Mostly, there was little forethought into why it was important to spend significant funds on the new technology. What was important was appearing to be providing one’s students with cutting-edge technology.
One of the highlights of guided tours for prospective parents was invariably the computer lab with freshly unpacked stand-alone computers with kilometers of wiring and cabling.
Some principals I met would spruik to their wide-eyed customers the glories of the new technology which would herald a golden age in education, despite the fact they personally did not know how to turn on a computer.
It was immaterial that there was little available educational software and that the whole school population had to share the computer lab, which meant each student would spend less than an hour per week on the machines! A school could be judged simply by the number of computers it had purchased!
Even in that early pre-internet era, unproven extravagant claims were being bandied around about the digital revolution and that computers might even supersede teachers in the future. The very few teachers who had any experience with computers became gurus and beneficiaries of exorbitant budgets which were gobbled up by jazzy computer lab configurations and furnishings and banks of computers doomed to be very quickly obsolescent.
The fervor for this embrace of computer technology in schools - which became the goose that laid the golden egg for IT companies - was even more evident when schools had to choose which platform they would import.
Apple fans ridiculed their PC counterparts with their clunky MS DOS, while in turn were ridiculed for the cost of child-like programming turtles which distracted students from the pursuit of business-conducive spreadsheets and data bases.
Their scorn for each other’s systems was palpable and the claims and counter-claims outrageous and fanatical. It was more than the passion one might have for one’s football team; this allegiance to one’s chosen platform was existential and religious.
Anyone who dared to question whether it was prudent to sell one’s soul to Apple or Microsoft was condemned as a Luddite or heretic.
We were, and still are, witnessing an unprecedented crusade in our schools which has above all else lined the pockets of the big IT companies. The epitome of modern mass marketing - a computer on every desk!
Computerphiles will be outraged if one demands evidence that this Education Spring has delivered on its over- inflated revolutionary promises. The decline in academic standards, the almost-daily reports of the often-unintended deleterious side-effects on children with the mindless embracing of IT do little to douse the dogmatic fervor of the zealots.
They will protest that cyberbulling, addiction, anti-social behavior and objectionable on-line content are a small price to pay for the ubiquity of this miracle technology which, like the promised educational promised land, has failed to materialize.
This blind techno-fundamentalism, like its historical religious antecedents, will eventually be exposed.
Does this make me a computerphobe, a luddite dinosaur and an enemy of those who clamber to become Microsoft-blessed schools and those who demand that their teachers use IT in every lesson regardless of its relevance and efficacy?
Obviously, computers are powerful tools. But that depends on how they are used. Even if we overlook the exaggerated claims of IT ideologues, we must not be blind to the increasingly worrying, damaging side-effects and at least be willing to listen to some words of caution.
In that respect, forcing every student to code is far less important than teaching students about IT and the personal and social dangers that the blind acceptance and embrace of technology might bring.