The history of the modern computer age is a brief one. It has been about 50 years since the first operational computer was put into use: the MARK 1 in 1944 at Harvard and ENIAC in 1946 at the University of Pennsylvania. Early use of computers in education was primarily found in mathematics, science and engineering as a mathematical problem-solving tool, replacing the slide rule and thus permitting students to deal more directly with problems of a type and size most likely to be encountered in the real world.
In 1959, at the University of Illinois, Donald Bitier began PLATO, the first, large-scale project for the use of computers in education. The several thousand-terminal system served undergraduate education as well as elementary school reading, a community college in Urbana, and several campuses in Chicago. Thus, the era of computers in education is little more than 35 years old.
The Early Pioneers
At Dartmouth, in 1963, John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz transformed the role of computers in education from primarily a research activity to an academic one. They did not like the idea that students had to stand in long lines with punch cards for batch processing. So they adopted the recently demonstrated concept of time-sharing that allowed many students to
interact directly with the computer. The university developed the time-shared system and expanded it into a regional computing center for colleges and schools. At the time, most programs were written in machine language or FORTRAN. Kemeny and Kurtz developed a new, easy-to-use language, called BASIC. It spread rapidly and was used for the creation of computer-based instructional materials for a wide variety of subjects and for all levels of education.
RAPID GROWTH OF COMPUTER-BASED EDUCATION
In the late 1960s, in order to make access to computers widely available, the National Science Foundation (NSF) supported the development of 30 regional computing networks, which included 300...
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