Computers in Education: A Brief History By Andrew Molnar

Computers in Education: A Brief History By Andrew Molnar

Who needs to remember anything when you can just google it? A paradigm shift has occurred which is moving learners from memorising facts to developing higher order thinking and problem solving skills. This is the cognitive approach and is useful considering our strengths and weaknesses in relation to processing information.

Learning has also, historically, changed from learning for many to learning for all; from learning controlled by schools to learning through media such as TV, radio and internet. With the invention of computers, learners were able to (for the first time) take control of their own education through self-paced learning and immediate feedback.

The most interesting part of this paper was the discussion of the constructivist approach.

The Constructivist approach viewed learning as a reconstruction of knowledge. Papert asserted that learning is more effective when the learner actually constructs a meaningful product. In building computer-driven LEGO constructions, the student learns to define a problem and the tacit practical problem-solving skills needed to solve it. Papert has tried to move education from “computer literacy,” an appreciation of computing, to “computer fluency,” the application of computers to solve real problems.

This approach is worth researching further. Minecraft definitely has a connection to LEGO and construction. Read more about the constructivist approach and see whether it has practical connections to gaming and Minecraft.

Computers have been able to create visual metaphors for abstract concepts (turbulence) or complex ideas (fractals). Increasingly, computers are required to teach concepts that are beyond human capability. Computer visualisation also restructures our way of thinking about a problem, allowing focus on higher level thinking skills because the idea (as represented by the computer’s GUI) is easier to understand and process.

Added to this is the invent of virtual reality, which allows users to develop experiential knowledge in an artificial environments. With the popularisation of distance education, people can obtain post graduate degrees in flexible formats.

While quite dated, Molnar’s history of computers is interesting. He raises a few good points about the exponential learning which is created with each new step in technology.


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