Alan Kay at the Getty Conference (1991)

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Alan Kay is widely credited as the original designer of the Macintosh
computer the computer mouse and the graphical user interface what few people
know is that these designs were based on extensive research Alan did with
children at xerox parc in the 1970s alan
has a PhD in electrical engineering and is currently fellow at Apple computer
Alan is a pro professional jazz saxophonist and keyboard artist his
comments today will be based on his continued work with children in a school
in Los Angeles please join me in welcoming LMK
I love introductions because they can't
possibly be true so I actually was a
jazz guitarist many years ago well this
this talk I think will be very different from Lucy feldstedt's talk in that it
won't be a commercial for my company's equipment in fact having been a
technologist now for about 30 years I still don't think the computer equipment
is quite there yet and so a lot of the
preparation for it is a little bit like becoming a guerrilla warrior in the face
of something that is what you might call
inverse vandalism and when the when the kid through the brook the brick through
the window and the cop asked why said well because I could and a lot of
technology that is built today is because they can its inverse vandalism
so I like to start my talk off by giving
you three dilemmas which I think we have to worry about the first one is
something that could very well happen in a crazy place like California where we
watch MTV a lot the parents worried
because their children aren't getting to be musicians by the time they leave high
school and noticing that the Americans
are scoring eight out of ten countries with the Japanese of course being first
in music leaving high school start beating on the state legislature right
before a big election and finally the state senators and the legislature say
all right all right we have a solution for you we're going to put a piano in
every classroom
now unfortunately we don't have any money to hire musicians so what we'll do
is we'll give the existing teachers two-week refresher courses and music in
the summer that should solve it now as
any musician will tell you the music is not in the piano because if it were we'd
have to let it vote I work with many
teachers over the last 20 years and
almost without exception they really care about helping their students and
you can imagine some fifth-grade teachers with this new dilemma and
saying well we learned that C major scale thing this summer and if we taught
it to the kids some of them would do better than some of them would do worse and that would give us a nice bell curve
for grades in other words what happens
when the teachers really don't know what to do they come up with behavioral objectives
so the promise with problem with this whole scenario is that music an impulse
from within ourselves that can only be amplified by technology never gets in
the classroom I'll give you an example of their many interesting surveys about
music two of them are worthwhile looking
at one was done in the late 70s by lincoln center in new york trying to
figure out how they could get more people to come to concerts and wondering what kind of people came to concerts and
what kind of people didn't go to concerts and they did this extensive
survey and one of the most striking things about the results of this survey
is that the people least likely to go to a concert at Lincoln Center were the
people who as children were the audience for Leonard Bernstein's young people
concerts I was a teenager when he did
those and I remember them as being pretty neat these people could only
remember having to sit still for three hours somebody was up there talking they
just had to sit still and not fidget too much that was what music meant to them
so if you want to do something with
technology you have to find a way of
getting an impulse that the technology can amplify the other survey which was
done by casio before they got into the keyboard business they got into the
keyboard business because one of the four casio brothers is a pretty good classical pianist he wanted more people
to enjoy music the way he did his brothers made him do a survey
it's like what big companies do when they don't know what to do they hire
some consultants a consultant as a person who knows a hundred ways to make
love but doesn't have a girlfriend
so this casio survey which is done in
the early 80s came up with profiles of
people wanting to do more with music and so forth and one of the most interesting
one is that they discovered that the
nine out of ten people who had been forced to take piano as a child have
been turned away from music for the rest of their life so here's the technology
not being neutral not being an amplifier but being the other thing that
technology is the other side of the coin which is a kind of a prosthetic you put
an orthotic brace on a healthy limb and the healthy limb starts to atrophy the
piano without the musical impulse inside the learner atrophy is what interest
they might have because it removes the necessity for paying attention to a lot
of things like the pitch of the note so this is the first dilemma and it
basically says the first thing we have to do before we worry about technology
is we have to worry about what our value system is that I've worked in schools
for more than 20 years and I've never seen a successful school yet that didn't
have a strong parental involvement and I believe beyond all of this stuff the
values in the home are the dominant factor that no matter how great the
