The purpose of microcomputers in primary education
This thesis examines, conceptually and empirically, the educational role of microcomputers in primary schools. The first part of the thesis is, in the main, theoretical. It is concerned with making more explicit the meaning of the term 'computer education' and the kinds of activities to which it may legitimately refer. The first chapters seek to substantiate the argument that, in essence, 'computer education' is an attempt to use computers in ways which foster and promote the quality of the educational processes provided by schools. Having considered computer education from a theoretical perspective, it is then explored empirically. An interpretive research methodology was utilized. The methods used to gather data were thus mostly qualitative, rather than quantitative. Case studies were undertaken to illuminate the ways in which computer education was interpreted in three primary schools. Attention focused on the educational values implicit in policy and practice and on identifying correspondence and discrepency between how computers were used and the educational philosophies espoused by individual teachers and schools. The empirical research revealed that imprecise, non-explicit and largely unarticulated intentions were being pursued by teachers in their employment of computers. No particular educational rationale was being explicitly adopted, even though, some close affinity between educational values and classroom practice would seem to be essential if the notion of 'computer education' is to have any real meaning. However, the conclusion of this thesis is not to doubt the importance of microcomputers in primary education. Rather, it is to suggest that fundamental questions about the educational purpose of computers need to be more rigorously addressed if computers are to be integrated into the curriculum of the future in ways which hold out some promise of improving the quality of educational experiences offered by primary schools.