Lucas Cherkewski 

Initial questions

In the 1980s, the Ontario Ministry of Education moved to create its own computer. Learning about this prompted initial thinking around this project, noted below.

Note: My understanding of this project has grown greatly since I originally noted these questions. Rereading them now, some are clearly based on incorrect assumptions or incomplete information. In the interest of research transparency, however, I leave them as-is.

Context

  • Broader introduction of computers during the 1960s–80s
  • Ontario government experience with technology
  • Technology in mass schooling

Potential research questions

  • Why were computers seen as useful?
  • Whaht were concerns around their introduction?
  • Why did the Ministry of Education create their own specs? Why not buy something off the shelf?
  • What happened? Why was the program dropped? Was it dropped swiftly? Consciously?
  • What was the Ministry of Education trying to do?
  • How did the Ministry of Education decide it was worth doing?
  • How did the ICON program [ICON was the name of the first computer meeting Ministry specifications] change administrative structures within government? (i.e. How did the tech reshape us?) What were the mandates of new bureaucratic units, how were htey connected to the ICON, what did they become?
  • What’s the lesson about government-mandated technology?
  • ICON as orphaned tech: hardware and software provided, but what thought was given to the pedagogical implications or steps of the rollout? Was it merely “here’s the tech, go make change”, or did training accompany it?
  • How did the ICON software address the naïvety of its users? (Computers were very new at the time, this one was meant for use by children.)
  • Is ICON an example of Ursula Franklin’s government supporting technology concept? What “infrastructure” did the government of Ontario create/support/bolster because of the ICON?
  • How did the ICON spur Canadian educational software development?
  • Why did the Ministry of Education pivot from the ICON to the stage 2 “software portability environment” approach?
  • What did the Ministry of Education consider so exceptional about computing that it warranted such expensive investment? Did this parallel previous technological investments?
  • How did the Ministry of Education prepare teachers and students (“society”) for the introduction of standardized computers? What do such preparation efforts indicate about contemporary views on educational computing within the Ministry?