school is or how great the principal is it's the values in the home the if you
can get the parents into the school as some of the really good schools do so they can see what's going on so there's
an involvement it's really incredibly important it dominates all the other
things now dilemma number two is that
we're dealing with human beings here and I enjoyed Laurie Anderson thing but I
think the thing that she overlooked is that human beings break to we break them
every day in our cities we break them in the schools we bake them in lots of
different ways and one of the reasons we break them is because we don't understand them we have very old
comments it's ideas about how we ourselves work and how other people's work and how they
should be educated and in fact most of those models don't work very well so I'm
going to show you a slide of what we
should actually be thinking about and if we turn the slides on please so here's a
piece of technology if you want a screwdriver and somebody gives you this
you have every right to get angry they say what this is the functional part of
a screwdriver right you say but I want a user interface because it's the function
plus the user interface that makes a tool when I was making this slide I
looked at the screwdriver for the first time in a new way and I thought boy that
is a terrible design for a screwdriver think of it the mechanical advantage is
the ratio of the diameter of the handle to the diameter of the shaft it's small
best way to hold the screwdrivers like this but it slides off the screw if you
hold it like this you don't get enough purchase on it so I thought that is a terrible design for a screwdriver that
is the ms-dos of screwdriver designs
I didn't say I wouldn't do any anti commercial actually one of my hobbies is
building pipe organs and I have one of the great books about pipe organs as
part of d duros encyclopedia which is published before the French Revolution
was about two hundred and twenty years ago in there are engravings of the tools
they used and in there is an engraving of a screwdriver it looks just like that so this bad design has been around for
more than 200 years and people use it and learn it and get proficient in it
without ever thinking about it but if we tried to fit the screwdriver to the human then we might come up with
something different what should a screwdriver actually look like well it should have a very big diameter on the
handle we have to bear down on it and we
want to have as much friction as possible so what should the handle look like shook like a ball does anybody ever
seen a screwdriver like that yeah about five years ago somebody went through the
same thought process I did and said that is a terrible scootin I might not have might have compared it to kobol instead
of ms-dos but so he said well there's
actually a hand there there's a hand what an idea maybe we should fit
something to the the human who's going to use it and of course when we're
dealing with primates and we're trying
to communicate with them we have to find some of the modes of communication that
primates are willing to use and one of the ways you can do this is by making up
a representation system that is both familiar and elevating we happen to be
primates as well and so the kind of fitted pneus we need is something about
how the mind works and in fact
we don't know very well how the mind works so here's an example so take a
look at this face and see if you can see what's wrong with it besides that it's
upside down who can who can see mouth is
upside down what else the eyes okay
let's pretend we're in a the kind of school that none of you represent in
which knowledge is thought of as a fluid
that is transferred drop by drop from the full teacher vessel to the empty student vessel and that knowledge is
encoded into facts represented by language so let me give you a sentence
of fact about this picture and let's see if you agree and what we've done here is
we've taken the picture of a young girl we've extracted her eyes and mouth we've
turned them upside down put them back into the picture and then turned the entire picture upside down does
everybody agree with that isn't as an idea yeah okay so you should be quite
prepared for what it looks like right side up I'm going to turn this back
because I've discovered nobody will listen to it when it's on the other way
nasty nasty always doing things like so this is why mcdonald's hamburgers
doesn't run print ads saying that eating a mcdonald's hamburger will make you a
better looking person because in english it is absurd goes that statement goes in
through your ears goes to the left side of your brain is evaluated more or less
as a proposition and is rejected so what
companies like McDonald's do is to make an image showing good-looking people
eating hamburgers and all of a sudden it goes through your eyes to the back part
of your brain over to the lower right-hand side of your brain and you come up with a different inference a
weaker inference but the inference that the advertisers want you to have so the
important idea here is that not only do we not understand how human mentalities
work very well but in fact we don't have just a single way of dealing with the
world we have a body way of dealing with
the world we have a visual way of dealing with the world and these are
things that loosely Lucy mention in her
talk but here's the kicker if our
mentalities deal with the world differently then it's not enough to say
if we only hear if only remember twenty percent of what we hear and we remember
forty percent of what we hear and see that we should concentrate on the image
what if the really important stuff can only be learned through language should
