Arthur Luehrmann

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"More things are explained by incompetence than by conspiracy." (Arthur Luehrmann; American Computer Scientist, author, speaker; 1931-.)

Art Luehrmann (1931– ) is best known for the large number of computer in education books he wrote, and for a 1972 article in which he introduced and defined the term computing literacy. The article, "Should the computer teach the student, or vice-versa?", was presented at a Boston conference. It was later published in Robert Taylor's 1980 book: Tutor, Tool, Tutee.

Quoting from 3 Issue 2 (2003) issue of Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education:

Luehrmann is now associated with the Lawrence Hall of Science at Berkeley, where he is directing projects to integrate computing into museum science exhibits to make them interactive, and projects to teach computing to a broad, general public served by the museum. Prior to going to Berkeley, he was a professor at Dartmouth and was involved in many successful projects there, applying computing to instruction. As several of his article titles suggest, his strongest emphasis is upon the computer as a new and fundamental technology worthy of study on its own. He sees the mass impact of this new technology as very substantial and stresses the need for popular literacy, the need for everyone to acquire programming skills, and the need for a good stand-alone personal computer. Though trained as a physicist, Luehrmann's work has dealt with applying computing in many instructional areas, not simply those related to the physical sciences.

Early History

During 1966 to 1970, Arthur Luehrmann of Dartmouth College was an Assistant Editor of the American Journal of Physics, a publication of the American Association of Physics Teachers. This was at a time shortly after the programming language BASIC was developed and implemented on Dartmouth's timeshared computing system. Here is a quote from a 2004 article that helps capture the computing situation in 1964 and the environment that Luehrmann worked in at Dartmouth:

In the early hours of May 1, 1964, a quiet transaction at Dartmouth made computing history. It was on this day 40 years ago that two Dartmouth mathematics professors, John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz, launched their BASIC computing language with the help of many industrious undergraduates. Two of these students, pulling an all-nighter while their professors slept, successfully ran two simple BASIC programs at about 4 a.m. on two separate Teletype terminals located in the basement of College Hall, which was part of the current Collis Center. BASIC (which stands for Beginners' All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) went on to be the most widely used computer language in the world, according to Kurtz, bringing computer technology to general audiences.

Quoting from a 1983 editorial written by David Ahl in Creative Computing:

[In 1958] William Higinbotham, a scientist at the Labs, decided to remove some of the abstraction. So he devised a tennis game using a computer and a circular CRT display. A blip--the ball--bounced over a net. The angle of the ball was set with a knob while pressing a button sent it back over the net. By today's standards, it wasn't much of a game. But hundreds of students saw it and went away with the idea that in addition to doing thousands of statistical calculations in a remarkably short time, computers could also be fun.

Soon, games began cropping up at university computer centers. An underground cult began playing tennis, Spacewar, and other games on large computers in the off-hours.

The word spread—computers can be fun. Professors at Dartmouth, the first large-scale (read, widely available) university timesharing system, were frustrated trying to rid the system of student games. So they responded by writing games with an educational content. Potshot, a game by Art Luehrmann, a physics professor, taught the principles of projectile motion, and boy was it fun! [Bold added for emphasis.]

Quoting from Encyclopedia of library and information science

The earliest known use of graphics from BASIC dates from the late 1960s when Professor Arthur Luehrmann at Dartmouth College devised a way to attach plotters to teletype printers. He designed a collection of subprograms which let students plot, instead of print, their output. These subprograms worked with any king of plotter; the students needed to change only one line in their program, identifying the plotter name, to have the same program work on different kinds of plotters. Thus, BASIC's first graphic were "device independent" since they let users write programs without having to include any instructions which would not work on every kind of plotter. Later versions of Dartmouth BASIC simplified plotting by adding special statements to the language, rather than relying on subroutine calls. Again, the same program worked on every output device.

Luehrmann's first published book (in 1968) is: Use of the Time Share Peripherals plotter in the Dartmouth GE-635 TSS.

