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My Kids’ Technology Adventures Began With An Alien Named Cosmic Osmo

When my first-born daughter Liz was a toddler, I was hoping I’d be able to guide her towards becoming a techie. No pushing and no pressure was what I tried to achieve. Instead I tried to be a coach to her, gently showing her how stuff worked while striving to make it fun.

One of the ways I introduced her to technology was through games. There was a HyperCard ‘stack’ game — released at MacWorld in 1989, which I bought there, called Cosmic Osmo — and we played it often. She was always delighted to play it and asked to do so whenever I was on my Mac SE/30.

HyperCard was amazing and I learned how to build my own stacks. I built one with sounds I created in SoundEdit, and when any button on the stack was clicked, it would play that sound. I loaded as many funny sounds as I could find (along with the ones I recorded myself, including my daughter’s own voice) and she LOVED clicking on the buttons to trigger the sounds!

Fast forward to today and she definitely became very technically astute. She worked for the Apple Store for five years during college and just afterwards, at Best Buy (where she moved to corporate in to human resources), and every time I’m with her I learn some new tip or trick with my iPhone. The best part is that she grasps technology instantly and I hope I had some influence on her in this way.

Here is a video from 1989 where we are in my home office, she is sitting on my desk, and we talk about “Osmo” and I record her voice with SoundEdit:

Alex Begins His Technology Adventure

In 1994 our son Alex was born and he took technology like a duck to water. For him it was all about play, which fit perfectly in to my goal extending to him when it came to making the use of technology fun.

By this time Liz was well on her way toward her belief that technology was a seamless and integral part of our lives. She became a patient and encouraging tech-coach to her little brother. He wasn’t much interested in what Mom or Dad had to say about tech, but rather he watched, listened and allowed himself to be guided by his big sister. It was fun to watch!

In 1998 I was working at Apple in the business group after Steve Jobs came back, and had the chance to bring home the first iMac introduced and it had some built-in games, like the one they loved called Nanosaur.

Here’s a fun video of my kids using that first iMac at Thanksgiving, about three months after it was introduced:

We Have Come A LONG Way With Technology!

1) Holy buckets has technology advanced! When I watch these videos above (and the one below) and think about SoundEdit and a Mac SE/30, it’s just stunning how far we’ve come with computing technology, graphics, gameplay, sound, animation, and so much more.

Want to see what Liz and I experienced playing Cosmic Osmo on a Macintosh SE/30 with a 9″ screen? Here is a video of Cosmic Osmo’s click-to-trigger interface in HyperCard:

2) By the way, somehow I missed this Ars Technica article (30-plus years of HyperCard, the missing link to the Web) on May 25, 2019, but thought I’d add it to this post. In that article I learned about a way to goof around with HyperCard — this time by downloading Steam for your PC, Mac or Linux computer and actually introduced in 2010 — and, once you’ve installed it, you can load up an instance of HyperCard here.

Make Technology Fun

Whenever I’m asked about kids using technology too much, not enough, how to make it fun or educational, I always coach parents to limit screen time, always keep an eye on their kid’s use of tech, but most importantly make the use of it fun!

Having phones that are dozens of times more powerful than that previously mentioned Mac SE/30 and original iMac — along with Internet of Things devices that are inserting themselves in all parts of our lives — we all need to keep vigilant about how we use it. If you haven’t watched the Cosmic Osmo video above, view it now and see how laid-back, at-ease, and fun Cosmic Osmo is having with his out-of-this-world technology use. There’s a lesson there for all of us.  😉

A Story About Genomics & ‘Precision Medicine’

genestoryWhat if you could get a free eBook* that would help you understand a lot more about a field that has already made a big impact on the human race, and is one that is accelerating toward a revolution in precision medicine? A woman uniquely suited to telling this story has already created the eBook prototype and needs your help in getting it to the point of launching.

You’ve heard about DNA, right? How about the term “genomics”? Of course you have since you’re living in 2015 and watch CSI, Sherlock and other shows where they use this field to catch murderers, rapists and those who shed their cells at crime scenes. It’s likely you’ve also read about almost-weekly major breakthroughs in medicine—especially those enabling precision medicine which target treatments at an individual’s unique genetic makeup—but probably thought like I have, “Sounds cool but I kinda, sorta don’t really get the whole genomics thing.

