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.