Sunday, April 20, 2014

Big Little Books

Dick Tracy While I have a Big Little Book in my collection, I only learned last week what it was.

I learned about it thanks to Larry Lowery. He is a professor emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley. He is affiliated with the Graduate School of Education for his research and with the Lawrence Hall of Science for his curriculum products. As luck would have it, he was next to me in the registration line at the recent NSTA show. We started chatting. I told him about Science4Us, he told me about FOSS.  We did some card tricks.

All of the material on this post is from Larry's website: http://biglittlebooks.com.

 In 1932 the seemingly paradoxical term Big Little Book® was given to certain books published by the Whitman Publishing Company of Racine, Wisconsin. The term promised the buyer a great amount of reading material and pleasure (BIG) within a small and compact (LITTLE) book. These Whitman books set the standards for similar books, and Whitman's copyrighted description has become popularized in a generic way to umbrella similar books.

The Whitman BLBs look like a four-inch block sawed off the end of a two-by-four. They were 3 5/8" x 4 1/2" x 1 1/2" in size and 432 pages in length. The outstanding feature of the books was the captioned picture opposite each page of text. The books originally sold for a dime (later 15¢).

Many children learned to read and have an appreciation for all books because of their experiences with BLBs. The source material for the books was drawn mostly from radio, comic strips, and motion pictures.

Larry's website categorizes the history in three periods (Golden, 1932-38; Silver, 1938-49; Modern 1950 to present), lists collectors and clubs, and has a host of articles about Big Little Books. Check it out at http://biglittlebooks.com.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Super Cool '70s Spelling Tech

Before SpellingCity, there was Speak N Spell
Thirty years before SpellingCity.com was launched, spelling, for most kids, was not F-U-N.

The fun revolution started  in1978 with the introduction of Texas Instruments' innovative educational electronic toy, Speak & Spell.

Speak N SpellI was eight years old the Christmas that Speak & Spell made an appearance on many-a-list to Santa. Always a "word nerd," my parents apparently didn't think I needed any extra help with spelling, so instead of Speak & Spell, I got a Little Professor from Santa instead. (math was never my strong suit).

 My friend, Jennifer, however, got a Speak & Spell...and it was awesome! Its computerized voice made it sound like a futuristic robot. We used it not only to play spelling games ourselves, but as a giant game show board for our Barbies, a la "Wheel of Fortune." Ahhhh...memories.

Despite references to it in movies like "Toy Story" over the years, I had all but forgotten about Speak & Spell. Several weeks ago, however, I came across a post on Facebook about the toy and  nostalgis hit big time.

I knew that other children of the '70s and '80s could relate, so I shared a photo of the original Speak & Spell on SpellingCity's Facebook page. The post was a hit, drawing nearly 2,000 likes, 250 shares and 95 comments!

Upon seeing my post about Speak & Spell, John (a.k.a. the Mayor of SpellingCity) asked where he could get one for his retro ed tech collection. In his teens when Speak & Spell was released, John wasn't familiar with the SpellingCity of the 1970s. He was thrilled to receive not only an original Speak & Spell as a Hanukkah gift, but a Speak & Math as well!

Technology has changed a whole lot in the past 35 years. SpellingCity.com recently introduced five new games, bringing our total offering up to 30 games (with full graphics and feedback)! But, then again we all like to wax nostalgic once in a while don't we?

Just think, some day our children will be saying, "Hey, remember SpellingCity.com? That was a lot of fun, wasn't it?"







Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Elementary School Audio Visual Crew: Few and Proud

One of the great online journalists of our time has a secret. 

Before he became famous and way before being geeky was considered cool, he was already being pulled by the force into the technology world!

I'll be plain: Back in Somerset Elementary school in the late 60s and early 70s, he was a proud member of the Somerset Elementary School A/V [audio visual] crew!

They had special privileges and responsibilities.

While the rest of us were kept in our classroom, they could roam the halls looking for the green carts of AV equipment.

While I would have had to break my leg to be allowed to go in the school elevator, they routinely rode up and down with their cargo.

