Timeline of Technology in the Classroom - Curriculum & Instruction

At every grade level and era, new technology offers tools for student learning and success. From the low tech pencil that gave each student a way to write. To today's higher tech options including videos, apps, games and virtual labs. Each has its usefulness to make classroom instruction smarter and students more eager to learn.

Over the last 50 years, the evolution of technology in the classroom has changed as rapidly as the technology in our personal lives. But classroom technology goes much further back than 50 years. In fact, some of the tools listed below you may not even think of as technology, but were groundbreaking at the time and led to future inventions that improved the classroom experience for both teachers and students.

The Evolution of Technology in the Classroom

Technology is always changing to solve problems and to make life easier. The classroom, one of the most important places in our society, is no different. As technology in the classroom evolves, it changes how teachers instruct. Today's teacher uses less stand up lectures. And more group work using digital tools. Of course, all technology use aims to make life in the classroom easier. Through time, each fresh idea gives teachers more options to reach and engage students in new ways.

Applied to students specifically to help make teaching and learning easier and more efficient, the history of technology in the classroom is filled with inventions and enhancements, ranging from pencils and ballpoint pens to interactive whiteboards and tablets.

Follow along on the timeline below to see the growth of technology in the classroom. Also discover how the classroom changed to make room for new technology.

1564 – The Pencil

The pencil has a long history that dates to 1564. But it wasn’t mass produced until 1900. That was another big step forward. For one, the pencil replaced the slate and chalk. A light weight tool, it no doubt made it easier to give homework.

1654 – Slide Rule

The slide rule was for scientists and engineers. They used it to do math. In 1950, it made its way to the classroom. Here it was a very common tool. Until the invention of the calculator.

1650 – Horn Book

The horn book was a wooden paddle with lessons printed on it. Usually, it had an alphabet and a religious verse, which children would copy to learn how to write.

1801 - Slates and Chalk

In the 1800s, paper was still too expensive for many families and school districts. So, people needed a less costly way to write. Personal slates and chalk solved that problem and allowed for students to erase any mistakes.

1870 – Magic Lantern

This was the first attempt at the projector. The Magic Lantern projected images printed on glass plates onto walls. By the end of World War I, Chicago’s public schools had about 8,000 lantern slides.

1873 – Typewriter

Christopher L. Sholes first introduced the typewriter in 1873. His version only had capital letters. But by the end of the 1800s, others had models with both upper case and lower case letters.

1890 – Chalkboard

The chalk board is educational technology 101. If you think about it, the blackboard is part of many classrooms. Taken to its next step, are interactive whiteboards.

1905 – Stereoscope

Virtual reality and VR glasses credit the stereoscope. It was a 3D viewing tool and popular source of entertainment. Made by the Keystone Viewing Company, they got into schools. That helped teachers use images to illustrate points during lectures.

1925 – Radio

The radio allowed org's to send lessons to schools via a radio station. New York City’s Board of Education was actually the first to do so and over the next couple decades, lessons through the airwaves became the first type of distance learning.

1925 – Film Projector

Designed to bring movies to the classroom, the film projector was used in classrooms up until the early 1980s. Accompanied by an audio recording, the projector displayed still images that had to be manually changed as you advanced through the film strip.

1930 – Overhead Projector

The overhead projector allowed teachers to write specific points on reusable transparency sheets while facing the class, as opposed to turning their back to the class when writing on the blackboard.

1940 – Video

The concept of an image alongside audio over wire is from the 1870's. But in 1935, people coined the term video. By 1956 AT&T came out with a Picture Phone. It used analog tech, true. But some say video conferencing traces back to these early inventions.

1940 – Ballpoint Pen

Originally invented in 1888, the ballpoint pen was put aside in the classroom and life in general, until 1940. "Pens leak", said famous author Margaret Atwood, but pencils have erasers.

1940 – Mimeograph

One of the first copy machines, the mimeograph allowed teachers and school staff to print copies of class materials. Also called ditto machines, all you had to do was crank the ink filled drum.

1950 – Headphones

Some learners struggle to hear in class and focus. So headphones offered a way to reinforce ideas and class materials. Not just for music, they gave schools a chance to create language labs where students studied foreign languages. Fast forward to ear buds that also block out noise.

1951 – Videotape

The first videotape demo was in California. As time passed, this tech allowed schools to offer visual and audio learning to students. Once only still frames, these tapes created a movie theatre like setting. Later on, teachers would use them to show documentaries and films.

1957 – Skinner Teaching Machine

Behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner invented this too. The teaching machine allowed students to learn at their own pace. His model varied slightly from others that had been around since the 1920s. It put questions and answers on paper discs.

1959 – Photocopier

Today's scanner owes a nod to the photocopier. At the time, it gave teachers and admin the chance to make copies of class material. Almost at once, this new tech took over for the mimeograph and others like it.

1960 – Liquid Paper

Today, all it takes to correct a typing error is one click to the backspace key. But back in 1960 typewriters were still the only game in town. So, when liquid paper came onto the scene it helped students easily fix mistakes. Without having to tear up their homework and start over.

