Computer learning in a girls’ primary school in England in 1984

Going through my mother’s many papers recently, I discovered this document – a 1984 summary of the computer training that she had introduced to the school in the early 1980s. The remaining pages that can be seen through the thin paper continue with details of the syllabus.

I’m sharing it here, because for me it reminds me of four very important things:

  • There is actually a long history of computer learning (and the use of digital tech for other types of learning) in schools, going back at least forty years. We should surely have learnt how to do this well in that time, and yet so many initiatives do not learn from the lessons of the past, reinvent the wheel, and make the mistakes that we made beforehand!
  • My mother taught at that time in a single sex primary school, and I have no doubt (from the messages I have received from those she taught at this time) that the girls she taught gained as good a digital training as any at the time, and probably very much better than most. We need to remember therefore that initiatives to teach girls to use digital tech have also been around for a long time, and yet we still don’t seem to have learnt the lessons well aboout how to do this!
  • Although my mother was a maths teacher, it is great to see that she was not only teaching the girls to use computers for maths, but also for music and writing, and that she was using quizzes and games in her teaching.
  • A final striking feature is that even back then she noted that about half of the girls had a computer at home (although I wish I knew whether this meant that it was their own computer or that they had access to a family computer). It remains essential for girls to have easy access to digital tech outside the school environment if they are to be able to use it effectively for their learning.

I hope others find this re-discovery as exciting as I do! The mention of BBC, Spectrum, ZXB1, Vic 20 and Commodore computers brings back so many memories of the early days of using computers in schools (and indeed in universities) at the time.



Filed under computers, digital technologies, Education, Higher Education

2 responses to “Computer learning in a girls’ primary school in England in 1984

  1. oi bowelye

    Hi Tim, Thanks for bringing this article into light again.

    My family was not keen on girls / women to learn any technology or computers. Yet I went against their wishes and I was glad to learn and qualified in computer technology.

    There are a lot of areas in technology and many women are now learning and getting themselves into this profession.

    Though I must say associated with long hours on computers bring health issues. Many do not realize this.

    I hope you also would research into health with computers.

    Thank you for an interesting article. Thiam

    • Tim Unwin

      Yes indeed – and I was thinking too about this – that in those days cybersecurity clearly didn’t feature – but I guess that was because there was so little connectivity to the Internet, and thus many fewer harms then than now. I completely agree that now there are serious health issues and harms involved – and much of my research and practice has been about these.

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