Film strip projectors, overhead projectors, and 16" film projectors; they could do it all. He writes:

I Got very nostalgic about film strips & being a member of the Somerset AV crew (I got to go into different classrooms & thread the 16mm projector). & one of my very first pieces of writing for hire: How to pre-master a videodisc. Exciting stuff.


Did your school have a special AV crew of students? Were you one of them?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Many Bridges Crossed, Miles to Go Before We Sleep

Most of this content is reprinted from a blog  (with permission) by Miles MacFarlane. His original title was "20+ Years of EdTech."  He has taught for twenty years. I've always liked Frost's poem and somehow, it became the subject of this post. Mr. MacFarlane wrote:

I have used every one of these devices in fulfillment of my duties as a classroom teacher. These were the tools available to me since I became an educator. It makes me feel rather old, but proud nonetheless, to have mastered these valuable communication technologies for teaching and learning.

And some say today's technology is too complicated.


Want to talk about that?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

New Educational Technology Promises Joy and Faster Learning

Ed Tech Advertisement, circa ~1963
Larry Cuban, a Stanford professor, pulled together a great article which looks at the promise and attitudes towards new educational technology as revealed in the advertising.

Published on the Education Week site, it says:

For more than a century, educational technology ads have glistened with hope. Newly invented devices from the typewriter to film projectors, from the overhead projector to instructional television, from the Apple IIe to the iPad, have painted pictures of engaged students who will learn more, faster, and better. They have pictured teachers using new technologies to teach effectively. Of course, it is the nature of advertising to promise a rosier future, appealing to what policymakers, administrators, and, yes, parents yearn for ... a better, easier, and even enjoyable way for teachers and students to teach and learn. And that is what these ads do. They assure readers that both teachers and students will be better off using these machines.

Great article, well done Larry.  Note to self, need to secure an overhead projector and an Apple IIe

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Encyclopedia and Dictionary


I grew up in a house with a big dictionary on a stand and a complete set of the 1962 World Book Encyclopedia.  The actual dictionary and stand are pictured below (that's not actually me or my old house, it's my nephew at my Mom's new condo).  I recently acquired a complete World Book Encyclopedia set identical to the one that I grew up with.

When I was in school, one of the key ingredients of every classroom was a dictionary and every school library was built around its encyclopedia, atlas, and other reference works.  To this day, the accrediting institutions still list the library with its book collection and reference materials as a key issue.

With a sweet sense of irony, I just looked up "encyclopedia" on Wikipedia and found:

...The beginnings of the modern idea of the general-purpose, widely distributed printed encyclopedia precede the 18th century encyclopedists. However, Chambers' Cyclopaedia, or Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (1728), and the Encyclop√©die of Diderot and D'Alembert (1751 onwards), as well as Encyclop√¶dia Britannica and the Conversations-Lexikon, were the first to realize the form we would recognize today, with a comprehensive scope of topics, discussed in depth and organized in an accessible, systematic method... 

In the United States, the 1950s and 1960s saw the introduction of several large popular encyclopedias, often sold on installment plans. The best known of these were World Book and Funk and Wagnalls... By the late 20th century, encyclopedias were being published on CD-ROMs for use with personal computers. Microsoft's Encarta, launched in 1993...The 21st century has seen the dominance of wikis as popular encyclopedias, including Wikipedia among many others.

Another memorable aspect of the encyclopedia era was the door-to-door salesman who sold them.  A suprising number of people of my generation spent some time selling them.   Encyclopedia Britannica  -- at its peak, had around 2,300 in the sales force....A year ago this week, the last salesman for Britannica, Myron Taxman, retired.  He was 66. He began selling the encyclopedia at the age of 22, when he was still in college in Chicago. He sold the volumes for 28 years: to farmers and to new parents without much money, to a Bears quarterback and to film director John Hughes.  (Encyclopedia Britannica Salesman Mourns End Of Print Edition)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Little Golden Books

Little Golden Book, Chimpmunks' Christmas , Richard Scarry
Little Golden Books - The Chipmunks' Merry Christmas
I was sitting in my office, more or less minding my own business, when a office visitor, actually someone from an insurance company checking on our fire extinguishers and such,  mentioned that she liked my collection, especially the Little Golden Books.

