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Computer appreciation

by Bill Gibbon published Sep 20, 2010 09:10 PM, last modified Apr 05, 2011 10:05 PM
Early experience of computers in teacher training

"Computer Appreciation" was a 10 hour module as part of the Maths course when I was training to be a teacher at Northern Counties College in 1972.

We did some simple Basic programming on an OU paper tape terminal in the corner of one of the small studies, but mostly we played tic-tac-toe or navigated a lunar lander (which on a paper printout was quite tricky).

However, my friend Derick and I had also signed up to do a creative writing option, with the fabulous Betty Watson, who eventually became Betty Rosen. She had been part of a team of judges for a recent Daily Mirror's 'Children as Writers' competition and had been allowed to keep all the entries - tens of thousands of them - all in cardboard boxes stored on the stage - and she wanted them classified. That was easy - the whole group just sat and read each one and filled in a small form. Then of course she wanted to analyse them ... Derick and I looked at each other and said 'we can probably write a simple computer program to do that'. Mad fools.

We eventually had to learn the far from simple SPSS language and fill out and check hundreds of programming sheets and it must have cost the department a fortune in punched cards and processing time - but the experience was incredible. Although it pre-dated by a long way my '80s obsession with Seymour Papert and Logo, it was this first experience of controlling the power of computing to solve real problems, rather than being controlled by it in the 'press any key to continue' mode that was to follow, that established my ongoing philosophy.