Quoting from http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/wordscape/software-new.html:

JACKASS is a version of the famous ANIMAL game developed by Arthur Luehrmann at Dartmouth College in the 1970s. The computer learns from you by trying to guess an object that you are thinking of; at the beginning it usually fails, since it is very stupid, but each time it fails it asks you to teach it about your object, and it quickly learns. JACKASS can handle objects in three categories, Living Creatures, Transport, and Food, and you can create completely new categories if you want to (this aspect much improved in the new version).
The main distinguishing feature in JACKASS is that it also uses the information it has learned in order to write about the objects. Select any object and the computer will write an essay about it. In order to see how it does this, you can selectively switch on or off several of the grammatical rules it applies.

Quoting from Computing at Dartmouth 1971:

Project COMPUTe began as a three-year effort to support "writing and publication of course materials that would support educational use of computing in the undergraduate curriculum." Thomas E. Kurtz was the principal investigator and Professor Arthur Luehrmann was the project director. Funding was made possible by the National Science Foundation. [Bold added for emphasis.]

Computing Literacy

Here is a quote from Luerhmann's article, "Should the computer teach the student, or vice-versa?" Remember, this is from a 1972 talk and accompanying paper!

Mass computing literacy is not an agreed-upon educational goal. Today very few courses at any educational level show students how to use computing as an intellectual tool with applications to the subject matter being taught. Oh, there are a few isolated, subject-matter-free courses in computer programming; but their market is largely restricted to vocational-education students, at one end of the spectrum, and future computer professionals at the other. It is true that most schools consider it prestigious to have a large and powerful computer facility; but the fact of the matter is that such computers are usually the captives of research and administrative interests and operate on a pay-as-you-go basis. Ironically, it is in the most prestigious universities that students are least likely to be permitted to use those prestigious computers. It is a rare secondary school, college, or university that budgets and operates its computer facility in the same way that it budgets and operates its library. … In the main, literacy in computing simply is not an educational goal at many schools. Most educators seem to find bizarre the suggestion that accreditation agencies examine schools for the quality of their educational computing facilities, just as they now do with libraries.

It is interesting that the term computing literacy was soon replaced by the term computer literacy. A great many people wrote about and talked about computer literacy. Indeed, Luehrmann started a company named Computer Literacy Press. The term computing places the focus on the processes, while the term computer places the focus on a machine.

Here is another quote from the Luehrmann article:

If the computer is so powerful a resource that it can be programmed to simulate the instructional process, shouldn’t we be teaching our students mastery of this powerful intellectual tool? Is it enough that a student be the subject of computer administered instruction—the enduser of a new technology? Or should his education also include learning to use the computer (1) to get information in the social sciences from a large database inquiry system, or (2) to simulate an ecological system, or (3) to solve problems by using algorithms, or (4) to acquire laboratory data and analyze it, or (5) to represent textual information for editing and analysis, or (6) to represent musical information for analysis, or (7) to create and process graphical information? These uses of computers in education cause students to become masters of computing, not merely its subjects.

This captures the essence of what Luehrmann meant by computing literacy. Over the long run, Luehrmann's original choice of words is proving to be the better choice. Computers have become ubiquitous, but learning to think about and make effective use of computing processes remains a major challenge to our educational system. In recent years, the term computational thinking has been introduced, and it is gaining in popularity. In essence, it is a updated term of what Luehrmann mean by computing literacy.

Additional insight into Luehrman's idea on computing literacy are provided in the article:

Luehrmann, A. (2002). "Should the computer teach the student..." — 30 years later. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education [Online serial], 2(3). Retrieved 1/22/09: http://www.citejournal.org/vol2/iss3/seminal/article2.cfm.