 In fact, she (Beth Aroyo-Mirowsky) said that she had a collection of Little Golden Books!    It turns out that there is a whole subculture of people collecting Golden Books such as Little Golden Book Collector and  The Santis,  Like many collections, the value seems to be that for many people, it reminds them of their youth and appeals to their nostalgia for happy days when their paretns read to them..


Once I pulled my jaw back into place, I jumped on the opening to pick her brain about them.

We have about 50 Golden Books in my educational collection which she looked through.  There were five that she said were noteworthy and collectible.  For instance, I have a Little Golden Book called: "The Chipmunks' Merry Christmas." which is dated 1959.

This book seems to be noteworthy for a few reasons.  It is an early appearance in the emergence of the Chipmunks (See their sweaters? Alvin, S? and T?).  The price tag was $0.99.  And the book was illustrated by Richard Scarry!  Who knew?!  Richard Scarry, btw, was a very popular children's author and illustrator best knon for Busy Town. He peaked in popularity in the 70s, 80s, and 90s.  So his work is 1959 was very early for him even though he was already 40 in 1959.

I continued to look through myu collection of Little Golden Books and I became intrigued by the elaborate artwork on the back covers. They are amazing in a few ways including the breadth of characters represented. I see Big Bird from Sesame Street Productions; Mickey Mouse, Bambi, and Donald Ducks from Walt Disney; Bugs Bunny from Warner Brothers; and Smokey the Bear from whoknows? Here's six Golden Book back covers that I scanned.
Golden Book - Golden Press 1959
Copyright Monarch Music 
Little Golden Book 1981
Western Publishing Company

Little Golden Books 1974
25th Printing - Walt Disney
Little Golden Book 1972
Western Publishing


Little Golden Book 1982
Western Publishing Company


Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Polaroid Instant Camera

I'm of a certain age (mid50's!) and so I remember using Polaroids back when they were very high tech.  The excitement was that you could take a picture and look at it right away!

Somethings never change, right?  Think today's cell phones, Instagram, Twitter, and hordes of other instant tools for sharing images.

Back then, the image would slowly appear over around 90 seconds (as best I can remember) after you yanked out the paper from the camera.  It came with a four tube that had a spond in it drenched in some sort of "fixed" which we would rub over the picture once it had finished developing.  It felt very technical, high tech, and exciting.

Edward Land started the camera reportedly inspired by  his daughter who .."wanted to see the picture NOW!"  The camera and company's highlights were in the 1960-80s when it was lauded as an example of American technological and entrepreneurial prowess.  Wikipedia summarizes it as:

Polaroid Corporation is an American-based international consumer electronics and eyewear company, originally founded in 1937 by Edwin H. Land. It is most famous for its instant film cameras, which reached the market in 1948, and continued to be the company's flagship product line until the February 2008 decision to cease all production in favor of digital photography products.

Educational Technology: 2012 or 1972?


This blog of old educational technology documents my office collection of previous educational technology "revolutions."  It is both for fun and to avoid any hubris thinking that our revolution in ed tech is the one that's really going to make the difference.
Dan Meyer posted an interesting article called: Is This Press Release From 2012 or 1972?
130105_1
And I quote/paraphrase:
Here are five quotes, some from 2012 others from 1972. Can you tell them apart?
#1 Educators and parents across the country seem to agree that a system of individualized instruction is much needed in our schools today. This has been evident to any parent who has raised more than one child and to every teacher who has stood in front of a class.
#2 [This product] allows the teacher to monitor the child's progress but more important it allows each child to monitor his own behavior in a particular subject.
#3 The objectives of the system are to permit student mastery of instructional content at individual learning rates and ensure active student involvement in the learning process.

#4 This is a step towards the superior classroom, because the system includes material that can be used independently, allowing each child to learn at his own rate and realize success.
#5 The technology, training program, and management technique give the teacher tools for assessment, mastery measurement, and specified management techniques.
Okay, they're all from 1972, from a piece called "Do Schools Need IPI? Yes!
For the rest of the article, you'll need to go to Dan's blog post:  Is This Press Release From 2012 or 1972?
  

