Dynabook

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Draft

1 Definition

  • According to the [Wikipedia], “ The Dynabook was a conceptual system proposed by Xerox PARC in the late-1960s and early-1970s. The ideas behind it led to the development of the Alto prototype, which embodied all the elements of a graphical user interface, or GUI, as early as 1972. The software component of this research was Smalltalk, which went on to have a life of its own independent of the Dynabook concept.”
  • The Dynabook matched hardware wise the description today's modern laptops. However, its inventor - Alan Kay - conceived it as a constructivist learning environment or expressive digital medium. Ideas developped in the Dynabook concepts are still very much alive in various squeak-based projects.

See also microworlds and Squeak.

2 Dynabook and education

Here are a few excerpts from The Dynabook Revisited, A Conversation with Alan Kay:

AK: And in my mind the patron saint of how to teach kids is Maria Montessori.
AK: [..] You can look for the music inside the piano, but that's not where it is. Same thing with the Dynabook. You don't need technology to learn science and math. You just absolutely don't need it. What you need to have are the right conditions. In music, if you've got the right conditions and you've got music happening, then the instruments amplify what you've got like mad. The best thing a teacher can do is to set up the best conditions for each kid to learn. Once you have that, then the computer can help immeasurably. Conversely, just putting computers in the schools without creating a rich learning environment is useless -- worse than useless, because it's a red herring. There's a sense something good is happening, when nothing real is happening at all.
AK: [...] A hundred years ago, Montessori understood that children always are trying to learn about their environment, and so the best way to help them was to give them carefully organized, rich environments, where the toys and the play have 20th-century side effects. In my opinion, this is one of the great ideas in the history of education. Even today, most of the best cognitive science about education harks back to Montessori's original insights.
B&C : [...] If we go back to the first question, which is what's missing, why isn't the Dynabook a reality -- what's missing is that the population to use them isn't there yet. We haven't taught people how to use them.
AK : Exactly. Because the music is not inside the piano.

3 References