A history of educational computing and software development for Australian schools 1970 - 1990

Author: Marcus Schmerl

Schmerl, Marcus, 2020 A history of educational computing and software development for Australian schools 1970 - 1990, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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This thesis explores two Australian educational software publishers and their titles during the emerging years of computing in schools through the 1980s – 1990s. Despite some existing literature investigating educational computing in Australia, there is a dearth of research into the environment leading to the creation and production of educational software and games throughout this emergent period of technological change in schools. Additionally, educational software titles have been paid little attention in educational computing historiography.

Existing at the intersection of education, technology, pedagogy, and policy, the research undertaken adopts a multifaceted methodological and analytical approach. Oral histories provided by recent interviews with programmers and educators informs hitherto unrecorded backgrounds, approaches taken, rationales, and intended uses of software created for Australian schools during the introduction of microcomputers during the 1980s. Key software titles (some of which were conceived of, programmed, or ported by the interviewees) and their paratexts were examined, providing examples of themes and trends explored in the interviews. Additionally, textual analysis of archival materials and documentation relating to educational publishers and their software was examined.

Two prominent and prolific Australian software publishers provide the cases for this study. Jacaranda Software, a privately-owned concern based in Queensland, and Satchel Software, an offshoot of the South Australian Education Department, both produced numerous titles for schools during the 1980s through the early 1990s. These titles spanned the curriculum and adopted a number of instructional and learning models regarding intended classroom use.

The software programmers were, in the main, self-taught educators. Although their backgrounds and educational approaches differed, interviews revealed they all possessed passion for and saw the potential in, and limitations of, the use of computers and software in schools. As the evolution of microcomputers and use cases of software in schools developed, so too did the software in terms of complexity and their various applications in school classrooms. Despite the apparent relative success, high profiles, and prolific number of titles produced by both publishers, they both wound down their production of software for education during the early 1990s. The cessation of educational software publishing by these two companies is a failure, but rather a function of the ever-evolving nature of the pioneering years of educational computing.

Keywords: Education, Computing, Software, Video games, History, Oral History, Satchel Software, Angle Park Computing Centre, Education Department of South Australia, Jacaranda Software, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, Atari, Apple, Amstrade, Commodore, BBC, Amiga, DOS, MIcrosoft, IBM

Subject: Humanities thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2020
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Susanne Schech