Meet the Influencers

Technology & Learning, March 2015 | Go to article overview

Meet the Influencers


As part of Tech&Learning's 35th anniversary celebration, we look back at those people who have made today's advancements possible. Some of them will be obvious. Others we think will surprise you. All of them deserve recognition for creating this wonderful space we call education technology.

RICHARD C. ATKINSON

The charismatic and sometimes controversial Richard Atkinson makes our list for many reasons, which include his monumental accomplishments as president and regent of the University of California system, where he creatively managed the nation's largest (and most expensive) public university system. In his tenure as president the outspoken professor recommended that the SATs be eliminated from the Golden State's admission process, stating that the test had "ill-defined notions of aptitude," and that students should be tested against what they had actually achieved. He sparked a debate that led to sweeping changes to the test. While at Stanford, Atkinson worked with Suppes on the IBM 1500 CAI system and he finished his career as chancellor of the University of San Diego. He remains a constant champion of digitized learning, believing that technology can bring education to students in all corners of the world.

PATRICK SUPPES

Patrick Suppes may have singlehandedly made philosophy a credible major through his groundbreaking innovations in educational technology and experiments in computer-aided learning. An early tech and learning adopter, he not only encouraged software developers to focus their efforts towards education but also helped build the IBM 1500 Computer Assisted Instruction system in the 1960s while at Stanford University. His radical efforts, which earned him a sizeable grant from the U.S. Department of Education, are the cornerstones of what we know as distance learning today. Born in 1922, Suppes completed his lifelong career as the Lucie Stern Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Stanford University and ran the gifted students program there until 2010.

ADA LOVELACE

Her collaborator, Charles Babbage, nicknamed her the "enchantress of numbers." Ada Lovelace, who just happens to be the only legitimate child of poet Lord Byron, was born in 1815. Her mother saw in her an early aptitude for numbers and figures and insisted that her tutor concentrate her studies on mathematics and science. While other girls of the aristocracy worried about court and cotillions, Lovelace would labor over Babbage's "Analytical Engine," which would feature her method for calculating a sequence of Bernoulli numbers the first computer program and the first algorithm.

Her influence is still recognized today in many ways. The Department of Defense named its computer language "Ada" after Lovelace. The Ada Lovelace Initiative, a non-profit organization, encourages women's participation in the free culture movement, open source technology and open culture. Lastly, "Ada Lovelace Day" is an annual event celebrated in mid- October with the goal to raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

ANNA VERONA DORRIS

It's hard to find someone of import not mentioned on Wikipedia, but Anna Verona Dorris unfortunately makes the list. It's time to rectify that situation. Her work during the Visual Instruction Movement from 1918-1928 paved the way for using alternative methods in the classroom beyond basic rote rituals. The one comprehensive biography comes from Wendell G. Johnson, in the journal Techtrends, from July/August 2008: "Not only was she a pioneering woman in the field of visual instruction, she was a pioneer in a field dominated by men." In 1923, her seminal book, Visual Instruction: Course of Study for the Elementary Schools. Including the Kindergarten and the First Six Grades, introduced the then radical idea of using motion pictures, prints and photographs, maps, and globes in the classroom. She even introduced the concept of "excursions," now known as field trips, into everyday curriculum. …

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