EdTech: Before the Tablet

Education has grown from an industry centered around textbooks to an industry revolving around emerging technologies. Gone are the days when a calculator was the most impressive classroom innovation.

Education has grown from an industry centered around textbooks to an industry revolving around emerging technologies. Gone are the days when a calculator was the most impressive classroom innovation. And while Texas Instruments had us all ogling in our calculus courses with its graphing calculators (oh how we loved our TI-83s), students today have been treated to tech that has evolved to new depths. Educational technology – popularly dubbed “EdTech” – is a big deal. It has revolutionized the way teachers teach, and the way students learn.

EdTech hasn’t always been an ecosystem of computers, tablets and smartphones. In fact, the first real appearance of technology in a classroom is more analog than digital: the radio. In 1920s New York, lesson plans were actually broadcast over radio waves.

Teachers were treated to some instructional technology in the 1930s, including the overhead projector, which was a classroom staple for many decades thereafter.

Before computers made their way into school systems, students were introduced to the not-so-groovy Scantron in the 1970s — a more modern take on the antiquated punchcard, used to improve grading efficiency.

The first computer used for instruction dates all the way back to the 1950s, when MIT used it for flight training, but computers didn’t actually become fixtures in school systems until 1977. Before the days of Google, social media, and digitized news, computers in schools found other ways to bridge education with entertainment — before the days of educators embracing Minecraft, there was Oregon Trail and back in 1985, it was the first known educational computer game used by schools.

Fast forward to the 90s, where mailboxes were overflowing with AOL direct mail trial offers (via the beloved floppy disk and CM-ROM), and higher education institutions were offering expanded distance learning opportunities thanks to a handy tool called the World Wide Web.

Universities were quick to integrate technology into instruction, and grade schools were not far behind. Technologies like the Smart Board, tablets, and even smartphones have now become integral components of the 21st century classroom as instruments for instruction, as well as for study.

With wearables and other forward-thinking innovations in mobile technology and gamification, we’re excited to watch as technology continues to pave a dynamic path for educators and their pupils.

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