Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Robbie McClintock, CCTE ProgramBy mst • Mar 28th, 2011 • Category: Communication, Computing, and Technology Education, Lead Story
After over 40 years of teaching at Teachers College, Robbie McClintock, the John L. and Sue Ann Weinberg Professor in the Historical and Philosophical Foundations of Education, is retiring this semester. Growing up in a small town in Pennsylvania, just across the Delaware near Princeton, he reflects on his childhood as pleasant and semi-rural. During his younger years, he would explore the outdoors and tinker with the family farm’s set of tools. When he was about 12 years old, he had a friend whose father owned a trucking company, he and his friend “were able to design and build go-carts and would race them all over the fields and through the woods.” It seems that McClintock was a born engineer.
Although he lived in Pennsylvania, his parents believed that he would receive a better education in New York City. From third grade on, McClintock attended school in Manhattan and he “had this dual existence and did not know whether [he] was a city kid or a country kid.” Both of his parents worked in New York City, his mother a dress designer from the 1930s to late 50s and his father worked in investment banking. A fond memory that Robbie has from his childhood in Manhattan is that his mother had her design studio in a large industrial building in Herald Square. During the Thanksgiving Day Parade, Robbie invited his friends to the studio to watch the parade in the large windows where the parade would have its finale.
Dr. McClintock graduated from Princeton University and continued on to Columbia University where he received his Ph.D. in History & Education in 1968. During the mid-1970′s, he become aware of the possibilities of word-processing and computers. He pursued it as a tool but then “became fascinated by it as a cultural force.” McClintock, in 1982, learned more about what goes on inside a computer and was interested in figuring out how it would affect educational practice. The then president of Teachers College asked Robbie to chair the Computing and Education Department (which was not part of the Mathematics, Science and Technology Department at the time). This new direction in his position at Teachers College lead him to want to learn more about technology and computer science. He took Dr. Bruce Vogeli’s Pascal course and became a pretty good programmer – yet he considers himself a hacker and “accidental technologist.”
Robbie McClintock has always tried to bridge the gap between technology and education. “In the late 90′s, I decided that every kid in the world should have a laptop, it was too expensive then and is still expensive, but it’s getting there.” During 1991-1995, he was the co-director for The Dalton Technology Plan a $3.4 million project. From 1996-2001, he was co-principal investigator on The Eiffel Project: New York City’s Small Schools Partnership Technology Learning Challenge that was funded by $7,094,741 over the five years from the U.S. Department of Education, along with $11.2 million contributed by participants. With many other research and development projects, he most recently is working as a principal investigator for www.studyplace.org with the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning. This website is “a global pedagogical commons, a repository of knowledge and thought, free and open to all, in which we assemble and advance the world’s responses to this basic question, ‘What educates?’”
During his teaching at Columbia, he has taught a variety of courses. The course, Design and Communication in Contemporary Thought, stands out in his memory. “I enjoyed giving it a great deal. It was a course that looked at a lot of different kinds of ideas about the design process and the infrastructure of communication as a support for design activities.” From 1986 to 2002, he directed the Institute for Learning Technology, and shortly after decided that he wanted to go back to being primarily a cultural historian. “I wanted to write history rather than directing projects – so I have been teaching more courses in social thought and the history of ideas about education for the last 10 years.”
Now looking towards retirement, “I want to be free from the academic calendar. I want to devote more of my effort to writing; and I don’t need to be an active professor in order to do that. Although, I will miss the classroom and teaching.” He has many projects currently in progress. McClintock and his wife, Maxine, have been working on a book, Emilia: The City as Educator, a tribute to Rousseau’s Emile, which they are publishing online at www.studyplace.org. Another collaboration between Robbie and his wife, who is a TC graduate, is a children’s book whose main character is a little toy giraffe (with a very short neck) named Jake-ee. The stories follow Jake-ee, a spunky Upper West Sider, traveling through Scandinavia. The tales are based on Robbie and Maxine’s own six-week experience through Scandinavia. Robbie is very comfortable being abroad – he lived in Germany for a year and had a summer job in Switzerland as a young adult. Although, he considers himself a “true New Yorker”, he feels he knows Europe better than the United States. “I probably spent a dozen summers in Europe, I did research in Spain, and spent time in Germany and France. I really look at New York City as an European city.” With all of the important contributions that Robbie McClintock has made to Teachers College and education as a whole, it seems that rather than backing down for his retirement, he is revving up his voice as an intellectual and entertaining writer.
Please join us for a guest lecture to honor Robbie McClintock by René V. Arcilla, Associate Professor of Educational Philosophy at NYU Steinhardt, titled “An Existential Basis for Study.” Thursday, May 12th, 2-4pm, Cowin Center Auditorium, Teachers College, Columbia University, 525 West 120th Street, New York, NY 10027. Please RSVP by Friday, April 22nd, 2011 at http://www.tc.edu/events/9233