we be concentrating on the image should we be turning people back into denizens
of the Middle Ages learning things by watching beautiful stained glass windows
that now move no we have to have a better model of how our mentalities work
in order to understand how to use images
how to use symbols how to use things that we do the first order theory
doesn't wash it's not good enough we
have to understand enough about what's going on so we can transmit the ideas of
our civilization in a way that doesn't dilute them down to make gibbering
idiots of the is so Piaget had a mental model it's one
that is used a lot actually doesn't work quite the way he thought it did but he
thought you sort of thought of as a caterpillar going towards a butterfly
you go through metamorphosis the most
important thing that I think the piaget pointed out is that kids are not damaged
adults in other words the purpose of
education is not to fix them so that they will then be good adults that the
stage pneus that Piaget noticed was different parts of the kid's brain
functioning in a coherent way but in a different way than adults do a more
interesting model was put forth by Jerome Bruner based on pjs and using
some of the same poj experiments here's
the famous water pouring one where you pour from a squat class into a tall thin one and the kid in the the visual stage
says there's more water in the tall glass I Brunner did something that
Piaget never thought to do which is again covered the tall glass so the kids
couldn't see it anymore and ask the question again the kid immediately changes his mind back and says but wait
a minute there must there can't be more water so Brunner takes the cardboard
away and then the kid says no look there's more water we're gonna puts the cardboard back and the kid changes his
mind again so if you have any six year olds you'd like to torment
now these results are not predicted by pjs stage model so Brunner came up with
a more interesting multiple mentality model which seems to be much closer to what's going on that we actually have
different mental centers you were reacting to two when I showed you the upside down faces and these mental
centers deal with the world in completely different ways they came about four different evolutionary
reasons and we have a very little
communication between the different ways of apprehending the world so the
simplest form of this is to think of ourselves as having a body centered way of dealing with the world a visual or a
figurative standard way of dealing with the world sometimes thought of as being
like right brain and we have a symbolic way of dealing with the world now
psychological theories aren't worth a hill of beans unless you can get some
ideas from them so here's one of the
things you can do with Brenner's theory suppose you're interested in getting
very young children to write coherent compositions and essays even though the
kids are at an age of say five as this child is isn't really very good at
sequencing this was done at the open school where we have had a project for
many years actually done before we showed up and one of the teachers
discovered that if you got the kids to make a storyboard so the kids actually
make the drawings on the left first because lo and behold the kids can
sequence visually even though they can't sequence symbolically yet in fact we've
done some experiments last year that showed that even preschoolers can do coherent stories if they have a
storyboard apparatus to help them then the kids can turn around and write
sentences that refer to each of the panels and we have given them a
structure that helps them organize something that they couldn't organize
before so is this a trick is this
cheating I'm curious is it you don't have to
agree with me okay I don't think it is because I think that our whole
civilization has progressed by changing
the representations that we use to deal with the world we have about the same IQ
we had 250,000 years ago imagine having
an IQ of 300 which has never been recorded on this earth and living
200,000 years ago what could you do or having one like 220 and being Leonardo
living three centuries before he could have the power to power the all the
things that he thought up you can have an incredibly powerful IQ and not be
able to do much with it because it is the representation systems that make us
powerful not our puny ability to think we have to have structures to deal with
and part of the aim of Education to me
is to try and give kids what Seymour Papert has called for many years
powerful ideas powerful ideas or things
that help you think stronger thoughts then you're able to think before okay
and well there's something else you can do suppose computers are hard to use and
you want to make them easy to use well why not appeal to the inactive the body
mentality because it knows how to move things around why not appeal to the
iconic mentality which can keep track of a hundred images at once can find the
picture of the elephant four times faster than the word elephant can
remember images for many years ago let's try and experiment how many people flip
channels on television how many people
have flipped into a movie they haven't seen for 20 years how long did it take
you to recognize that movie how long a few seconds right so think about that 20
years ago you saw this movie you're probably with a close personal friend
you didn't know you're going to be tested 20 years later randomly while
you're worrying about something else you flip into the middle of this movie and in the middle of it without any
preparation about 90 frames later you've recognized that movie how many people
