What To Do With A Computer? The First Computerisation Experience In Latvian Classrooms (1985 – 1991)

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Development of new technologies in Soviet Union were closely connected with the justification of the Soviet Union’s superiority over the Western or “capitalist” world in the circumstances of Cold War, with the country’s military potential first and foremost in mind. This pragmatic task was sold in the public space through Soviet propaganda channels, promoting the Soviet Union as a modern and innovative country. The acquisition of computer technology was compared to the elimination of illiteracy after the Russian Revolution of 1917 (Wellman, 1993). So, the entry of computers into Soviet classrooms was associated not only with educational goals, but also with ideological ones. In 1985, when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power, a new curriculum for the acquisition of computer skills was developed in the entire Soviet Union and the first computer classes were installed in schools. Gorbachev called on teachers to prepare well­trained and motivated computer­literate workers “selflessly and devotedly” (Wellman, 1993, 132). By 1989, 200 computer classes had
been established in 58% of secondary schools in Soviet Latvia (Vezis, 2005). But in the beginning, in 1985, the situation
in Latvian schools was the following: a subject Informatics was introduced in the curriculum, but schools did not have
computers, teachers were not specially prepared for teaching Informatics, and teaching aids were lacking. Besides, students needed motivation to acquire a subject which practical use was quite unclear to the teachers themselves. Everything
had to be started from zero.
Our study focuses on the period between 1985 and 1991, namely, between Gorbachev’s perestroika and the restoration
of Latvia’s independence. Our research questions are: What the actors involved in the teaching­learning process – teachers
and students – expected from the computer technologies? What practical obstacles and emotional barriers have been
encountered in the process of school computerisation? The sources of our research are 6 interviews with Informatics
teachers who started teaching the subject at the very beginning, in the mid­1980s, and 6 interviews with students who
were the first to learn Informatics at school, as well as 179 articles in Latvian periodicals devoted to new technologies in
the education sector. We will reveal teachers’ and students’ perspectives and doubts regarding the use of computers in
everyday life, the struggle with practical problems and the “digital (in)equality” (Samuelsson & Olsson, 2014) discovered
through computerisation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes
Event43rd International Standing Conference for the History of Education (ISCHE): Histories of Educational Technologies: Cultural and Social Dimensions of Pedagogical Objects - Catholic University of the Sacred Heart/ online, Milan, Italy
Duration: 31 Aug 20226 Sept 2022
Conference number: 43


Conference43rd International Standing Conference for the History of Education (ISCHE)
Abbreviated titleISCHE 43
Internet address

Field of Science*

  • 5.3 Educational sciences

Publication Type*

  • 3.4. Other publications in conference proceedings (including local)


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