Computers in Education

Before the early 1980s computers didn’t exist in a form which could be used by you and me. They were enormous, complex, machines which were used for financial and manufacturing “number crunching”.


Typical computer of the 1960s

By 2000, every school in the UK had several computers, many in dedicated rooms called computer suites, and “Information Technology” (IT) was a core element in the National Curriculum of England and Wales. 

The computers all had the “Windows, Icons, Mouse and Pointer” (WIMP) interface and a range of robotic and data measuring equipment had also been provided under government schemes, though these were less well used (more about that in this section). These computers were truly multimedia machines capable of working with words, images, sounds and even film.


Typical computers in the late 1990s (PC, Acorn, Apple)

Two decades later, computers have become ubiquitous, with touchscreens and mobile devices spreading so fast that the concept of “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) has entered educational parlance.


But computers are not about the hardware. It’s what you do with them that matters and in schools, they have a dual role:

  • You must learn how to use them (computing as a subject),
  • They help you learn other subjects (computers across the curriculum.

By 2014, this dual role had become muddied. Computing as a subject (or ICT as it was known by then) had often become little more than learning how to use Microsoft Office.

The full story of what happened between 1980 and 2014 is covered in this section. I’d recommend reading it because much is still relevant today.

Next: The 1980s - Computers Arrive

© Brian Smith 2015