Adventure Learning

And spreadsheets…

A proxy or measure of competence: the better a person “understands” spreadsheets the better they understand the modern world. The contrary is also probably true.

Common misunderstandings at the office

Common misunderstandings at the office

The conceit “operant conditioning” coined by B. F. Skinner, adventure education, play, are all part of the same species-typical behavior re-branded for the latest buzz-word fads and technologies. Killer apps, Gameboys, Pac-Man, the medium is the message, the software/program is the device; in the words of Semantics, all are different higher or lower levels of abstraction or maps and projections of the same thing.

Spreadsheets embody and demonstrate Semantics. Language is inseparable from thought, hardware is defined by how we use it. Hardware and software, denotation and connotation.

(A reviewer of Hayakawa’s book wrote:

It’s been said that language is what differentiates humans from the apes. But why language? Why not hawaiian shirts? Senator Hayakawa’s short book explains why language, and particularly meaning, is so important. It stands alone on its own merits, or as an elegant frame to the debate addressed in Korzybski’s monolithic 1933 work, _Science and Sanity._
Ever been in an argument? Ever get hot and bothered, maybe even start shouting, until you eventually realize that your disagreement is over the definition of terms? And did you ever stop to consider that there might be more than two sides to every story – maybe an infinite number? Come along as Hayakawa examines these issues in great detail.
The style of the book is so lucid, you’ll almost feel as if you’re being reminded of things you’ve always known. Does the book reveal universal truth? Or maybe just a skillful command of language?
I recommend this to any human who uses language to communicate or think. You’ll never look at Hillary Clinton’s “politics of meaning” the same way again.”

Quoting a comment on the comment:

Rather, I will never look at Hillary Clinton in an Hawaiian shirt the same way again.)

Diarrhea, logorrhea, Facebook posticcerrhea?

Listening to the local radio station carrying news that the school district Superintendent decided to cut the IT budget and reduce the man in charge to half time, finishing my income tax with the help of the AARP tax preparation volunteers linked to their online calculation programs, I spun off into thinking about the keystone role of spreadsheets and their various implementations in our modern culture and the IT revolution. Spreadsheets are the nexus of PC IT and still could be a good operant conditioning or adventure learning tool.

Following are quotes from the article:

We can look back and recognize that VisiCalc was the first “killer” application for personal computers.

VisiCalc became an almost instant success and provided many business people with an incentive to purchase a personal computer or an H-P 85 or 87 calculator from Hewlett-Packard (cf., Jim Ho, 1999). About 1 million copies of the spreadsheet program were sold during VisiCalc’s product lifetime.

Lotus 1-2-3 made it easier to use spreadsheets and it added integrated charting, plotting and database capabilities. Lotus 1-2-3 established spreadsheet software as a major data presentation package as well as a complex calculation tool. Lotus was also the first spreadsheet vendor to introduce naming cells, cell ranges and spreadsheet macros.

When Microsoft launched the Windows operating system in 1987, Excel was one of the first application products released for it. When Windows finally gained wide acceptance with Version 3.0 in late 1989 Excel was Microsoft’s flagship product. For nearly 3 years, Excel remained the only Windows spreadsheet program and it has only received competition from other spreadsheet products since the summer of 1992.

(My own experience was that I could accomplish much more useful design with spreadsheets doing “what-if” simulations for different materials and structural profiles, similar to financial and accounting spreadsheets well before the GUI and mouse, using the various ctrl X keystrokes, and Excel spreadsheets were just a pain in the ass to adapt to later with little immediate benefit. Sometime around late ’80s I was thinking about applying for a small business loan to buy a PC system but the SBA adviser told me “you don’t need a computer, no small business needs a computer system for $2000, forget it.” So I borrowed money from the local bank with sled dogs and two gold bars from winning the Yellowknife race as collateral.)

50 years ago in college I took a course at the intersection of linguistics, computer programming, philosophy, math/logic and I don’t recall what else. The modern version at the high school level would be spreadsheets and semantics, including as reading the seminal books, Hayakawa’s Language in Thought and Action and Pierce’s Symbols, Signals and Noise, explaining the underpinnings of the modern IT/information world.

“No other book I know of can explain these concepts of information, bits, entropy, and data encoding without getting bogged down in proofs and mathematics. The book even manages to equate the concept of language with the information it inherently transmits in a conversational and accessible style. The book rounds out its discussion with chapters on information theory from the perspectives of physics, psychology, and art.”

But, quoting Cicero: “The authority of those who teach is often an obstacle to those who want to learn.”




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s