Carolyn Sweeney 505

From Chalkborad to SMARTboard

The advancements of classroom technology

Public education has come a long way from its beginnings in the early 1600’s. However, when you take a look at the advancements of educational technologies, it is clear we have only scratched the surface of what is to come.

One of the biggest advancements in educational technology was created in 1890. The invention was the school slate and chalkboard. The school slate was a small piece of slate with a wooden frame and was used by students as a form of communication. During that time, the slate was a cheaper alternative to paper. A former geography teacher and head of the Old High School of Edinburgh named James Pillans invented the chalkboard. He hung several school slates together on a wall to better convey information to his students. It was then adopted by the United States Military Academies and began to spread into grammar schools.  The chalkboard still holds a prominent place in many classrooms to this day. Originally both students and teachers used a smaller piece of slate to write on the boards until chalk was used as a cheaper and easier alternative. Both the use of the chalkboard and school slate allowed teachers to convey information to large amounts of students. In the early 1900’s class sizes were large and the philosophy was learning through route practice.

In 1920 the U.S Department of Commerce began licensing educational radio stations and a new technology was introduced into the classroom as an auditory aid. However, many of the programs were too advanced for grammar school children and would eventually be replaced by film in 1930.  From1941 to 1945 the U.S Office of Education produced over 400 sound motion films, silent filmstrips and instructors manuals.  Coronet Instructional Films were one of the leaders in creating short films that targeted teenagers and things related to their lives. Examples include films on hygiene, social situations and how to be a good employee. Over the next 30 years film would take over the education field. It was not only educational but it solved the problem of teaching to overpopulated classrooms and a shortage of teachers.

It was in the 1950’s that technology flourished and the world as we know it changed forever.  Computers were invented, however, at this time their purpose was for government and business use only, due to their expensive cost. In 1951 the first commercial computer was created by John Preper Eckert and John W. Mauchly named The Universal Automatic Computer (UNIVAC).  This computer is significant because it was the first computer to be commercially sold. Two years later IBM created the 701. This computer was invented by Thomas Johnson Watson Jr. who wanted to help aid the United Nations policing of Korea during the Korean War. These inventions sparked a revolution of technology that is still continuing today.

Even to this day, new educational technologies are normally envisioned and created by non-teachers.  An example of this would be B.F. Skinner, a behaviorist and psychologist at Harvard University. In 1958 Skinner invented one of the first teaching machines that changed the way students learn and teachers teach. The name of this machine was called The Teaching Machine. This machine gives the students instant reinforcement through self-paced instruction. It works very simply. On the left side of the machine is a question that is provided by the teacher, while the right side is where the student provides the answer. Once the answer is provided by the student, they operate the machine and learn immediately if the answer is correct or not. With this immediate response the student learns to be more effective by getting positive reinforcement of the right answer.  It also motivates the student by relieving any anxiety of whether they are right or wrong.  Skinner’s teaching machine created a new technology to help classroom teachers become more effective and it was the precursor to differentiation in the classroom.

A year later in 1959, Xerox invented the photocopier. The use of photocopies in the classroom became wide spread for years to come. It helped teachers distribute classwork in mass quantities. Photocopies made the teachers job easier and saved the students time. This technology helped teachers become more effective through allowing more class time to be focused on content rather than coping.

By the 1960’s ITV  (Instructional Television) was at its height, and The Children’s Television Network Workshop was created. Television shows based on educational research such as Sesame Street became one of the most innovative and effective educational programs for children and proved that ITV was a great technological advancement for education. Another great advancement in the 1960’s was the filmstrip viewer. This too allowed differentiation in the classroom through allowing students to view filmstrips at their own pace.

In 1969 ARPAnet was created and allowed people to communicate through space. The original internet had arrived. Four years later Xerox created the Ethernet Computer Networking. From there two of the biggest computer companies came onto the scene, IBM and Apple.

In 1974 IBM created it’s 5100 series computer that was the first consumer computer. Six years later the first PC was created with Microsoft Windows software in it and became the first home-use personal computer.  Bill Gates the current chairmen of Microsoft is one of the most influential people in education today. He has created The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which has invested over 30 billion dollars into educational programs and research. His most recent campaign is teaching students how to code programs and websites to become more prepared for their future.

