INTRODUCTION I was pleased to be asked to make the keynote presentation for this conference. Its theme of Real-heft Learning has been one of the major concerns during my own academic career over a period of approximately forty years. I came to academia after ten years spent in public administration, by which time I had been appointed to a position of Public Service Inspector (EDP) in the state of Victoria. This was in the mid-60s when commercial computer-based systems were in their infancy and computing education was an emerging discipline.
SOME GENERAL HISTORY
- Until around 15 years ago, Australia had a binary system of tertiary education. Go back another 15 years before that and there was also a binary system of secondary education. In both cases, the binary division was broadly on the basis of “vocational” vs. “academic” studies.
- At secondary level, students were often separated into a vocational or an academic stream after the second year of secondary education (Year 8, in current parlance), i.e. at about age thirteen. The vocational stream essentially meant training for a trade and often led to an apprenticeship
SOME HISTORY OF ICT EDUCATION, IN PARTICULAR
- Against the above background, we can trace the evolution of ICT education in Austraha. In the late 1950s and early 60s, Australian universities began to acquire computing equipment. This was the province of Science departments and was available to a small number of science/mathematics students for whom the computer represented an advance on the electro-mechanical computation equipment then available.
- ICT education in the Institutes of Technology, on the other hand, was almost entirely commercially oriented. The early courses were a mixture of Diplomas in Electronic Data Processing (as it was then termed) for school leavers and the pre-cursors of today’s Graduate Diplomas for professionals in the workplace wishing to understand, and take advantage of, the emerging technology.
There is enough of the educational dinosaur in me to make me feel that real-life learning is valuable. For students to see it as valuable, staff must be able to present such experience with confidence and conviction. For staff to be able to do that, they must be at least aware of what real-life entails even if they have had no such experience themselves.