Friday, December 20, 2013

Speak and Spell

Before SpellingCity, there was Speak N Spell
Thirty years before 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. 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 That was a lot of fun, wasn't it?"

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Elementary School Audio Visual Crew: Few and Proud

The AV Crowd: The Few and the 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  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.

World Book Encyclopedia

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.
Random House Dictionary of English Language
Random House Dictionary of English Language

 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)
Another memorable aspect of the encyclopedia era was the door-to-door salesman who sold them.  A surprising number of people of my generation spent some time selling them.

What did the standards say about using reference works and finding them with alphabetical order?

Language Arts: K
Information and Media Literacy
Research Process:
The student will:
1. ask questions and recognize the library media specialist or teacher as an information source; (LA.K.6.2.1)
2. use simple reference resources to locate and obtain information through knowledge of alphabetical order, use of pictures, and environmental print (e.g., signs, billboards); (LA.K.6.2.2)

Language Arts: 2
Information and Media Literacy
Research Process:
The student will:
1. generate research questions by brainstorming, identify key words, group related ideas, and select appropriate resources (e.g., atlases, non-fiction books, dictionaries, digital references); (LA.
2. select and use a variety of appropriate reference materials to gather information and locate information using alphabetical order; (LA.

And who can talk about reference materials and refer to media centers or libraries without going back to the card catalogs and the Dewey Decimal System.

This card catalog is proudly featured in the entryway to the Time4Learning office.

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 parents read to them..

Once I pulled my jaw back into place, I took the opportunity to pick her brain about the Little Golden Books.

Little Golden Book 1981
Western Publishing Company
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", dated 1959.

Little Golden Book 1982
Western Publishing Company
This book seems to be noteworthy for a few reasons.  It is an early appearance of the Chipmunks (See their sweaters? Alvin, S? and T?). The price tag was $0.29.  

And the book was illustrated by Richard Scarry!

Richard Scarry,  in case you don't know, became a well-known children's author and illustrator best kown for Busy Town. He peaked in popularity in the 70s, 80s, and 90s.  I think in the 50's he was still relatively unknown although he was already 40 in 1959.

I continued to look through my collection of Little Golden Books and I became intrigued by the elaborate artwork on the back covers. 

The Golden Books back covers 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....(Gosh, who owns Smokey, the US Park Service)? Here's a few different Golden Book back covers.

Golden Books was founded in 1942 and was led by the Bank Street Writer's Association which later evolved in the Bank Street School of Education.

 Here's a fun trivia question: What was the most popular of all the Golden Books?

Answer: It was not even close. There was one book that outsold all the others many times over.  At one point, it had sold more than almost all the other combined.  It 
was the story of a little puppy who was not so good at rule following. Of course, it was the Poky Little Puppy. 

Golden Books are still published today and greatly resemble the originals. They belong to Random House.

This blog also has an article about the Big Little Books, a type of book introduced in the early 1930s. And there's an article about Encyclopedias and Dictionaries (especially the World Book Encyclopedia).

Little Golden Book 1972
Western Publishing

Golden Book - Golden Press 1959
Copyright Monarch Music 

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?
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?