1970 – Hand-Held Calculator

Many teachers worried that using a calculator would undermine basic math skills. And that only delayed the initial rollout. But very quickly, the hand held calculator became widely popular. Let's credit it for today's spread sheets which use the same ideas.

1972 – The Scantron

The Scranton is a system of testing. Thanks to Michael Sokolski, it allowed teachers to grade multiple choice tests in a more efficient way. All they had to do was put answer sheets into the machine.

1977 – Apple II

True, Apple II had no internet access. But it still allowed students to learn geography and solve math problems using computer games on floppy disks.

1980 – Personal Computer

At first, the personal computer was a step past the type writer. Along with the Plato computer they made a splash in the education market too. Todays online learning environment thanks this vital piece of tech.

1985 – CD-ROM Drive

With a CD ROM Drive, one was able to save a whole encyclopedia on one disk. That is one of the many reasons it eventually took over for floppy disks. And we still use them on computers today. Though many classrooms use e books instead.

1989 – Online College

The U.S. Postal Service helped make distance learning a reality. But the University of Phoenix was the first school to launch fully online bachelors and masters degrees.

1990 – World Wide Web

Invented in 1990 and released in 1991, the internet wasn’t available to the general public until 1993. At that time, all connections were dial up. That made it slow since it used the telephone line and couldn’t handle video.

Still, the access to info and people from around the world helped its popularity explode and change the world. Thanks to search engines, one can ask a question and get an answer fast. Even faster with high speed internet.

1997 – Social Media

First on the social media scene was the site SixDegrees.com. Not educational technology at all. But let's credit these platforms for some positives. Like YouTube for instructional videos. And LinkedIn for professional development.

Many of today's schools also use social platforms to share news and events via live feed. And what better way to share a high school graduation with friends and family who can't be there in person?

1999 – Interactive Whiteboard

The interactive whiteboard is handy digital tool. So much so that many school systems are rolling them out. They use a touch sensitive screen, projector, and computer. Much like the chalkboard and overhead projector that came before. Today's models make team work easier. Plus, teachers can use them to give feedback.

1999 – First Laptop with WiFi

Apple launches the first Wi-Fi-enabled laptop ever. The event took place at MacWorld in New York City on July 21, 1999. Steve Jobs showed wireless Internet off as he walked about on stage with the laptop in his hand. Then, passed the iBook through a hula hoop while the crowd cheered.

2002 – Moodle

Martin Dougiamas came up with Moodle. It allows educators to build their own e learning website. And is now a well known virtual learning environment. Many people credit it for shaping online programs.

2005 – iClicker

The iClicker was one of the first tools that let teachers take polls in real time. It allowed them to offer quizzes and take attendance. Plus, it had the option to share or keep results private.

2007 – e-Reader

Paperbacks date to the 1930's. And credit for the idea of the e reader goes to writer and impresario Bob Brown after he watched his first “talkie” then wrote about his invention in the "Readies". Still, it was only in 2007 that Amazon launched the Kindle eBook reader in the U.S.

E books bring some flexibility to the classroom. For one, you don't need an internet connection. Also, they have features that enhance the learning experience. Annotation tools, bookmarks, hyperlinks, dictionary, and a search feature.

2010 – iPad

The iPad and tablets came after the smartphone. Unlike mobile phones, their use as a learning tool has more teachers on board. Above all since there are educational apps that engage and motivate learners. Plus, teachers are able to track students’ progress.

2014 – Google Classroom

Google Classroom came out in August 2014. It marketed itself as the one stop shop to save teachers time so they can focus on teaching. By October 2015, Google estimated some 10 million students and teachers were using it.

2018 – AR Powered eBook

Hurix Digital launches KITABOO AR. An Augmented Reality Platform that turns paper books into an interactive eBook. In the enhanced version of reality, readers can see, hear and take part in content. Very engaging and interactive.

2019 – Predicitve Learning Analytics

Big data in the form of PLA gathers attention for use in the classroom. Studies point to PLA as an asset to teachers and admin. It helps them know where to put resources, change workflows, or target employee training. Plus, it helps teachers identify learners who may not complete a course.

2020 – Ed Tech Apps

Apps are not new, for sure. But the trend towards their use is growing and here to stay. Mobile apps are making headway both to teach concepts and reinforce them through tutoring. They also address key issues that learners and teachers face.

One making a difference comes from the U.K. Mind Moose uses short animations to help primary students learn about mental health. It teaches about brain science and burnout. And aims to foster more self esteem and resilience.

What’s Next for Tech in the Classroom

As tech becomes more central to modern life, the use of computers is likely to impact both the teaching and learning experience. Here are a few next steps for tech in the classroom. They also help teachers identify learners who may not complete a course. Plus, there will be plenty of opportunities for distance learners to connect with on-campus learners through a single virtual management system.

AI, VR and AR

Newer tech in the classroom is likely to use more virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), or some blend of the two. This tech allows college students to take a virtual tour of campus. And, makes it possible for virtual field trips to lands far away.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is also big in EdTech today. Tech companies can use AI to provide schools with virtual mentors and teaching assistants. As well as improved automated grading systems.

