The (brief) History of Technology in Education

I wanted to take a little time on this dreary Tuesday to write about the history and the role technology has played in education as it has advanced through the years.  I didn’t  know much about it before this post and, with just a few minutes of your time, you can easily learn about it too!

I found this excellent interactive timeline created by Brian Tate. Seriously though, this guy did an amazing job and if you didn’t just click that link while reading this, stop what you’re and check it out!

If you still cant be bothered then maybe I can interest you with another, shorter timeline. This one was produced by The New York Times and is not quite as recent.

So what was the first real “breakthrough” in technology use for education? Well, both timelines disagree on the date (either 1650s or 1700s) but both authors agree that it was the hornbook that was the first “transformer” in education. The hornbook was a wooden paddle with printed lessons and biblical verses for the children to practice writing. The hornbook was also notoriously used as a paddle for discipline. Glad we changed that! From then came the various other firsts that soon were compiled into smaller, more efficient tools; the first projector, the first blackboard, the first whiteboard, the first online school etc. Computers as we know them today did not get introduced into school systems until after the invention of the Apple II in 1972. In their timeline, the NY times says that in 1980, schools averaged one computer per 92 kids. Now, the ratio is one in four. This means the last three generations of children have never known what it’s like to go to a school without computers. Both timelines agree that the last major advance in technology use for education has been the launch of the iPad in 2010.

We have come a long way, but how far must we still go before? Soon, we will produce generations of children that have never gone to school without a personal tablet. When we get there, what will be the advantages and the disadvantages? I read a post the other day about how a teacher could teach the concept of sharing if every child is plugged into their own virtual assistant? That question left me boggled for days. I am an advocate of technology in the classroom but even I couldn’t figure out how a teacher could supplement the social interaction when there is a monitor in their face constantly. Maybe that is where our next technological breakthrough needs to happen.

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How do you define communication?

I am no gambler but I’d bet that this is a question that you’ve never thought to ask yourself.

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Double or nothing? I’d bet it is more difficult for you to answer than you’d might expect. Don’t worry, you’re not being graded, and like most things in life, the answer actually varies. So let’s start with the basics….

What do you think communication means? Hearing the word gives me a mental image of a group of friends enclosed in a small room with the buzzing noise of several conversations taking place all at the same time. According to The Oxford Dictionary, the literal definition of the word ‘communication’ is the exchanging of information and/or news. The word “communication” derives from the Latin verbcommunicare‘ meaning to share. Share how? Here is where it gets a little tricky because communication may take linguistic or nonlinguistic forms (meaning it may or may not involve a language) and can be executed through various modes.

If you think of the word itself as a tree, the first few branches would be verbal communication and nonverbal communication. In his book, Body Language: 7 Easy Lessons to Master the Silent Language, James Borg reports that human communication consists of 93 percent body language and cues and only 7 percent verbal. [1] I find this particularly amazing. We receive more information during a conversation through what a person is doing rather than through what the person is actually saying. If you’re one of the people that believe talk is cheap, well, it just got cheaper.

Nonverbal communication covers combinations of body language and para-linguistic cues. Para-linguistic cues are a fancy way of referring to gasps and sighs. Other examples of nonverbal communication can include first impressions, posture, movement and body positioning, clothing, gestures, and proximity. By themselves, these individual factors seem insignificant. However, in the combinations of these factors, we interpret information that may intentionally or unintentionally be given. Verbal communication may by influenced by spoken word, or by a person’s individual tone, pitch, and other acoustic properties.

Communication is a complex process that can take hours or mere seconds, and can have a profound impact on someone, or not. Communication can also have meaning and content, or not. How are you ever supposed to truly know what is or is not communication? Well, that all can depend on who you talk to.