Quoting from this article:

Until editor Lynn Bell suggested I write a page or two about how things have turned out since 1972 (the year I presented the paper "Should the Computer Teach the Student, or Vice-Versa?" at a Boston conference) I hadn't reread this little parable in ages—probably not since Bob Taylor republished it in "The Computer in the School: Tutor, Tool, Tutee" in 1980. I enjoyed the reread, and I hope others will too.
And how have things turned out? That's easy. Out of Taylor's trichotomy, teaching tool use is just about the only impact that computers have had on schools. Walk into any middle or high school and ask to see the computers. Most will be found clustered in a computer lab, not in the classrooms. Go to the lab and ask a student what he or she is doing. The most likely answer is, "I'm working on a word processing (or spreadsheet, or database, or graphics) assignment for my computer applications class." They're learning computer tools, in short, even though they rarely use them outside the applications class.
So it could be a long haul indeed for K-12, where DWYDLY (do what you did last year) is the prevailing philosophy. That situation might change as voters realize that "universal public education" is not synonymous with "government run school monopolies." DWYDLY works when schools have a captive market. When they must compete for (publicly funded) students, free to go where their parents please, suddenly a strong, fully integrated computer education program becomes a selling point (as it is for colleges that compete aggressively for students).
The take-away message about the future of computers in K-12 education is this: As long as the school monopoly is in force, the gloomy appraisal of Norris et al. is likely to remain accurate—DWYDLY wins. Force schools to compete for students, however, and you provide the incentive for massive change: online course schedules and descriptions; class Web sites with resources, problem sets, and solutions; virtual study groups; Web access and e-mail for communicating with parents. Only in such an environment, rich with computer tools, will any of the other computer uses we envisioned 30 years ago become possible.

Computer Literacy Press

Art Luehrmann has written a large number of computer-in-education books. He was one of the founders of Computer Literacy Press.

Computer Literacy Press was founded in 1981 in California as Computer Literacy, a book-writing partnership. From the beginning, the company has produced highly acclaimed instructional materials using a hands-on, step-by-step format. Arthur Luehrmann, one of the founding partners, was a pioneer in the early computer education movement, and is widely credited with originating the term, "computer literacy." In appearances at conferences all over the country, Mr. Luehrmann helped to influence the early growth and evolution of computer education.
The company's first books--programming manuals on BASIC and Pascal--were written and produced by Computer Literacy and published by McGraw-Hill. In 1982 , the Computer Literacy partners produced, and McGraw-Hill published, "Computer Literacy--a Hands-On Approach," for both Radio Shack and Apple II computers. Those books laid the groundwork for the first title published independently by Computer Literacy Press in 1981, "Hands-On AppleWorks," one of the most widely used AppleWorks books in education.

Up Close and Personal

Comment by Dave Moursund. I got to know Art when we were working with the Educational Testing Service to develop some computer literacy assessment materials. The breadth and depth of his knowledge and wisdom sort of blew me away. An amusing part of these meetings is that they were led by an ETS person why responded to many of our questions by saying. "That's a researchable question." Her response is indelibly linked in my mind with the pleasure of having Art Luehrmann as a personal friend.

Art made significant contributions to The Computing Teacher, a publication that I had started. I particularly remember his article on spaghetti code and the cover picture that showed a caricature of Art dealing with a plate of spaghetti.

Let me share some long ago history. Back when ISTE (then named the International Council for Computers in Education) was in its early childhood, it established a variety of Special Interest Groups. As the planning was going on for establishing a SIG for Computer Science, I contacted Art Luehrmann to try to get his involvement.

When I contacted Luehrmann, he was quite supportive of having a Computer Science SIG focusing at the precollege level. Indeed, he predicted it would be a huge success and might eventually grow to have a 50,000 membership. However, he was too busy in his own computer science education writing and speaking professional activities to add yet another commitment.

A SIG was established, but Luehrmann’s prediction of a huge market for it never developed. The world of computers in precollege education moved in the direction of computer applications, computer-assisted learning, and computer literacy that involved little knowledge about or of understanding of computer programming and other aspects of computer science.

Arthur Luehrmann's Past & Current Insights

This section is a work in progress. Here, we want to capture one or both of the following:

  1. A section written by the pioneer if he/she is still with us and is able and willing to write. We are interested in personal insights, retrospective analysis and comments, suggestions to the world of education, and so on.
  2. Material similar to (1) above, but written by the pioneer in the past.

