The History of Computers in Education

The first use of computers by high school students began in the mid-1970's. But during this period, students and teachers did not have direct access to them. Only mathematics courses used them, and it was primarily used to learn how to write computer-programming code like Fortran. These students would write out their program and then have it sent to one of a few computers available for education. The students would then have to wait several days, possibly weeks for a response. Most times, this response was bad news rather then good. The student would find that he left out a semi-colon or other 'small' error. This slow response time did not allow for very effective learning how to write in Fortran or use a computer.

Near the end of the 1970's, the new 'micro-computers' first became a reality. Then in the early 1980's, they began finding there way into schools. There was suddenly a low cost, small, yet powerful computer and some computer enthusiast teachers brought them to school. Many teachers started pushing the new computers, not even knowing how to integrate them into learning. But, with dropping attendance, schools felt it was necessary to bring the new technologies to their campus's to attract more students. Now, even though many schools had these computers, teachers didn't know how to apply them and they were ignored. In 1982, computers became more available to schools. This was made possible due to a deal that apple made with schools. They were allowed to buy 1 Apple II+ with a 128K floppy drive. All of a sudden, almost every school had at least 1 computer in its building.

In 1983, schools began arranging computer centers within each building. These centers were supposed to be for learning, but were at first used primarily for teaching about computers themselves. Special teachers were hired to run these centers teach students with confidence and knowledge. Later, around 1985, when the Macintosh and IBM PC's became leading forces, word processing and even spreadsheet work was being taught.

Today, computers are a part of almost every niche and cranny of a student's education. Most high schools provide opportunities to use and apply computers towards their courses. Even subjects such as History and Government usually require typed reports and projects. The internet, specifically the WWW, has become an area of great interest and use to many schools. The use of multimedia, such as electronic encyclopedias, has become another area of great use in our schools. Now students may converse with other students across the world, in real time if needed, watch a video clip and hear sound that goes along with it.

The Good & Bad of computers in the classroom

Computers allow for many good things to be possible. The WWW is probably the most obvious at this time. It makes possible, up to the minute, information from a multitude of sources. This allows a student to find very current sources so he/she may complete a 'good' project, which in most school libraries would not be possible. Computer applications such as CAD, MS Word, and MS Encarta allow for students learn 'real' skills, write neat and clean research papers, and obtain up-to-date information even without the use of the WWW.

Although there are many benefits of having computers and the WWW available in the classroom, there are also many problems that go along with them. Many computer based researching is done in a 1 teacher for 20-30 students, creating a somewhat unsupervised environment. Many teachers worry about pornography use during class, as well as chat rooms. Students who 'just play' on the computers, rather than completing the project they are assigned is also a concern. Plagiarism is a big problem when using the WWW as a resource. Teachers find it hard to know if a report has been thought out, or just wrote word-for-word off of an internet-based article.

Interactive Multimedia and On-Line Learning has performed extensive research towards this and many very closely related subjects. They ask the question: Just because new technology exists, do we have to use it? Also stated: We also have to remind ourselves that "using" a computer is different from "learning" with a computer. There has been no clear research about this idea to date.