Creativity in the Classroom: The Commodore Amiga and PDS

Joan Kay and Joan Scott and Creative Computing at PDS c. 1989

It’s the 30th anniversary of the Commodore Amiga computer.  This is apparently the machine that introduced a whole new world of computer gaming for a generation of users.

This is a cause of great celebration in the retro computing crowd.

Back in 1985 personal computers were primarily either game machines or beige boxes from IBM used for business.

Then the Commodore Amiga 1000 burst on the scene – a multimedia personal computer with  4,096 colors,  groundbreaking animation capacity, multi-channel stereo sound, the capacity to multi-task, a graphical user interface, and powerful processing potential.


The Commodore Amiga

The future had arrived and the Amiga stepped up  a new rung on the ladder of computing history.

Coincidentally I discovered this week that Poughkeepsie Day School is a piece of that history.

In 1989 Commodore made a film about the educational uses and applications of the Amiga. PDS was among the schools they approached. Former librarian Joan Scott was the point person for the collaboration.  I checked out You Tube and there is it – Creativity in the Classroom – the promotional film with footage filmed at PDS.

PDS – at the forefront of change. Again.

The Amiga heralded a new era of computing for education. This was not the rather dull machine of the business world. This was color and music and voice and video and animations and desk-top publishing. This was a brave new world of action, doing, learning, making creating.

Take a look at how Commodore promoted Amiga – it’s about students engaged in learning and creativity. Not an automated skill and drill worksheet in sight!

When we push computers in school today do we laud that kind of learner agency and the capacity to create, make, do, experiment, compose, publish? Do we promote what can be the marvelous children’s machine for creativity, connection and discovery?

Or is the same old education just with shiny new apps, bells and whistles?  The more efficient pencil,  the bigger file cabinet, the magic eraser and educational big brother overseeing student time on task and collecting data?

No wonder people like Audrey Watters ask questions like this:

Is it time to give up on computers in schools?

By the way – if you recognize any of the children in the video or remember when they came to video please let me know.

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