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Instamatic Camera

An Instamatic Camera
The Kodak Instamatic
I added an Instamatic from Kodak to my collection this week.

It is the not the first Instamatic that I ever owned. I think I was given one when I was about 12, in 1970. I remember it as the first quality inexpensive no-focus required camera. Everyone had them.

Later, I was given a more modern one which used the square lightbulbs (see below - And thanks to Wikipedia for the picture of the Instamatic in its case with the flash bulbs).


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Filmstrips and Education

Filmstrips

Classroom record player
When I was in school, filmstrips were the height of multimedia coolness.

Many film strips came with records so the operator would advance the film strip by one frame with each "ding."  This would be explained on each and every record meant to run along with the filmstrips.  I remember  the voice explaining that: "At this point, you should be on the frame with the filmstrip title that says (for example):  'Adjectives, Describing Those Nouns.' If you are not on this frame, move forward or back to it at this time.  During the filmstrip, you will hear some pings like this < PING > which will mean that it is time to advance the filmstrip by one frame.  Lets try it now. When you hear the ping, advance the film strip. <PING!>.  Did you advance the filmstrip?  Well done!"
Filmstrip projector

 The techie kids were rewarded by the teachers and became AV Assistants (Audio visual assistants) who got to run the film strip projector (and the movie projectors which was a harder project). First, they would go down to the office and check out the appropriate AV cart, bring it upstairs in the elevator (reserved for teachers and special tasks), wheel it into the class, and run it.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Laterna Magica or The Magic Lantern

Magic Lantern
This past weekend, I was thrilled to run across a beautiful old Magic Lantern in a flee market. With just a bit of haggling, I took it home. Magic Lanterns were used both to entertain and teach.

A magic lantern predates movies and slide. Essentially, it was a pre-electric version of a slide projector.

Mine is about ten inches tall, comes with the original box and slides, and has the little metal oil lantern that provided the light source.

Magic Lantern circa 1905
It appears to be a GBN toy magic lantern, similar to one that I found on the UK National Media Museum which cites a 1905 date.  But mine has metal legs and a different sort of chimney.  The toy ones are the ones for home use.    Wikipedia says:  The magic lantern has a concave mirror in front of a light source that gathers light and projects it through a slide with an image scanned onto it. The light rays cross an aperture (which is an opening at the front of the apparatus), and hit a lens. The lens throws an enlarged picture of the original image from the slide onto a screen.[1] Main light sources used during the time it was invented in the late 16th century were candles or oil lamps. These light sources were quite inefficient and produced weak projections.  


As I dug into this, I discovered online the Magic Lantern Society. They say; Introduced in the 1600's, the magic lantern was the earliest form of slide projector and has a long and fascinating history. The first magic lanterns were illuminated by candles, but as technology evolved they were lit by kerosene, limelight, carbon arc, and electric light.

I emailed them and quickly got this response:  The Encyclopedia of the Magic Lantern does not cite GBN, but the companies making toy lanterns were mostly in Nuremburg, Germany. You are fortunate to have the box and slides that fit as well as the lantern. Is there an illuminant? Toy lanterns were very popular for children in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. You see them in movies such as Fanny and Alexander. Magic lanterns were once a premium for a childrens'  magazine in the early 20th century. They were used both to entertain but also to teach.

Larger lanterns were used in schools, churches, Secret Societies, and as the machine that brought Illustrated Lectures of travel, science, history and religion to the citizens of towns all across the country, We estimate there were over 100,000 magic lantern showmen, ie, people, mostly but not all men, who gave lectures and shows using the magic lantern. If you go on ebay you will see the wide range of magic lantern slides still in circulation.

If you are interested in the Magic Lantern and want to know more, the Magic Lantern Society has a quarterly research Journal that it publishes and a monthly enews letter of less scholarly news. We  have a bi-annual convention. If you are on the West Coast, it is a great chance to meet other collectors and to mine their knowledge of yourlantern and other interests.  We are an interesting group of people who collect lanterns, or slides or ephemera or whatever about the lantern and the culture around it. It was everywhere in the 19th and 20th centuries. See also the web site of my husband,americanmagiclanternshows.com.