Technology is a Wonderful Thing

by Cody Smith

All throughout America’s history we’ve strived to be the best, have the best things, and be more advanced than those around us. This was shown countless times in our past, but today our advancements in knowledge, everything around us involves one thing, technology. But how has that come to be, how has technology affected our learning, our jobs, everything. How, we ask did it come from black boards and drawing stuff out to typing on a keyboard and simply moving a mouse?

Slate - Sometime Around the 11th Century

One of the very first and most important inventions for the classroom was the school slate, this was basically a slab encased in wood. To write on it, “The student scratched the slate with a slate pencil, which was a cylinder of rock, eventually to be replaced with soft chalk”. The sense of using a slate and taking it home required a bit more memorization than it did today, students then couldn’t exactly take home their notes because well one wipe and it was all gone.

Paper and Pencil - 1600s

We’ve leaned away from that and advanced to a more memory friendly solution known as the paper and pencil. The pencil however isn’t exactly a new thing; it was widely used by artisans and drawers of the 1600’s. It may have taken around 250 years but it has moved itself up in the world now used to write papers and notes.

Chalk and Chalkboard (BlackBoard) - 1801

The chalkboard was basically a larger version of the school slate, which of course, students couldn’t take home. We began using these simply because using paper and pencil for everything was to expensive. With that being said the chalkboard easily became the most used thing in the classroom with the ability to write numerous things for the whole class to see.

The only problem was whipping the board clean and having all that chalk dust build up in the classroom. It took time and effort to clean, not to mention all the money to buy chalk.

Whiteboard - Mid 1990s

Although similar in every aspect of the blackboard, the whiteboard is a plastic board, otherwise known as a dry erase board, which uses special pens to make colored marks, instead of chalk which completely eliminated any allergy complications from the blackboard.

Encountering some of the same problems as before, this doesn't take as much time nor effort. Dry erase markers are x10 easier to clean off a board than chalk and the markers lasted longer.

Stereoscope - 1850s

Around the turn of the 20th century, the stereoscope began to move into classrooms other than just in parlors. The stereoscope being around for around 60-70 years had already gained quite a good word with what some described as "The first mass photographic medium prior to cinema or television”. With the stereoscope being brought to the classroom, students could now look at a 3D perspective of whatever the teacher was on subject with.

This didn't have many disadvantages other than them not having one for every student. The cost for that would be just to high for all the schools.

Film Projector - Invented in 1879, First Screening in 1895

Although much like the stereoscope which projected pictures the film projector projected films. Adding to this advancement one other complimented it quite well, the radio.

With not a super high cost and big payout, this was a great thing that came to the class and the school in general. Only problem was getting enough copies of what you wanted to teach to every teacher. That was handled fairly easily though.

Radio - 1894 First Completed, 1919 First Broadcast and In 1932 Started to Mass Produce

With both the radio and the film projector students could observe and listen to a subject with the improvised experience of learning about a subject with one who understands it more and that can teach it better, or even help get a point across such as an important moral or life lesson.

What more could you ask for? You could listen to the news in school or you could set it to an educational channel.

Overhead Projectors - Used by The Army in 1945 and In Schools in the late 1950s

The next advancement, although seeming to take a step back, improved the stereoscope and bent schools into using overhead projectors. First used in WWII the quick accessibility made the overhead projectors a quick way to display notes in a more clear and precise manor, allowing teachers to write on transparent sheets with markers.

The one major problem I have found with this is the size, teachers are going head over heels just to set it up in the class and even then it doesn't work that well...

Mimeograph - Late 1960s

This is the mimeograph, which produced copies of papers, much like a modern day photocopier. Of course this was big but not exactly what people expected to be “advanced” with the radio and projector just recently out, this was mostly because it required to be hand cranked; it did however save hundreds of hours making copies by machine instead of by hand.

Headphones - Early 20th Century

Although not used in the classrooms until the 1950’s, headphones advanced from being moving iron transducers to electrostatic earphones. The main purpose for the great interest of headphones involved the use of the stereo, invented in the 1930’s but never found its home until the 1950’s. In 1958, John Koss, an American, developed stereo headphones specifically for use with stereo recordings. With the arrival of stereo headphones, the history of headphones changed again, bringing stereo headphones into recording studios and homes alike. Thus sparking the interest to use it in classrooms too, helping teach foreign languages and those who spoke those who spoke it.

Slide rule - Developed in the 17th Century however not widely used till the 1950s

The slide rule was a calculating sort of object that aided in math and wasn’t exactly the easiest thing to use. The slide rule could calculate anything from simple adding and subtracting, to roots and powers, to the all hated trigonometry.

If you ever use one of these, you might have trouble without a guide.

Video recorder - Introduced in 1956 but didn't make a boom till the 1980s due to high price

Out came the video recorder. In 1951, the first video tape recorder captured live images from television cameras by converting the information into electrical impulses and saving the information onto magnetic tape. This wowed it's viewers but the price of buying one and only being able to record 20 minutes at a time made this difficult for most to want. Even if you did want it, you probably couldn't afford it.