If you help this woman get the story out, you will be able to “get it” with genomics in an entertaining way (plus I’m going to connect with an education technology leader in my local school district since it will be perfect for school kids).

lynnAn artist I’ve known for 25 years, Lynn Fellman, has done amazing work for the last decade on interpreting DNA in to various forms of media, including interactive multimedia back in the 1990s to print, textiles and more today.

She doesn’t toot her own horn enough (which I’m trying to get her to do more of) but she’s been on NPR Science Friday multiple times (and Ira Flatow is a huge, and supportive, fan); a Fulbright scholar within evolutionary genomic research at Ben-Gurion University; and has worked with genomic scientists at Baylor in Texas and at the University of Minnesota.

During a personal healthcare experience she became very frustrated at the lack of DNA knowledge out there and knew she was uniquely suited to do something about it…so she is.

In a few short months she’s built a prototype and just began this crowdfunding campaign to complete her illustrated, interactive eBook. It’s premise is a character looking for precision medicine for herself and for everyone. It is designed for a general audience and its focus is as a guide to understanding our genome.

She asked me for my opinion on her initial beta version of the eBook and I was so surprised and delighted that I encouraged her to move ahead and immediately. When she did I offered to help get the word out and that is why I’m writing this post.

Check it out and please support her so this eBook can get out in to the world. When you go to her crowdfunding page, scroll down and see the incredible gifts you can receive for the various funding levels.

Here is Lynn’s crowdfunding page for the eBook

Learn more about Lynn, her work, & Fellman Studio

*In order to fully deliver on the interactivity, she’s creating it in Apple’s iBook Author (which is the best possible way to deliver interactive eBooks, by the way) and the eBook will be available for free to anyone with a Macintosh computer, iPad, or iPhone.

Would Steve Jobs have thought STEM dangerous?

stem-sj-fzIf you care about American education, our kids and our future, you should take a few minutes to read one of the best defenses of a liberal education I’ve read in a long while.

The article by Fareed Zakaria in his Washington Post column, Why America’s obsession with STEM education is dangerous, argues that a liberal arts education

Mr. Zakaria starts of with an understanding that most of us agree that the current state of education in the United States is flawed. That education is a critical precursor driving our ability to compete in the world, and that America’s seeming defocus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is at the root of our nation’s perceived competitive decline in the world.

What does this have to do with Steve Jobs?

Read More

Vatican City Explained

We’re preparing for a family trip to Italy and I’ve been collecting interesting things to read and watch beforehand. It’s always good to have historical context before any trip, so the places one goes has a deeper meaning than what the guidebooks or venue signs display.

A short video like this one is perfect for our adult children to whet their appetite for more. Several of these factoids I didn’t know either and have sparked an interest in learning more:

Why Higher Education is Dead

stormyThe storm is coming and half of the higher education institutions in the United States will be dead in the next 15 years.

While it would be easy for me to pontificate about higher education and its failings, I’m not qualified other than I’m a father of a recent college graduate and have a second child who will be entering his second year in the fall. That is why I look to experts and watch trends in order to connect the dots, all while feeling anger toward the higher education “industry” who keep building structures and trying to out-compete each other for students.

My recent college grad in sociology is struggling to find a good job in human resources for a good company. She is now second-guessing the wisdom of investing in education in her field and is seriously wondering whether or not her sheepskin “was worth it.” I know several other twenty-somethings who feel exactly the same way (and two of them are living at home with their folks in order to save money and pay off student loans).

Though I’m not qualified as a higher ed industry expert, I don’t need a weatherman to tell me if the sun is shining outside (I can just look out a window). That said, it does take a much larger view and more data to be able to forecast coming storms in the next several days or week—which is what satellite imagery and sophisticated computer models perform and enable meteorologists to be fairly good at predicting what’s coming next.

The storm clouds are already overhead. Read More

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