Here is an example of the type of material that fits into this section:

Quoting from an article written by Art Leuhrmann in the Volume 2, Issue 3 (2002) issue of Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education:

Until editor Lynn Bell suggested I write a page or two about how things have turned out since 1972 (the year I presented the paper "Should the Computer Teach the Student, or Vice-Versa?" at a Boston conference) I hadn't reread this little parable in ages—probably not since Bob Taylor republished it in "The Computer in the School: Tutor, Tool, Tutee" in 1980. I enjoyed the reread, and I hope others will too.
And how have things turned out? That's easy. Out of Taylor's trichotomy, teaching tool use is just about the only impact that computers have had on schools. Walk into any middle or high school and ask to see the computers. Most will be found clustered in a computer lab, not in the classrooms. Go to the lab and ask a student what he or she is doing. The most likely answer is, "I'm working on a word processing (or spreadsheet, or database, or graphics) assignment for my computer applications class." They're learning computer tools, in short, even though they rarely use them outside the applications class.
The computer as tutor (then called CAI) is today limited to a few useful keyboarding tutorials and some drill-and-kill programs still inflicted on kids in mainly inner-city schools. The big federally funded CAI projects of the 1970s have come and gone, leaving little trace. And I, of course, say hurrah.

Books Authored or Co-Authored by Luehrmann

On 1/23/2009. Amazon.com listed 38 books authored or co-authored by Art Luehrmann. The first few and the mostent are listed here.

  • Use of the Time Share Peripherals plotter in the Dartmouth GE-635 TSS by Arthur Luehrmann (Unknown Binding - 1968)
  • Apple Pascal by H.D. Peckham Arthur Luehrmann (Paperback - 1981)
  • Apple Pascal a Hands on Approach by Arthur; Peckham, Herbert Luehrmann (Spiral-bound - 1981)
  • Macintosh BASIC (A Computer literacy book) by Arthur Luehrmann (Unknown Binding - 1985)
  • Computer Literacy: A Hands-On-Approach, Apple Version (Computer Literacy Book) by Arthur Luehrmann (Hardcover - May 1985)
  • Macintosh BASIC tutorial by Arthur Luehrmann (Unknown Binding - 1985)
  • Computer Literacy : A Hands-on-Approach, TRS-80 Version by Arthur; Hague, Nola J. (editor) Luehrmann (Paperback - 1985)
  • Hands-On Clarisworks by Arthur Luehrmann and Herbert D. Peckham (Hardcover - Dec 1997)
  • Hands-On Microsoft Office by Arthur Luehrmann and Herbert Peckham (Spiral-bound - Jul 1, 1999)
  • Microsoft Works 2000 Step by Step: A Hands-On Guide (Step by Step) by Arthur Luehrmann and Herbert Peckham (Spiral-bound - Mar 2000)
  • Microsoft Office 2001 Step-By-Step, Macintosh: A Hands-On Guide by Bonita Sebastian, Arthur Luehrmann, and Herbert Peckham (Paperback - Oct 2000)
  • Microsoft Office 2001 Step-By-Step, Macintosh: A Hands-On Guide by Bonita Sebastian, Arthur Luehrmann, and Herbert Peckham
  • Microsoft Windows XP: Step by step : a hands-on guide by Arthur Luehrmann (Unknown Binding - 2002)

References

Luehrmann, Arthur (1972). Should the computer teach the student, or vice versa? In Taylor, R., Ed., The Computer in School: Tutor, Tool, Tutee. New York: Teachers College Press. Retrieved 2/27/2010 from http://www.citejournal.org/vol2/iss3/seminal/seminalarticle1.pdf.

Miscellaneous, Not Yet Incorporated

Martha Luehrmann's page. http://www.alum.dartmouth.org/classes/tuck77/Tuck.StudentPages/LuehrmannMartha.html.

Author or Authors

The initial version of this page was developed by David Moursund.