The History and Results of a Master's Degree Program in Computer Education

By Freyd, Pamela; Kahn, Jessica | T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education), May 1988 | Go to article overview

The History and Results of a Master's Degree Program in Computer Education


Freyd, Pamela, Kahn, Jessica, T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)


The History and Results of A Master's Degree Program In Computer Education

We are witnessing an era in which people enjoy unprecedented access to computers. These once-costly devices used only by specialists have dropped in price, increased in power and become easier to use. While it's clear that there are powerful applications for the computer in business and industry, educators have been struggling to define its place in schools. What is the potential of information technology for education? After several years of research on this question, it still stimulates much study and debate.

At the Graduate School of Education of the University of Pennsylvania, we have been exploring this subject for six years. Our investigations have led to the development of a master's degree program. The courses offered serve not only students aspiring to become specialists in the computer field but the university population as a whole. The master's program in computer education also fosters important research in educational technology.

The Development of the Program

Teachers with training in computer technology are urgently needed. Educational leadership will come from teachers who are willing to explore the possibilities of integrating computers into the curriculum. They must develop the potential of this powerful tool by exploring different ways of presenting information and new styles of organizing classrooms. The graduate program in computer education began as an effort to help interested teachers become those leaders.

In 1982, Dr. Louise Mayock and Dr. Ryda Rose--recognizing both the educational potential of computers and the role teachers would play in their use--developed an introductory course called Computers for Educators. When it was first offered, teachers learned to program in BASIC, LOGO and Pascal and wrote papers attempting to define computer literacy. Over the past five years, 1,000 students , administrators and graduate teachers have taken this course. The demand for it among undergraduates was so great that the course was adapted for freshmen and sophomores.

The content of this introductory course has changed dramatically over the years. We're no longer concerned with defining computer literacy, and we no longer teach BASIC in this introductory class. Instead, the use of computer applications is stressed. We teach the use of word processors, databases and spreadsheets, and we require that all written work be done with a word processing program.

The success of Computers for Educators created a demand for other courses that focus on designing and evaluating software, problem-solving, and computers in classrooms and the curriculum. In 1984, the master's degree in computer education was officially recognized at the graduate school.

We serve a diverse population. Our students are preparing to become software designers, curriculum developers, teachers and coordinators at the school or district level; computer science teachers both in the United States and abroad; college and university instructors; and trainers for business and industry. Many are experienced teachers, seeking to add computer expertise to their teaching skills. Our prospective software designers and computer science teachers were undergraduate computer science majors. Quite a few students enroll with a master's degree in education or certification in such fields as reading, science or math education or educational media. Therefore, we strive to provide students with a wide range of choices and an element of self-determination.

Course Offerings

We've always been aware of the difficulties of accommodating, in one graduate program, a group with such varied interests. We've tried to construct a program with something to offer everyone. We developed six courses which, combined with four elective and distributional courses, comprise the master's program in computer education.

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