Many changes were made making it more compact and the video clearer driving the press crazy with excitement.

Reading accelerator - 1957

Now what didn’t excite people was the reading accelerator, man was that a drag! The reading accelerator, developed in 1957, was a metal box with an adjustable metal bar that helped the reader hold down the page. It was practically useless unless you wanted to waste even more time trying to put the paper in it than read it.

Looking at this, all there is to see is an invention to make money. Book marks do exactly the same thing except you don't have to worry about fitting a page into a piece of plastic.

Skinner Teaching Machine - 1957

Around the same time as the reading accelerator a more, well way more, technologically advanced piece of equipment came out called the Skinner Teaching Machine. Now this machine was quite something, it would present an equation in a window with some small part missing. The student would supply the answer by writing on an exposed strip of paper. Of course you needed to know what type of answer to present, but no worry it told you that as well. The thing teachers and students both loved was the fact that you got an immediate answer regardless if it were right or wrong. Over where it had asked the question, simply after you pulled a lever, the answer would drop down telling you the correct answer. Other advantages were moving at his or her own pace and being stress free to that of having the urge to always be right and always study.

It was self teaching and the students didn't mind it from what I've read. Very good invention for those who had a large group to teach.(Or just busy work)

Tv - 1958

What’s the one thing you usually do when you get home? It’s in your living room; it comes with a remote, come on, yes television! The worst thing now was the best thing then; they had developed television courses for school. It wasn’t nearly as bad as it is now though; I mean at least they were learning right? Development of those educational programs had begun in the late 1950s and quickly spread to colleges around the U.S. Through the next 8 years it would spread wide and far going to around 102 colleges and becoming courses. When 1959 rolled around the MPATI kicked in and televised 34 courses to 2,000 elementary and secondary schools in six states.

Some teachers loved this and some didn't. Initially they thought that it would just replace them and impact students learning.

What was good then is bad now.

Liquid paper (WhiteOut) - 1960

There’s always that one thing everybody hates, making a mistake with a pen or having an ink leak. Well, Nesmith Graham invented something to fix just that. In 1951 she came up with the idea of using a small bottle of tempera water base paint to correct her typing errors. She gave it to all her fellow employees calling it “Mistake Out” until 1956 where she changed it to “Liquid Paper”. Along with the name change, so did the formula and so did her income, or at least in a few years it would. Around the time of 1961, her invention became widespread and exploded across America and into classrooms all around to correct the mistakes of the dreadful typewriter.

Some teachers didn't use this due to the fact that it looks unprofessional in papers but it's been getting accepted more and more. Really only teachers had this stored in the class because students didn't really have the need for it on a daily basis.

This brand is still used today in every class I have. This completely changed everything and still is amazing today.

Filmstrip Viewer - 1965

Taking a step towards more modern day technology, the filmstrip viewer came into view. A precursor to the iPad perhaps, this filmstrip viewer is a simple way to allow individual students watch filmstrips at their own pace.

This wasn't trusted by teachers because it couldn't show proof that the student was actually watching it unless they stood in the back of the class and watched all of them. It's kind of like the computers we have today in the class. We are supposed to use them for educational purposes but most students use them for other reasons and the teachers can't catch them cause it's to hard.

Calculator - 1970s

One other personal use equipment came out around the same time. In 1970s the handheld calculator exploded in profits and investments. This small compact piece of technology replaced the slide rule, for those that had it and took a huge burden off the entire class. Although still used today, we’ve upgraded quite drastically to calculators that can do full out equations for us instead of numbers using simple multiplication and division.

Many many teachers were very weary of using this in the classroom because they thought it would impact the logical thinking and learning of math. It didn't really impact those who used it then but it seems as though it does now. Sitting in a math class today you will see that 70% of the class is using a calculator to do you're work, that is unless you're learning algebra but then still there are kids who don't know simple multiplication.

Plato Computer (PC) - 1980s

Now the biggest changes that have ever come to a school system, let alone our entire population, was the computer. The PLATO led the way to our computer advancement spiraling tests and preparations littering the 1970s. When the 1980s hit the PLATO had already starting moving to the classrooms, of course with it being so expensive there were small amounts of the PLATO population itself. Through the rest of the remaining years of the 20th century, time was spent on advancing the PLATO such as the CD-ROM drive and accessories making it run smoother and faster.

Entering the 21st century, technology took 200 steps into the future, coming out with the ipod, ipad, smartboard, most weren’t suitable for the classroom that is until now.

Technology has come a long way, and impacted many things, one of the most important being the classroom. We’ve come from writing on a slate with chalk, to typing with our fingers on a computer; writing on a board with chalk and self-copying documents, to using a computerized pen and clicking one button to make thousands of copies. The point is we’ve come a long way, technology has come a long way and we’ve found a way every time to incorporate it into our learning. From beginning to end, it’s always been out us getting smarter, going to that next level, and the things we come up with shows not only that we can, but that we are.

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