The Evolution of Educational Computer Software

By Cosmann, Richard | Education, Summer 1996 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Evolution of Educational Computer Software

Cosmann, Richard, Education

The Historical context

The third great revolution - computers and high technology (the first being agriculture and the second the industrial revolution) - has already fundamentally altered life for the better, at least for people in the post-industrialized world. This dramatic shift, as complex and challenging as it is, is really only an elaboration of the Babylonian-developed abacus (The New Encyclopedia Britanica, 1992). The abacus, in use for several millennia, automated arithmetic calculation. That the development of the abacus into its electronic counterpart took one or two millennia points out the sea change of scientific and technical innovation that was needed for such growth.

Educational Software for Mainframe Computers

Computer software that is designed for educational purposes, and that is run on personal computers, is only a recent phenomenon. Nevertheless, it promises such a revolution in teaching that educators are just beginning to grasp its significance. Mainframe computers appear to be on the way out - and with mainframes their top-heavy, complex and expensive applications (Marsh II, 1993). As the mainframe use proliferated (during the 1960's and 1970's), educational software developed for it took the form of large, octopus-like organisms, that were accessible only from dumb terminals that offered little or no flexibility. Vaskevitch (1993) also notes "how primitive and limited the terminal interface" for mainframes was.


Plato (programmed logic for automatic teaching operation) was created in the 1960's. White and Hubbard (1988) report that in its original heyday, Plato provided 7000 hours of instruction in 150 subjects in a nationwide school network. Plato at first was programmed to run on mainframes, but later evolved to a personal computer program. Due to its high cost and the need for computer support personnel, however, Plato was not widely used in classrooms across the U.S.

Another development of the 1960's was Computer Curriculum Corp. (CCC). In their software, students got immediate answers to their entries before they could proceed to higher levels. Moreover, CCC's software kept records on the performance of each student (White and Hubbard, 1988).


A programming language called Logo was ushered in during the 1960's. Pfaffenberger (1993) writes that it "provides an environment in which children can develop their reasoning and problem-solving skills." It has been used to teach programming to children. White and Hubbard further state that it is heavily used in "elementary school computing programs." Logo supports graphics and a feature called "turtle".


Another product of the 1960's - programmed learning - in its earliest version made a rigid presentation of subject material. It emphasized skills, not critical thinking. As it was modified later, it incorporated interactive and multimedia features. Finally, IBM then offered a programming language called Coursewriter. This software permitted teachers to write course outlines, hand-outs and tests on mainframe computers. Coursewriter (in later versions II and III) developed into an authoring language for computer-assisted instruction, as reported by Reeves (1986). The term "authoring language" is described later in this piece, where it is referred to as: "hypermedia authoring software".

Factors Limiting Use of Educational Software on Mainframes

Among the factors working against the school use of mainframe computers were: 1. exorbitant cost; 2. the limited number of software; 3. educational software was still difficult to translate into lesson plans and class use; and 4. teachers had little experience using such software (White and Hubbard, 1988).

Educational Software Designed for Personal Computers

The advent of personal computers in the 1980's made school use of software more practicable, affordable and beneficial. Computer assisted instruction (CAI), computer managed instruction (CMI) and computer-based education (CBE) emerged as methods of computer use in schools (White and Hubbard, 1988).

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

The Evolution of Educational Computer Software


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.