knew what was going to happen next in the movie after they recognized the movie right that's a smaller number but
many people do think of what that means
the iconic mentality has a staggering ability to recognize places we've been
before but in order to make all this stuff work we can't get rid of the
symbolic mentality because the symbolic mentality which given the correct
context is the one took us out of the middle ages through the Renaissance and
gave us the civilization that we have today when it rules we lose it because
it separates us from the earth but if we throw it away in attempt to get back to
an image dominated way of thinking about things we give up our ability to deal
with the world so we have to balance these things in a very important way and
this led to this machine back in the in
the 70s which is the forerunner of the Macintosh we work with some three or
four hundred children and the result was this macintosh like user interface which
then got put on the mac and is proven so popular that is now spreading like
wildfire through various other manufacturers machines and the reason it
is is that it wasn't actually a random event it was based on a psychological
model of brunner's that actually did seem to have something to do with the
way people dealt with the world and we were able to give them an environment
that allowed them to make this formerly alienated world part of their own okay
so that's the second idea and the the
result of that is something like this
let's roll that first clip
so this is a 22 month old little girl this is taken by your father about five
years ago so she's two months shy of her second birthday and her mother is my
accountant and both her mother and father live at home and both of them had
Macintosh computers and when I found out the little girl was interested in
computing I gave her an apple to which she rejected she didn't know what it was
the important thing to realize is it for this little child this is not technology
because technology's all that stuff that wasn't around when you were born right
wrist watches radios all those things those aren't technology clothes language
they're part of the environment and as Montessori pointed out many years ago
one of the great geniuses of 20th century that one of our strongest urges
is to learn an environment so if you give people in environment they will
start learning it that's what she did now we never worked with a child this
young at xerox but it was wonderful to watch her confidently using this since
that now don't be impressed by this because she's already been using the mac at for about six months by the time this
was taken so so i thought okay i believe
that she's doing this but what happened next really surprised me she wants to save her what's a new sheet of paper
actually so she saves her drawing using the pop-up she goes to the pulldown to
get a new one and she's off and rolling
again so
it's one of those rare moments when the camera was running at the right time so
the idea we were so intrigued by this that we tried the little girl out on many different macintosh systems and we
discovered she was about seventy percent literate in this kind of interface if I
she could take a very hard application like aldus pagemaker desktop publishing
started up make marks and it print the marks out save the marks away get the
marks back couldn't read yet but she knew what all of the where all the
commands were about seventy percent of the things you expect from one application to another so by having a
psychological model that creates an environment that the person's inborn
drive to explore just as Montessori said
you can do incredible things okay so I'm
going to skip the next segment this is for the video people who have been yeah
there are people behind the curtain back here it's not all being run by computers
now here's our third dilemma third dilemma is that nothing is holding still
and one of the I was interested in the
references to McLuhan and the invention of the printing press and i happen to be
a big fan of McLuhan and one of the things that McLuhan pointed out about
when new media come in and take over for the old is that they don't know what to
do with themselves for 20 or 30 years
when Edison invented the motion picture camera in 1895 he thought the maximum
movie that anybody had ever show would be about six minutes long because I couldn't figure out what to do with it
the they had whole shots nobody moved the camera in shooting until nineteen
fifteen when DW Griffith did birth of the nation and he was the person after
20 years of movies being around was the person who invented the modern language
of film which involves montages and zooms and close-ups and tracking shots
and all the things that were used to today and McLuhan pointed out that was
exactly true for what happened after Gutenberg but the Gutenberg Bible was a
big heavy book the same size as the manuscript books handwritten by the
monks why was it the same size because they didn't know what size a book should
be so I said make it this size will imitate the script of the monks in the
the fonts that we have and that's what a book is a few years later the infamous
aldous whose last name by the way is not
pagemaker but that would be great if it
was but his name is eldest minus sheís
is a Venetian printer he came to several insights one is that people probably
wanted to read more than the Bible so he
and his sons went out and gathered up most of the extant Greek and Roman
writings of the day they published some 40,000 books think of what that means
from going from practically zero there are 390 books in the vatican library in
