RE@L Team Blogger Honored! Don Rawitsch, RE@L Product Development VP, Named All-Time Tech Influencer by “Tech & Learning” Magazine

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We are honored to post RE@L colleague Don Rawitsch’s blog below, regarding his being honored by Tech & Learning Magazine. Don, along with two other colleagues, brought MECC’s  award winning learning simulation game, Oregon Trail, to the K12 and beyond over 40 years ago. According to Tech & Learning: “Today, over 65 million copies of the game have been sold, and it’s still selling.”

Don brings to us years of creating, leading, propelling, thinking about and acting on issues in educational computing. More importantly, he is continuing that work and developing new, far more powerful learning simulations. He addresses the needs of learners out there who enjoy gaming, what-if, and new, fun ways to learn.

Tech & Learning features the story of Don and his colleagues’ place of honor among the “Great Influencers” from Albert Einstein, to CAI pioneer Pat Suppes, to Adm. Grace Hopper the original debugger. Just click on the graphic to the right to be redirected to the rest of the Tech & Learning article. Previous RE@L blogs on Suppes and Hopper may be read by clicking on the red links.

Here’s Don’s blog on the story behind the Tech & Learning story:



Our goal at RE@L is to create great K-12 instruction. We intend to expand the way educators think about preparing students with knowledge and skills for STEM careers. We know this is important because it is the same process that launched the field of educational technology 50 years ago. Back then, people we today view as “influencers” helped expand educator thinking about how teaching and learning can improve with the addition of technology.

The online journal Tech & Learning is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year and has just published an article recognizing ten important influencers from the past. Just click on the magazine cover at the top, right of this blog.

Seven of these people are honored for their individual achievements. These include Patrick Suppes, for his groundbreaking work in the design of Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI) in the 1960s; Anna Verona Dorris, for contributions to the Visual Instruction Movement of the 1920s that suggested students needed visual stimulation in addition to memorizing text; and Howard Cunningham, for the creating the first “wiki” in 1994 as a place to post information and allow a community of users to add to and edit it.

REAL2The final three influencers are recognized as a team, and along with two former colleagues I am proud to be cited for the invention of the iconic computer game, Oregon Trail, in 1971. Besides providing fun for students, Oregon Trail was perhaps the first significant educational software application to allow students to control their personal environment, put students into a first-person adventure story, and use an extensive historical model to simulate important events from the past. Users learned about history, geography, and personal economics; strategizing success with a survival challenge, based on acquired experience; and how to problem solve in a team setting.

UnknownOregon Trail is an important component of RE@L’s pedigree because of its link to MECC, the forerunner company of the RE@L team’s experience:

1)   I joined MECC in 1974 and brought OT with me, allowing it to be shared with Minnesota schools;

2)   MECC created the personal computer version of OT a few years later, which became the product known to millions of U.S. school children;

3)   MECC’s success in developing and marketing classroom software, under leaders like Dale LaFrenz, Paul Gullickson, and Susan Schilling, was instrumental in the rapid growth of educational technology in the 1980s and 90s.



With Dale LaFrenz and Paul Gullickson’s creation of RE@L and recruiting Susan Schilling, myself, and others to the team, we now have the opportunity to translate this legacy into the creation of new STEM products. At a time when STEM instruction is so important to our country’s future economic strength, RE@L is building the model for effectively disseminating this instruction nationwide:

  • Creating investigations sold as complete packages to insure instructional consistency that can be implemented by teachers without deep STEM experience;
  • Flexible products that fit into existing school curricula while supporting the most up to date national standards;
  • Integration of the four STEM subject areas;
  • Student use of professional grade technology tools;
  • Unique online delivery Portal for supplying product materials, broadcasting sessions by STEM experts, and sharing student collected data across school systems;
  • Distributing products through networks of the intermediate agencies already established in most states to assist schools with innovation.

In closing, expanding the thinking about how to implement a new educational priority is our priority. RE@L’s team of influencers will show the way!


We at RE@L share Don’s belief that RE@L will lead the way in these new endeavors! Our new STEM based products and learning simulation games are on the drawing boards and are soon to be further changing K12 education and the way kids learn what’s really RE@L.

Again, congratulations to Don for this epochal honor!


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Tom King & Dale LaFrenz

Dr. Tom King has served for over 40 years as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Saint Thomas in the School of Education. The Saturn School of Tomorrow, formerly a St. Paul Public School, and his visionary response to educational reform, was a lighthouse on the frontier of school change. Tom was an experienced high school teacher of mathematics, a school administrator, and Director of Technology for the St. Paul MN Public Schools. He is also a member of the RE@L Team. Dr. Dale LaFrenz is Chairman of RE@L and one of the founders of MECC Software who brought “Oregon Trail” to millions of K12 kids everywhere. He has written extensively on the history and evolution of Ed Tech. His work in forging new paths for MECC’S “edutainment" software was instrumental in connecting school-markets, kids, teachers and consumer-markets/kids/parents, and now serves as the new launching pad for RE@L apps and software.