As the human experience evolved, thanks to changes in technology, so too did the functions of education. After all, if the earliest human classrooms consisted of neanderthals teaching their young how to hunt, then a teacher today using social media to help bring new ideas and connections to their students isn’t so far off… in the grand scheme of time that is.
Socrates invented the Socratic method of asking his students question after question to help lead them to enlightenment. Surely it was in the earliest days of the alphabet that educators took advantage of writing information on walls to assist their proteges and students to understand new concepts. But what were the education technologies that took us further by leaps and bounds?
Technology has constantly offered opportunities for teachers to improve their techniques and results in their students’ learning. What follows is a look at some of the most important technological advances used by educators that continue to push the threshold of learning.
The Printing Press
Already one of the most important technological inventions in history for being able to mass produce texts and distribute ideas and information, the printed book is one of the first and foremost cornerstones of modern education. While today we move on to a more digital based landscape, we must not forget that the ancestor of the tablet was this invention of the mid 15th century.
In the late 17th century, chalk and chalkboards were a staple in classrooms. They allowed for teachers to communicate ideas via writing for all students to see. These lessons could also quickly be erased so teachers could add more lessons and information. Somewhere in this time, a truant student had to stay after school to slam erasers together to clean off the chalk dust!
What pencils introduced was a way to erase! Now, in the early 19th century, students could learn from their mistakes in ways they never could before. The eraser is the metaphor for education. There will be errors as students work their way to mastery, but they don’t have to be permanent.
As the 20th century began, technology evolved fast and made notable impacts on the classroom. Radio allowed educators to explore new methods with listening and auditory lessons. Headphones eventually arrived a few decades later, allowing students to continue their listening and audio work on their own.
Along the same time as radios, the filmstrip brought a new visual component to lessons in the classroom, as well as the tradition of educational films and video to supplement teacher and text-based learning. A few decades later, video tape would replace films, then DVDs, and now today, all these educational films are digitally streamed.
The Overhead Projector
In the 1930s the U.S. military was using this machine, and it quickly made the jump to schools as a new way for teachers to present material and not be beholden only to the chalkboard.
In 1959, students’ cramped note-taking hands would be cut down thanks to the invention that allowed teachers to make copies of notes, readings, tests… and any other educational document they needed. Handouts would rule classrooms for decades to come.
In 1972, math and science teachers now had a machine to help students do basic functions. Some teachers were slow adopters, fearing students wouldn’t learn basic skills; a perfect example of how teachers had to evolve so their students still learned the foundational skills, but could enhance their work and results thanks to technology.
The Scantron Machine arrived in 1972 and helped expedite the grading process for teachers and their multiple choice assessments. Those green and white sheets would be synonymous with testing for decades to come.
The Personal Computer
In the early 1980s, the personal computer became available and entered classrooms. This basic device would soon become the key technology of the modern world, whether as a desktop, a phone, or platform.
In the 1990s, the internet went from fringe use to our new way to communicate and research information. Email, search engines, and social media would soon find their home on the internet, and the opportunity for teachers to use this technology to better educate students would begin.
Today, as technology continues to evolve and become a part of everyone’s daily life, we have seen how smartphones, tablets and social media have become essential tools in the classroom. Social media opens new doors to communication and expression of ideas beyond the classroom, and teachers are learning daily how to better use it to help their students find success.