Alan Kay's Dynabook Concept

I read an interesting interview referenced on the NewtonTalk mailing list. Alan Kay is intereviewed about the Dynabook concept he developed for a portable computer in the late 1960s, and how he felt, in the 1990s, that industry had still failed to produce a computing environment that would meet the specifications originally planned for the Dynabook. The Dynabook was intended to be a computer for students, which had to be light, powerful, and capable of fostering the conditions in which learning is effective and possible.

I was most struck by what Alan Kay observed about how computers are mis-used in education, and his own interests in computers in education.

One of the problems with the way computers are used in education is that they are most often just an extension of this idea that learning means just learning accepted facts. But what really interests me is using computers to transmit ideas, points of view, ways of thinking. You don't need a computer for this, but just as with a musical instrument, once you get onto this way of using them, then the computer is a great amplifier for learning.

Tech Club projects that were particularly popular last year, like podcasting and movie making, were projects that allowed diverse student groups to transmit their ideas, their points of view, and the way that they thought about and interacted with each other and their world. I think the success of the projects was because students were able to use new media to better express themselves. As I plan projects for the school year ahead, I should keep in mind the idea that the computer is an amplifier, not the means to the end. This will help de-emphasize technology while encouraging creativity through the use of technology.


Hey Jsoh - you've been tagged at