the year 1400 printing presses 1452
by the time Elvis died his company in Venice alone had put 40,000 different
titles the wealth of the ages so Aldous
in our Terms was the person who realized you needed a network right need access
to a lot and al just did something else
for which he will always be my hero he decided that book should be the size
they are today this size the reason he
decided they should be this size it's because that was the size that saddle bags were in Venice in the late 1400s
books could now be lost think about it
because they could now be lost they didn't have to be owned by institutions anymore you could take them with you
something disastrous could happen you just get another one that was a paradigm
shift and this forced Aldous become one of the first typographers these scripts
didn't shrink down very well and so Aldous had to invent a new formation for
alphabets based on Roman characters in
order to get legible type in these small books so that was a huge change now
where are we how many people would feel
okay if their computer I don't mean in the pejorative sense now but I mean in
the Senate our computers cost a few thousand dollars we don't want to be
lost we don't want something to happen it's not we don't go out to the store it's not like a digital watch that costs
1095 and we jump in the pool with it we are in the stage right after Gutenberg
right the desktop computers look just like time sharing terminals time-sharing
systems are the manuscript culture owned by big institutions the institutions
knew how you should do your religion they're always saying how you should go
along with them because they're big stuff desktop computing
I'm not really being that facetious
think about what the book actually meant to creating the individualized man of
the Renaissance where you could go away by yourself you didn't have to be
educated with other people if you didn't want you can go away by yourself and form your own opinion and then the big
revolution happened as Elvis and the other printers started spreading many
different ideas around the Catholic Church didn't even suppress the printing
press because they thought it was an automation of a process that they found
laborious they had no idea that it was
going to do them in no idea whatsoever
now the important idea here I think is to realize that we are we haven't had
our eldest we have we don't have computers that we can afford to lose yet
but we will before this decade is out and that will be a great an enormous
change in the way we deal with computing and it also means something else nothing
that happened between Gutenberg and Al discounted right that means every
thought that we think about computers today is likely to be totally wrong
because computers are not yet in their final form well slides again please so
one of the ways of thinking about this is that there are actually three
revolutions in the way we think about computers one of them is going from
batch processing to time sharing which
happened in the late 60s the one that we're involved in right now is this
Gutenberg type revolution where we have the machine on our own desk it's a
personal computer but the one that's going to endure is the one that some of
us call intimate computing where the computer goes with you right now let's
test this out how many people have a full-fledged computer on them right at this moment hold it up
well that's that's okay that's better how many out is that okay that's better
a few years ago you couldn't even get one now five years from now we'll
probably half of this audience will have something and 10 years from now
everybody who now has a piece of paper and a pencil will have something that is
continuously communicating we're the global information utility that is just
like a power and lighting utility it's something that is supplying us with access to information the complete set
of issues change now of course we're going to all as our media but a big
thing that's going to happen is the way we deal with the computer our relationship with the computer is going
to change once more and so if we spend too much time tooling up on what is now
an obsolete version of technology the
desktop computer and don't look ahead enough we're going to miss the most
important revolution which is I call the eldest revolution the revolution where
we do mundane things on the computer as well as important things and it's the
mundane things that turn into the creative ideas the thing you do on the back of the envelope now are the things
that are really important should somebody was asking right before I came
on well how the parents going to turn on
the computer do you turn on your watch
see we can't think about it the same way these computers of the future will not
have an on/off switch they'll be doing things too important for you to ever
turn them off okay so
here's a little another way of thinking about it is use the same kind of
materials and change the architecture amazing things happen the Greeks were
smart but they could had a really hard time letting the light in the temples
because they used so much material just holding the roof up and it is amazing
fact that some of the larger Gothic
cathedrals of Europe have about the same amount of material in them as much
smaller Greek temples but that material is in a beautiful spider work lacework
of balancing stresses to the ground that lets these enormous windows the light in
from the from the outside and a couple hundred years ago we went to a completely dorant set of leverages which
is pulling on things instead of pushing that allows us to build the geodesic
dome if we wished overall the Gothic cathedrals ever made each of these
