[P1] Researcher in the Computers in the Curriculum Project at Chelsea College London
Aug 31, 1980
Aug 30, 1990
Aim: To establish design leadership for teams of programmers developing computer assisted learning for secondary age students.
I was the first employee at the Computers in the Curriculum project to be hired as a programmer, their earlier programs having been developed by teachers, lecturers and helpers.
I took this post after applying for two others in the field for which I was shortlisted, firstly for the ITMA Research Fellow, and secondly to have been research asssistant at the Polytechnic of the South Bank working with Morfydd Edwards. I didn't get the first and declined the second in favour of the job in the Computers in the Curriculum Project, which offered greater scope and prestige as well as a longer contract!
Reflection: The design challenge of taking a finished piece of software and make it work in a quite different interactive graphical environment was a real foundation for understanding the interoperability issues and design questions for educational software.
My first challenge was to acclimatise to the more laid-back HE sector as a researcher after working as a teacher in school. My work was to take programs developed for minicomputers to output onto teletype which were distributed on paper tape, and make them suitable for use on microcomputers with 'glass-teletype' screens. As graphics capabilities became more widely available, we began to develop more interesting and visually clear outputs, often graphs, but increasingly diagrams and visualisations.
Reflection: The design of simulations that invited students to make decisions and evaluate consequences was based on innovative and learner-centred pedagogy.
In 1981, the establishment of the Microelectronics Education Programme (MEP) (Fothergill, 1981) by the government led to a large investment in the development of software by our project. This meant the expansion of our software team and our whole enterprise.
I was attached to several groups of teachers to develop simulations, notably the Economics 14-16 group (based in Stoke-on-Trent) and the History 13-16 group (based in Leeds). My activity was to develop software that responded to the teachers' ideas and specifications and that was suitable for the range of microcomputers becoming available to schools. I became responsible for the 'Subroutine Library' designed to offer an interoperable framework for development amongst a team of a dozen programmers.
Reflection: Teaching programming to adults in the context of their development as computer studies teachers caused me to consider the pedagogy of computing afresh with considerably more articulate and educationally aware students. Together with discussions with colleagues I developed a lifelong interest in the role of computing as a subject for learners. My widening role as a higher education lecturer at Masters level gave a broader view of the educational computing scene beyond the merely technical and towards a social, cultural and systemic understanding. As a lecturer in Mathematics Education, I was regularly visiting schools and engage in debate with practitioners so that I could keep my feet on the ground.
In the middle of this decade I was invited to teach programming as part of a new Diploma course to re-train a range of subject specialist teachers to take responsibility for Computer Studies. In turn this led to greater involvement in the Post Graduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) programmes, and finally I took on the rôle of Mathematics Education lecturer for part of my time and also designed and delivered a Masters module on the Social Context of Educational Computing.
Reflection: The role of MESU fellow made me take a nationwide perspective across private and public developments in educational computing.
Meanwhile my development work evolved into a Micro-electronics Education Support Unit (MESU) fellowship in Software Tools, for which I was expected to investigate and evaluate tools for authoring educational software. As part of this work I pioneered the use of the Compulink Information Exchange (CIX) online community to connect educational software developers around the country and to continue professional discussion beyond our face-to-face meetings.
Reflection: Team leadership for development of interactive multimedia gave me real responsibility for design and development guidelines for others in our large nationwide team, giving me a first taste of leadership in educational computing.
Towards the end of this period, I became involved in developing using HyperCard and with colleagues wrote books to guide others on how to design in this environment. We also began to create interactive multimedia and CD-ROM software.
Contribution: I designed and developed many educational programs, guidance documents, course materials and developed analytical models for evaluation of user-interfaces. I exercised nationwide team leadership and national leadership in educational software interoperability. My part: 100%
Originality, impact and importance: The Computers in the Curriculum project, first established in 1973, was one of only a very few world-leading curriculum development projects in its time to create brand new computer assisted learning materials based on a 'revelatory' approach using simulations (Millwood, 1987, 8). There were very few predecessors in the schools sector. It was funded for the first half of the eighties by the UK government funded Micro-electronics Education Programme, absorbing a large proportion of its budget. The materials were widely published internationally through Longman, BBC and others. The work covered a wide range of subjects in the secondary curriculum. (Watson, 1987)
Evidence: The project impact on the UK and internationally is evidenced in the Computers in the Curriculum Newsletter No. 6 (Donoghue 1984) Which shows the breadth of engagement, size of the enterprise and the impact being made at conferences worldwide.
(Words: 990 )