In this lesson, we are going to look at technology in education and how it has changed over the past 40 years. We’ll look at the earliest forms of technology, where we are today, and what technology will look like in the future.

Technology in the Classroom

Many of today’s classrooms no longer resemble the classrooms that we may remember as children. Chalk has been replaced with a stylus pen, and with a touch of the screen, you can change what color you want your stylus pen to write in on the board. Textbooks have been replaced with e-readers, and parent-teacher conferences can be conducted via video conferencing.

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Technology serves different purposes within the classroom. Technology can be used as a research tool for class projects and to enhance lessons. Technology can also be used as a communication device for students that have limited verbal abilities. This lesson will focus on the evolution of technology within the classroom – how we’ve moved from the chalkboard to personal devices.

First, we must define the term technology in relation to education. Technology is any tool that can be used to help promote student learning, including Smartboards, digital cameras, cell phones, tablets, the Internet, social media, and, of course, the computer. The Office of Educational Technology wants school districts to create relevant learning experiences that mirror students’ daily lives. As educators, how often do we see our students using their personal devices, such as cell phones, throughout the course of the day?

It doesn’t matter how young or how old the student is – all students gravitate towards technology. The more technology you use within the classroom, the more students are engaged. Think back to when you were a student. What did technology look like for you during that time? What did it look like when you first began teaching? What does it look like today in your class? Let’s take a look at how classroom technology has changed over the past 40 years.

Evolution of Technology

Classroom technology started out as very primitive. Teachers stood at the front of the classroom and wrote instructional material on a chalkboard. Notes, messages, and the like were written on these boards with chalk. Later it would be paper and pen being used at each desk.

Around 1972, the first handheld calculators began to appear within the classroom. This allowed students to quickly solve math problems. Around that same time, teachers were able to quickly grade tests thanks to the development of the Scantron machine. Scantron machines would automatically score tests and analyze results for teachers.

In 1981, IBM introduced its first personal computer. Although many knew that the computer would change the world of education, it had serious limitations. Computers during this time were used for basic word processing. We wouldn’t see the full benefits of the computer until the birth of the World Wide Web in 1990. With the World Wide Web students were able to conduct basic research without setting foot in a library. Communication was becoming easier as more students, teachers, and parents began to adopt this new technology.

In the 2000s, social media further enhanced the ways we could communicate with our students and parents. Schools are continually looking at various ways to incorporate technology into everyday use, from accessing webpages to communication with parents. Teachers are able to use cell phones to record attendance, as well as scanning documents to quickly grade tests.

Technology Today

Think back to how you used to communicate with your students and parents. Maybe it was a note sent home or a phone call after school. Today we can quickly send an email or text to a parent. We can even send out a mass message to a group of parents from one of our class segments. Many teachers today have a webpage where class information can easily be posted. Important announcements and assignments can be posted online in other ways as well. Students can turn in their assignments by simply pressing the send button in their email.

During parent conference week, how did you schedule your meetings? Chances are that you penciled in a date on your desk calendar for each of your parents, sent home an invitation with the date of the meeting, and waited for your student to bring the invitation back to school. Today, we can create a calendar online, email a link to the calendar to each of our parents, and they can type into the calendar the date and time they are available to meet with you.

In addition to communication, how do you check your students’ understanding of a given topic? You probably sit with the student, or a group of students, to check for their understanding of the lesson. Now, we can ask a question, have the student hold up a card with a printed quick response code, scan the card from a distance with the camera in our cell phone or tablet, and record their response. A quick response code is similar to a barcode, but they have a larger capacity for storing information than the barcode.

Technology Tomorrow

What will technology in schools look like in the future? We may see the end of computers in the classroom; they will be replaced with more portable devices, such as tablets. Lessons won’t be saved to a thumb drive or external hard drive, they’ll be saved to a cloud drive.

Another possibility would be the end of a brick and mortar school. Today, students are able to take certain courses online. Many states are creating virtual schools for students to attend. All that’s required is a computer, access to the Internet, a video camera, and a microphone. Teachers are able to deliver content from a remote site, such as their home, and students can attend class from the luxury of their home. Teachers also have the ability to collaborate with other teachers from across the globe by using online learning environments or learning management systems.

Educational capabilities are growing and changing every day as technology evolves. Technology is a part of virtually every aspect of our daily lives. As educators, we must embrace it and use it to its full potential within our classrooms. Where it leads, only the future knows.

Lesson Summary

In this lesson, we looked at technological changes within education over the past 40 years. Technology was very basic in its early stages within the classroom, beginning with the chalkboard and pen and paper, moving on to calculators and Scantron machines, and now involving the internet and cellphones. As technology continues to change, so will our classrooms.