Every so often a new idea is introduced to humanity that changes the world as we know it. Here are ten technologies, certainly not ordered chronologically, that forever altered education in American classrooms.
- Literacy: It’s hard to imagine formal education without literacy. Since literacy goes as far back as recorded history, inquisitive minds will just have to speculate about what education might have been like before reading and writing were invented. On the other hand, we do know for certain that most of the educational system is built around literacy skills.
- The Printing Press / Moveable Type: While literacy enabled the proliferation of ideas beyond human speech, the production of texts was limited. Most people didn’t know how to read or have any desire to read. There wasn’t much to read. Throughout the dark ages, literacy was mainly kept alive by religious groups and aristocrats. However, with the advent of the printing press and moveable type, literacy exploded. Since books and texts became readily available, people had a reason to learn to read. The culmination of this invention was the creation of the textbook, from which the educational system has yet to turn.
- Videos: Whether for better or worse, the introduction of movies to the classroom (whether filmstrip, VHS, or DVD) has changed the educational experience for teachers and students. This technology led to movie day, where a documentary narrated by Morgan Freeman could be shown in the darkness to a room full of twelve-year-olds. Some teachers misuse this technology (see the film Bad Teacher); some students just use this time to quietly whisper to their friends, draw pictures, or zone out, but sometimes students actually learn things that their teacher otherwise would not have taught them. As with most technologies, its capacity for good or evil will be realized by the bearer.
- The Internet: Due to the power of the greatest information conduit in the history of civilization, education has begun to change in ways that we are only beginning to realize. The internet has brought us, for better or worse, such breakthroughs as: online classes, class websites, class discussion boards, forums where students can beg for answers, easy access to education videos and resources, and world libraries that open right in your home with the click of a finger. Society has only begun to fathom the immeasurable ways that this invention has and will continue to alter how and where people are educated.
- Smart Phones: Whether super intelligent phones will eventually to improve the educational system is yet to be determined, but in the present they are creating a host of problems for educators. These sophisticated communication devices can distract students or be used to cheat in ways undreamt by the previous generation: instant messaging, texting, video games, YouTube, Bluetooth communication, and the entire World Wide Web in one’s pocket. Perhaps the establishment will fire back with more educational applications for this spreading technology, but good examples of such are currently few.
As we are in the modern age of invention, it’s safe to assume that technology will continue to change the classroom experience.