Magazine article Technology & Learning

From Misfits to Software Pioneers

Magazine article Technology & Learning

From Misfits to Software Pioneers

Article excerpt

Unless you were involved in education during the days of computer time-sharing, you may never have heard of the Huntington Computer Simulations, but they were some of the best of their era. Lud Braun, the man behind the programs, describes their creation--and their impact on the students who helped him build them.

The Huntington Computer Project started in about 1970 with a grant from NSF to explore ways of using computers in high school classrooms. My role was that of project director and (to hear Mike Visich, my co-director, tell it) profligate spender of funds.

We worked with 10 high schools in the town of Huntington, Long Island (hence the program name). With input from teachers at those schools, we developed about 80 programs in biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, social studies, and teacher assistance. The hallmarks of the Huntington simulations were tight integration into the then-current curricula, their strong documentation (which included a teacher's guide, a student manual, and a resource guide), and the accuracy of their models.

One of the things that I did in the Huntington Project was to use it as a "rescue" site for wayward students. During my years of teaching, I frequently came across students who I knew were bright, but who rebelled at "the system" to the point that they were at the brink of being expelled from school. Because we needed--and had a budget for--good programmers, and because so many of these rebels were really good programmers (I have often wondered if there is a connection between rebellion among the young and programming competence), I hired a number of them to do the programming. The interesting thing to me was that, as soon as I showed them respect for their abilities, and gave them an exciting assignment, they went from D and F students to A and B students. …

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