architectures is the dominant dominant thing architecture dominates material in
every important instance now let me show
you some examples of how I think we have
to at least start dealing with this a few years ago I visited oh I'm sorry I
wanted right got to have to communicate when I want the slides on and off a few
years ago 85 I walked into a marvelous public school in Los Angeles called the
open magnet school and I was there for
about two minutes and I thought boy we could do some really neat stuff here and
the principal Bobby Blatt was absolutely
unafraid of anything I suggested in fact she managed to scare me before our first
meeting was out by convincing me to try
and do a project using the entire school not just the fifth grade like I wanted
to and so for the last five years we've been dealing with an entire school which
is now numbers about 375 children in 12
classrooms deployed as six double classrooms and I think the most
important point I always want to make when I talk about the school is that we didn't go in and make the school
great this school was already great in
fact we used to mumble to ourselves that line from the Hippocratic oath which
says above all do no harm this was a
school that had a strong involvement with parents it had a value system it
had a way of dealing with the
acquisitive and the inquisitive nature
of the of the children was set up in fact a lot like a graduate research
program where the kids were the researchers and the teachers were the facilitators was a facilitation model of
knowledge rather than this drop eyedropper knowledge and in fact this is
a garden that they have that was built by tearing up the asphalt of part of the
school yard in which they do a curriculum which is called life lab
which is in 40 or 50 schools here and the children actually designed this
garden built it and take care of it and start most of their basic science
courses from growing real things right in the middle of West Hollywood so what
we had in mind was this notion of Cesare aveces and pjs and Brunner's and
monasteries pouvais say said to know the world one must construct it so we got
interested in having the kids construct things and learn things by constructing
and not just things that have to do with computers but just learning about the
universe that they're in by making things and having to do design and this
ramified over the years into a rather rich set of curriculum I'm just going to
take you on a little tour through so we start the that second tape please
and it's it's a rather modest set up the
maggot schools are often in bungalows temporary structures perched on the
playgrounds of of other more kosher type
schools demographics are in the rough ratio of Los Angeles as a whole because
that's how they choose the kids for the school here the kids designing the
garden and because we study animals as well we have a beautiful pond that they built now here they're doing something
that I'm not going to tell you what they're doing for a minute see if you
can figure it out I can tell you this is a design exercise we're actually
designing a city and balloons you're a wonderful thing to design a city with
because ignore that guy yeah thanks so I
urban renewal is easy with balloons so
what I like to do is to show you effect we stop the tape for just a second
thanks what I'd like to do is to show
you three large-scale programs that are
done in the school all of them are done
through the teachers we found that to be one of the most amazing differences from
the projects that we've done before is because we're dealing with the entire school every piece of curriculum that we
do is actually taught by the teachers we don't we are in the classroom as
observers sometimes we help but the teachers are the ones that that lead the
way and none of the teachers in the school were picked for being experts in
computers most of them had never used the computer before and the features in
the school actually are picked a lot by how much they really like kids and boy
does that make a difference the self-esteem of the kids and what the
belief and the kids of themselves as movers and shakers is something that the
school preserves very well through the through the first through sixth grade so
first what I'm going to do is show you a project in which we've only done a
limited amount of computer stuff and it's a it's a
six-month curriculum in city design for
third and fourth graders these children go for a large portion of their school
year thinking about designing a very large scale city the idea was originally
thought up by doreen Nelson and is
implemented in the third and fourth
grade so these kids are seven eight and nine years old so let's roll the tape I
know but still everything's part of it I
know but they're already something you
should make something Abbess is always something this or something this is already something everything you left
everything this is only something I know
everything's me as something that is made from a balloon doesn't mean we
don't have to design knowledge now to make buildings exactly like they would
have to make it a hundred years we're making models ideas for what buildings
could be like in a hundred years we don't have the materials we're going to
happen hundred here's our red starts right
wait to dig in and shake your head here
and do the character park you little bit y'all be the building I'm the person and
he's the building these the buildings okay
welcome to fantasy ma we have what the
stuff the building collapse t he was
trying to see the moon and they have been collapsed my apartment building and
on the top as a swimming pool nibsy it's
