June 14, 2024

Not Lost Forever

Neither MLC or Coombabah, but early 1990s 1:1 computing

During the (US) summer of 1990, I had the great fortune of leading professional developments in the world’s first two 1:1 “laptop schools.” This work was rooted in the vision of Seymour Papert and sought to reinvent schooling in a modern progressive fashion. The work of Methodist Ladies’ College in Kew (Melbourne), Victoria is widely remembered as the world’s first laptop school, due to its visionary principal David Loader and its remarkable faculty. They committed to every child having a personal laptop computer and programming it across the curriculum in 1989. Around the same time, the Australian State of Queensland publicly committed to 1:1 computing, starting with a pilot project at the Coombabah State Primary School. I worked in both locations initially and my American public education sensibilities predicted that the Queensland effort would be most successful. I was quite wrong, but was blessed to continue working with MLC and countless other Australian schools over the past 31 years.

The “MLC Story” has been well documented in conference papers and books, but the equally important Coombabah Project could easily be lost to history. I was aware of two research-based books published about this work and have been eager to get my hands on copies for many years. I’ve spent the past decade or so badgering colleagues to help me locate, preserve, and disseminate the books published by Australia’s premiere educational research institution, the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER). Thanks to Pru Mitchell and her colleagues, that work is now available as a historical record and for future scholarship. They even produced a thesis I was unaware of.

I could not be more excited to share this news with the world! (The following documents may be downloaded as PDFs)

The following are some of the other seminal books, doctoral theses, and articles detailing the origins of 1:1 computing in Australian schools and the world. Reflections of a Learning Community is digitized and online. One day, I hope to share the rest of the documents and more.

A larger curated collection of resources and articles related to 1:1 computing in schools may be found here.

The early 1:1 computing initiatives were rooted in the powerful ideas of Dr. Seymour Papert. I have archived countless Papert papers and multimedia presentations (hopefully with more to come and an improved design) at The Daily Papert.