Week two of Learning Creative Learning is all about formal vs. informal learning. We started with a reading of Seymour Papert's essay, "Gears of my Childhood". It focused on his fascination with gears that started very early in his life (when he was two) with gears and how this fascination played out through his formal education. We were tasked with writing about on object from our own childhood that interested us.
I really struggled with this. I don't know that I had a similar object/experience when I was very young. In fact I find it very difficult to remember much from that time. This probably points to the fact that I didn't have any really powerful experiences like Papert's when I was very young.
Franklin Ace 1000 computer we got in 1982, when I was 11. The Franklin Ace was a clone of the Apple II+. My brothers and I had been begging for a computer. When ever we went to K-Mart we would immediately go to the computer section of the store. Yes, K-Mart really did sell personal computers. We would play with them and write simple programs to fill the screen with things like, "Steve is COOL" or "My Brother SUCKS!" on infinite loops and then walk away. I later learned that my parents made a decision not to take the family to Florida that summer and instead to buy us a computer. From that point on I've always had a computer in my house and computers (or similar devices) have been at the center of how I work and play.
This was an incredible thing to own. We could run cool games, but more importantly I could use it to write computer programs. Now, I never really ever wrote any really complicated programs on this computer. I think I never had the sort of persistence required to do that. Maybe if I'd had badges ;). Just having it there being able to type in programs from computer magazines and see them run really gave me a sense of accomplishment. I wrote, or copied, a program and I cause something to happen on the screen. It really was kind of awesome.
It was obvious, even in the 80s that computers were going to be very important in the future. In retrospect I'm very glad that my parents chose the computer over the vacation. They were really investing in the futures of their three children. Today my older brother is an engineer, my younger brother is the Director of Technology at a high school, and I'm a physics teacher who relies on computers and the Internet as an integral part of my teaching and learning.