My first “Dynabook”??

Okay, this reading was a bit surreal…  Having grown up in the era in which much of this theoretical thinking was coming to fruition – and in some cases had arrived – reading about the imagining of it is beyond interesting to me.  Much of what was written in Kay/Goldberg’s Personal Dynamic Media has made its way into modern personal computing.  Some of it is still a bit “out there”, but also still has intriguing potential.

RFP Apple IIcI got my first personal computer (my own, personally, not a family computer) when I was in the 6th grade… the year was 1984.  I went halfsies with my dad on it… an Apple IIc.  Check it out – it bears an amazing resemblance to the Dynabook mockup displayed in the writing.  It truly was a laptop computer, less than 2 inches thick, and portable (it even had a built-in carrying handle!), though it did require an external screen.  It allowed me to explore personal productivity and creativity in a whole new way.  It also better incorporated a graphic user interface and set the stage for the ever-evolving intuitive Mac OS interfaces…

Speaking of intuitive… that’s what Kay and Adele were getting at, right?  A platform that works more seamlessly with the way we think, explore, create, revise, build…?  That’s why systems, programs, interfaces that are intuitive resonate with us today.  In order for the machines to “serve” us well, they should work the way we’re wired to think and produce (whatever it is we’re producing, and the writers do a great job of exploring across a range of disciplines, which I appreciate immensely).  While some are nerdy like me and enjoyed the “art” of learning hex code to program colors, or the precision and expertise required for a programming approach to early CAD programs… who can argue with the ease with which we can select a font/background/fill color with point-and-click from a menu in a place that makes sense and is easy to find, as we do today?

Beyond intuitive interfaces, they were also getting at a range of user-specified or defined customization.  A concept that much interactive media is finally coming to explore and leverage.  Customizable web page layouts, news feeds, menu and file structures… these are all examples of ways in which interfaces have been designed to allow users to further “design” or at least create custom definitions so that their system presents in the way most useful to them.

In terms of opportunities for furthering education… I found myself pondering the possibilities here.  As we think about systems that are designed to work in terms of how we think – either broadly as human beings, or more narrowly (customized) as individuals…  how might we also leverage this technological design flexibility to encourage dynamic approaches to thought, or stretching to new ways of thinking – in ourselves and our students?  Can we design and utilize interfaces to function in different ways – to be utilized as a type of simulation – thus forcing us out of our comfort zones into thinking and problem solving in different ways?  I could see this being both excruciatingly frustrating and immensely transformative (in the end!)…