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 Robb Lindgren's Stanford Speech  

September 23, 2008

Iím Robb Lindgren. I started here at the School of Education the same year as Amir, we were both in the LSTD program, we both worked on the DIVER project, and we were both assigned to Dr. Pea as our advisor.

Let me start by sharing with you my favorite Amir story

Beginning of our 2nd quarter, talking up on the 4th floor

Decided at the last minute to take an HCI class, which coincidentally was being held in this room

Got to the class about 5-10 minutes late, sat in the back row

Everyone was filling out questionnaire packets and so we grabbed ones for ourselves and started filling them out as well

What we didnít know is that students had also been asked to make a sketch on a blank piece of paper of their favorite interfaces, whether it be a computer technology, household appliance, etc.

So just when Amir and I were finishing up our surveys students were beginning to post their sketches at the front of the room so that they could describe them to the whole class.

I decided at that point that I was just going to lay low and try to get by without having made a sketch

But Amir was not about to let an opportunity to share his thinking in a public forum go by

He whipped out a piece of paper and furiously began scribbling a sketch. He was drawing for about 20 seconds before he leapt out of his chair, walked to the front of the room, and taped his sketch with authority in the center and above all the others.

What Amir had drawn looked something like this...

So up and above all these nice sketches of microwave ovens, portable game players, and vacuum cleaners, Amir had placed a cartoon sketch of a handgun.

When Amir sat down you could sort of sense everyone sitting around us sort of learning away from us.

Well, one by one the students in the class got up and gave awkward little descriptions of what they had drawn. This was, after all, their opportunity to demonstrate to the instructor that they already knew everything that they would be learning about in this quarter long class.

And then it was time for Amir to describe his sketch. I was more than a bit concerned that he was about to go off an some kind of sarcastic and obstinate rant. But instead, he gave a rationale for his choice of interfaces that serious, articulate, and objective.

As he explained, the social significance and the misuse of his choice was not the point, the simple fact was that it is a masterful interface for conveying the intended use. Its form suggested grasping as though it was the extension of oneís armófor someone who had never seen one before, learning its use would be effortless.

Amir sat down with a content little smile on his face, and Iím pretty sure that at least half the audience was left contemplating the purchase of a brand new Smith & Wesson

Part of what it such a tragedy that we lost Amir so early in the program was that he was willing to cut through the theoretical minutiae and get his hands dirty working with new technologies. He sought simplicity and practicality, and he was not afraid to confront people with their shaky assumption.

He was a designer and an empiricist. He wanted to build stuff and see how it worked at helping or not helping people learn. I am confident that Amir would have completed this program having created a great many innovative technologies for education and the greater good.

This fund that the Lopatin family has established will help this community to do the kind of work and engage in the kinds of pursuits that Amir would have championed.

Unlike many of the programs here at Stanford, students often come into LSTD with a great deal of experience and expertise, whether it be years of programming experience like Amir had, teaching experience, or design experience.

But to be successful in a doctoral program students often have to let set their talents aside so that they can become acclimated into an academic culture. The expectations for accumulating knowledge about theory and research practices is so high that students often donít have the time to work on developing a passion project. Students often canít afford to take a summer to program a new learning technology or develop a new curriculum that targets underserved communities.

I am tremendously excited for next generation of students that these kinds of opportunities will be sponsored by the Amir Lopatin fund. Itís a fitting tribute to a friend and a promising scholar who sought to make the world a better place by getting his hands dirty.


Last Updated Tuesday, November 25 2008 @ 05:22 PM Eastern Standard Time; 2,358 Hits View Printable Version