a cold day in rainier so you could have an endorsement for if it's hot you open
it up you hope your ideas down here
tomorrow will be our future city is opening as you can see our transfer case
our monorails just been strong
and all the buildings are beginning to look like buildings all the buildings
are being checked and painted and now
our we cannot pick up the side country useful because of the monorail and
transportation we have these things on our site everybody that wants to have
air transportation land on your site must have Nikki Fox is that Commissioner
tova cats design this whole monorail spirit soul monorail and monorail
station Shiva Commissioner of land she's awesome
good shot she's all for helping us sidewalk these are my sidewalk my phone
earthquake definitely damn girl Robin teleporting man he puts
ebook paper towel rolls on our site static patella to have it be a
teleporting station their cities is getting to look like a real City try
getting to like Judy Landers on the moderator fun of it into Los Angeles
president the hell crowd is starting to blush crowded than it was when we were
making our study models
one inch tall would look wicked building hey stop the tape for a second so this
is a wonderful curriculum it gets better year by year the kids are just have been
working doing various kinds of mock-ups and object design and stuff for the last
several months and they're just getting ready for their big push of designing the final City which will take the next
three months so we occasionally have
visitors down there if you want to drop by in a couple of months and see something nifty this is one of the
things that's going on now I think you can see why we don't use computers a lot
in this particular curriculum this is whole body stuff and having the kids
being able to crawl around and interact the way they do they are in different
quality control groups they chose those
quality control groups because they do an instant city in the beginning of the thing it turns out to be a nightmare and
they realize that they have to have groups that are responsible for things
like parks and schools and garbage removal and a whole bunch of things that
they never thought of when they started so it's a very wonderful process we do
use the computer for simulating some communication city systems spread of
pollution and a small number of things like that but this is an example of
something that if we were to transfer it to a computer right now we would kill
about ninety percent of what's good about it so it's a perfect example of
you know leave it alone it's great yeah
we'll be able to have more and more computer involvement as the next decade goes by but we're still not going to
ever take the bodies away from the kids that would be the cruel thing as long as
they've got bodies they have to use them and interact and learn with them now
another thing that we helped in the school was a an aura T flourishing music
program which is being done in spite of prop 13 taking away the music and arts
stuff and since a lot of us were musicians and
think that music is what makes life worth living we wanted to help with that
and again we had some experience with computers and music though some of which
was positive and some of which wasn't positive but we decided to do something else instead of aiming directly at the
computer what we decided to do is to see if we could turn every kid into the school into a musician by getting them
to sing more and more interesting kinds of things and each year the principal
Bobby Blatt sets up and does a full
evening musical with the three older grades this last year they did pirates
of penzance the pool of kids that were available for this we're 150 kids 120
children worked like dogs for four months stayed the entire course for this
musical they refused to do the stripped-down version of it they went
out and got the Linda Ronstadt movie and they wanted to do everything he wanted
to sing in harmony in it they wanted to do every single thing in it and they did
and because the rehearsals were shaping up so beautifully the parents organized
a multiple camera shoot of the final result i'm going to show you about five
minutes of this and give you an example i think of what kids can do when they
really want to so
fishing what I don't want it by memoir
and revelry I can talk site I'm not a
run home from a javelin one cent affairs
as sorties enterprises I'm aware heeya
and whenever precisely what is meant by
commissary husband made it modern gonna
be another me and short one of a
smattering of elemental stretch
I'm telling a damn sorry but it doesn't
although our dock career sometimes
involves when I was nearly queen
rattling never
all right we're always sorry to me for
life without a touch of poetry
you may go fear at liberty or private
rules protect you and Kyra members over Vance we do let you okay skip to the
next gap please so you get the idea now
we're doing this largely because it's fun and things that are fun or
intrinsically worthwhile doing but also each of the things that we've set up
there have the kids getting interested
in what you might call the ecology of interaction between things that have many complex interacting parts whether
it's a city worked on by 60 children with hundreds of buildings whether it's
a musical worked on by 120 children all
sorts of timing and coordination these things are actually a lot more like the
real problems of life than most of the problems that the children get to work on and what's even better is that they
are fun in a way that the children can commit deeply to quality we measure you
