same time!
One of my all time favorite editorials in the February 1981 The Saber-toothed Curriculum. This editorial took ideas from a 1939 book by J. Abner Peddiwell in which he discussed significant failings in our educational system. My editorial took his ideas and recast them into the computer era. In my opinion, they are as fresh today as they were in 1981. Our educational system is doing a poor job in providing students with an education suited to the world they will face as adults.
The absolute core of the good ideas is the focus on computers as an aid to problem solving in all disciplines and integrating such use of computers throughout the curriculum. I was absolutely convinced that this was both a right idea and a key part of the future of computers in education well over 20 years ago. I am still more convinced today.
But, the past 20 years have seen rather modest progress in the endeavor to integrate powerful computer tools into the everyday curriculum I find this depressing! My December-January 1983-84 editorial Logo Frightens Me editorial captured the essence of the problem that still exists. In that editorial I discussed the difficulties that most teachers who were learning to program in Logo were facing as they were trying to learn to teach problem solving in a Logo environment. There difficulty stemmed mainly from their poor understanding of problem solving and how to teach problem solving.
At the current time, most preservice and inservice teachers still have poor insight into uses of computers as an aid to represent and help solve challenging problems. Our educational system is doing a poor job in helping teachers and their students learn to view the world through problem-solving-colored-glasses. To a large extent the problem-solving aspects of the content of the preK-12 curriculum have not been changed much by computers.
As I read through the editorials I found a few that made me feel proud. I am especially proud of my October 1984 editorial NEA and Educational Software. There I strongly criticized the National Educational Association for its efforts to enter the software evaluation and sales field. I like to believe that my editorial helped to eventually drive them out of this business.
I find the writing in the December-January 1984-85 editorial More Harm Than Good rather interesting. The article talks about recent action in Texas, where a number of Physical Education Teachers were given a two-week computer course in the summer, and then were assigned as the computer literacy teachers in Junior High Schools. I carefully failed to identify the state or any of the specific people who brought about this travesty of education. Indeed, I tried to put myself in the position of this person and provide some possible justification for such a terrible decision. At that time, Texas had recently implemented a computer literacy requirement at the Junior High School level.
I want to comment on my April 1984 editorial that has the title Equity. By 1984 it was already evident that there was a significant equity problem in the area of computers in education. According the (Accessed 1/6/05) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_divide, the term digital divide came into use in the early 1990s. This proved to be a good term to use in promoting action to attach a problem that had been evident to many for a number of years.
Many of my editorials addressed the need for substantial increased in teacher education and teacher training in educational uses of computers. I repeatedly have expressed concern that the weak link in the overall system is teacher education. In my opinion, that is still the case.
I believe that this book helps to capture a little bit of the history of the field of computers in education. The data I have seen indicate that in 1983 our schools had about one microcomputer or computer terminal per 125 students. The past 21 years have changed this ratio to perhaps one per 4.5 students. Moreover, the more current of these microcomputers are more than a thousand times as powerful as the 1983 microcomputers. And, we now have Internet connectivity to our schools, and the Web.
Although the field of computers in precollege education has been with us for well over 40 years, in most ways it is still in its infancy. It has a long way to go to reach its potential. In some sense, a summary of our limited progress to date is provided by the following quote from the Executive Summary of the National Education Technology Plan 2004, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, released January 7, 2005.
This report was undertaken by the staff of the U.S. Department of Education in response to a request from Congress for an update on the status of educational technology. As the field work progressed, it became obvious that while the development of educational technology was thriving, its application in our schools often was not. Over the past 10 years, 99 percent of our schools have been connected to the Internet with a 5:1 student to computer ratio.
Yet, we have not realized the promise of technology in education. Essentially, providing the hardware without adequate training in its use and in its endless possibilities for enriching the learning experience meant that the great promise of Internet technology was frequently unrealized. Computers, instead of transforming education, were often shunted to a computer room, where they were little used and poorly maintained. Students mastered the wonders of the Internet at home, not in school.