Bigger Focus on STEM

The drive for innovation may encourage schools to offer more STEM subjects. A bigger focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) majors is likely to also fuel more interactive lessons and virtual learning labs. For e.g., companies may strive to develop engaging curriculum for robotics, cyber security, coding, and programming.

Video Games and Video Based Learning

We tend to associate video games with fun. That said, when used in educational technology, it may help students learn by doing. This activity based and project driven use of tech may grow as more grade levels make use of interactive tools.

Because Gen Z prefers video based learning, social media is making a presence in classrooms too. So, look for more from Youtube, Teachertube and BrainPop.

5G Wireless Technology

5G is the fifth generation of wireless tech. It promises more powerful networks. That is likely to mean faster downloads of student resources.

Collaborative technology

As more schools use online platforms, finding ways to keep peer to peer team work alive is a concern. As a result, there are more edtech tools that support online learning. Chatbots (e.g. Google Allo), apps, blogs, and wikis.

Students also use chat tools they already know from social media. Like Facebook, WhatsApp, or Skype. And for group projects, the use of Google Apps for Education, Recap, TalkBoard, GoSoapBox, and Padlet. These enable direct teacher feedback from a distance to help simulate in person learning.

Which New Technology Has Most Improved Classroom Instruction?

Classroom instruction got a huge boost with the internet and computers. This magic duo creates access, variety, research skills, and more. The online learning experience is now a mirror to in person lessons which makes it very popular. To that end, the number of online students in the United States is on the rise. Per the U.S. Department of Education, 6,932,074 students studied online in 2018 alone.

Online classroom instruction can take one of two forms. Recorded lectures and interactive lessons that make it possible to log in when you can. And live streaming sessions via webcam. Both use a virtual class management system. It connects you to peers and instructors as well as to your course work, online library tools and student services.

10 Benefits of Technology in the Classroom

Some of the benefits of using technology in the classroom include:

  1. Helps students learn at their own pace
  2. Boosts retention rate and student outcomes
  3. Preps students to use tech outside class
  4. Makes learning more fun
  5. Adds another layer to lectures and other class materials
  6. Appeals to a range of learning styles
  7. Allows access to classroom activities online
  8. Puts higher education and educational goals in reach for at work students
  9. Grows critical thinking skills as students must fuse knowledge from multiple sources
  10. Provides a way for teachers to test and observe students in practical and instant ways

Used with lessons, tests, lectures, and exercises, tech continues to be one of the driving factors that readies students for their future.

Which Technology are Teachers Using in the Classroom?

As the school year for many is online, many teachers rely on the internet. But there are many new technologies that liven up classrooms today. Among them are class blogs and wikis, podcasts and web conferencing. Many teachers also use things like green screens and easy to use whiteboards.

Adaptive Learning

Based on AI, adaptive learning is a tech that does just that, adapt. It uses an algorithm to interact with the learner. Then, tailors resources to user preferences.

Formative Assessment Apps

Many teachers use apps to check how well students understand material while they are learning. Some give quick feedback (e.g. Socrative) to teachers. Students log in and a box opens up on their screens. Each student then types in his or her answer to the problem. From there, clicks Enter, and their answers appear on a teacher's screen beside their names.

Others are great for quick quizzes and on the fly tests that help teachers get a vector on student learning. They might then modify their lesson plans or approach.

Project Based Learning

The Google Classroom app has many faces and uses. For one, it lets teachers and group members interact and provide feedback in real time. Students can also live edit together in Google Docs. And Slides allows for group presentations and papers.

E Books and Free Tutorials

Both E books and other online material provide a greener option than paper textbooks. It also provides teachers with resources to back their lessons up. Many sites offer free tutorials on just about any topic that may appeal to visual vs book learners too.

How Should Technology be Used in the Classroom?

The use of technology is an asset that aims to improve the way teachers instruct and students succeed in learning. When used in expert ways, tech motivates, connects and empowers. Studies by the U.S. Dept of Edu show that technology does in fact help with student performance. One of the things they looked at was the impact of computer based lessons. On avg., students who used them:

  • Scored in around the 64th percentile on student achievement tests (others avg. 50 percentile)
  • Enjoyed their lessons more
  • Were more likely to grow positive attitudes about learning

Will Technology Replace Teachers?

Even with all the technology that is sure to appear over the next few decades, teachers will still be needed. In fact, some experts believe that teachers will be more important in order to offer insight into why particular students are struggling and be thoughtful educators.

Discover How Technology Can Change Curriculum and Instruction

Does it interest you to become a teacher? Are you a teacher who wants to study ways to use classroom technology?

There are plenty of masters in teacher education programs available. And, a range of master’s in education in curriculum and instruction for you to choose from. Many MEd programs offer a focus in technology integration too.

If you prefer some help with your search, you could also complete the form on this page. It matches you with a perfect program for your goals. Or, continue reading to discover the types of teaching master’s degree.

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