might ask how do we measure our progress in this project we measure it by the
quality of the things that the kids do how deep they're willing to go how much
they're willing to work on their own without being pushed the depth of their
knowledge is what we're interested in because this school is about the liberal
arts and the liberal arts is about interacting with our humaneness in a
depth way in a depth way so now let me
finish by just showing you a couple of examples of some of the computer stuff
we do and here we're going to go to a four or five classroom the kids are 9
and 10 years old and what we'll see is
some work that they've been doing on simulating animal Ecology's not just
simulating the animals but simulating the environments which the animals have
to work in so let's run
you see this looks a little different from the IBM classroom because as the
camera pans around you won't see any computers the computers are actually all
in these special desks we built so they don't get in the way they're always on
nobody has to switch them on the kids don't have to use them for anything the
teachers don't have to use them but they can if they want and they use them quite
a bit now here's some early work the
children did of just these are just animations done in hypercard so these
are like Disney Animation's there's no artificial intelligence behind any of
these creatures but the next phase of
the project
you're asking for every player asian food the whale come up the way I also
have some ancient all right let me tell you why because when the agent looks in
his world it doesn't look at himself it
looks at the world beyond him so that's
why it only looks at those players who have food but it doesn't count himself
but if he asked for every player in the
universe and include himself and this is
kind of important for you to think about because when he when they have to start
giving birth to eat to themselves so they won't die off they have to be able
to count everything in the universe y DP
how many there are like it if there was
only one left it was himself the Pacific
coast it is the time of year when the whales migrate down to Mexico to me and
to give birth to their babies who were can see the year before so children have
to build everything here
that works don't you want and I move
so here's here's kind of an example of a project they do this is a in ecology
that has a clown fish and some seein enemies and food and predators in it
this is done in a new kind of programming language we invented for this project called playground and what
the clown fish does besides getting food is it eventually picks in an enemy that
for that it likes and it spends a little time getting closer and closer to the
poison absorbing a little of the poison it gradually acclimates to the Stingers
of the enemy you see it's just now
foraging for food and it hasn't seen the
shark yet the shark hasn't seen it yet so eventually it will go back to the
enemy and acclimate some more at some
point the shark will smell the clownfish
and start moving towards it this is not
an animation because you could put the shark in different places and you can
put the clownfish in different places and each one of them each of the end of
these entities there is independently control they have little artificially
intelligent minds okay and now the sharp
sees it and the enemy and the clownfish sees that the shark is coming so it
makes a run for the anatomy and gets there just in time and the shark is
repelled by the anatomy and in fact we'll go back and forth quite a bit
until something else comes out to distract the shark away some new food
source so stop the tape right there please so that's an example that's sort
of the version that's like the city building project there are lots of
different animals they have lots of different behavior patterns and it's another design project that gets the
kids to learn about things by actually making them now they have to read lots
of books but they read the books because they want to read the books because they
want to find about out about the things that they're constructing so we don't tell them to
read the books but we have the books around so that if they want to learn
more about something and they always do then they'll go and read the books themselves if you think about this is
sort of the way we like to function in adult life we like to have our own
interests we like to go on our own volition follow up the things that were
interested in and a well-designed curriculum environment will have things
set up so that the things that the state of California and the parents want the kids to learn will automatically be
learned in the midst of this much more exciting stuff that is much more like
real life and the kids know the difference one of the biggest thing is
something that do we pointed out in 1895 was that most of our kids are
disenfranchised for most adult pursuits a little kid with dressed in a nurse's
uniform and holding a doll can't do the real content only the form of what the
adult nurse does whereas the kid in Africa learning about bows and arrows
and shooting rabbits is actually learning through play what the adults do
and that's been the way of humanity for
the last several hundred thousand years we learn in play what we do as adults except now we can except now we can
because we can now structure the kinds of play that the kids want to do so that
they are actually doing things that have content and projections into the adult
world so this stuff is really strange
new interesting maybe a little scary but
as always the best weapon we have to deal with things like this is the one
between our ears providing it's loaded thank