Apple was IBM’s biggest competitor and still is to this day. The first Apple computer was created in 1976.  However it was in 1983 that the Apple Lisa Computer was the first home computer with a graphical user interface, and a year later became the most affordable computer with a GUI. Steve Jobs is the visionary behind Apple and was until his death in 2011. He envisioned inventions such as the Ipad, which is now being used as educational tools in classrooms today.

Computers were starting to become household items due to advancements in technology and affordability. They were also starting to become educational tools. By 1985 92% of secondary and 85% of grammar schools had at least one computer. This number would drastically increase as the years went on.

CD-ROM’s took the place of floppy disks in the early 1990’s. They were the first optical media format compatible with computers.  Allowing more memory space than a floppy disk, and creating a universal form of file sharing, CD-ROM became the new standard in information sharing.  The CD-ROM also opened up new opportunity for the gaming environment and music industry.  This creation is vital to the advancements of education because it became a way to spread information in a new format. Now instead of looking something up in a book, a child could use a computer as a new medium. The same goes for interactive education, as the gaming environment flourished, more educational computer games became available for children. It is only in the past few years that the CD-ROM is being replaced with cloud technology.

It was the year of 1986 that the idea for the most innovative classroom technology was thought of.  Both David Martin and Nancy Knowiton are the creators and inventors of the interactive whiteboard. An interactive whiteboard is an interactive board with touchscreen capabilities that seamlessly weave tactile and visual learning. In 1991 the world’s first interactive whiteboard was created and was named SMARTboard. Also, during this time, computers were becoming household items and the World Wide Web was being introduced to the world. By 1998 SMARTboards were being introduced into classroom and the interactive age of education began.

Today SMARTboard is helping seamlessly weave technology into classrooms throughout the United States. Over 20 years later, SMARTboard has been installed in over 2 million institutions. They are the new chalkboard and the possibilities are endless for both teachers and students. Electronic tablets are now replacing slate boards. The first tablet introduced was in 2010 when Apple launched the Ipad. A tablet is a touchscreen hand held device that has the same capabilities as a desktop computer. Together, SMARTboard and tablets are becoming the new standard in classrooms and will eventually take over chalk, pen and paper.

With at least one computer in every classroom it is easy to incorporate technology into lessons. Technology is so important that many states are now mandating that technology be integrated into the classroom curriculum.

Education is evolving with the times. Every new generation of educators need to cater to the needs of students. Every educator’s goal is to have his or her students become successful. What most correlates with success is having a job.  Therefore, we need to prepare our students for the future, which is now directly corresponding with technology.  This is why curriculum changes are being made in our schools. An example of this is switching from teaching the skill of cursive writing to keyboard typing. One of the most controversial changes trying to be implemented is changing free-hand math totally over to calculators. One of the biggest advocates of this change is Conrad Wolfram who believes that this change will make math education more practical and less mechanical and will both engage students and make it easier for children to integrate into the real world.  It is only a matter of time before education becomes more dependent on technology.

What is most interesting about technology in the classroom is that it has not evolved over time. The same basic core principals are still being used, and just the media is changing. The principal of blackboards is replaced by the SMARTboard but, its purpose of conveying information still holds true. The school slate is replaced by pen and paper or a tablet, but the students are still internalizing the information through route practice. Multimedia like the radio and television are still being used but the programs in which the students are engaged are just simply updated with more content. In fact, Sesame Street is still a popular educational television program that can be found in households each and every morning.

It is my opinion as technology advances, and people become more reliant on it, so will  educators. As an educator, the biggest challenge is keeping every student engaged. Technology is the greatest aid in helping engage the students. With the correct balance of individualized attention and technology, the students will get the best education possible.



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Enough is Enough

If you think back to your educational experience , no matter what age, you will share similar memories  with everyone. This is because the structure of the educational system hasn’t changed in thousands of years. Students are still to this day, grouped by age into grades and the subjects remain the same; math, science, social studies and language arts. The only thing that really has changed however, is the content within those subjects.

The structure of education has always been based upon the economic state and the workforce that is in demand. This fad began in Prussia back in late eighteenth century. In order to create a large obedient and strong army, the Prussians created an educational system that made only the intelligent advance and a large number of average students fail. The average students no longer able to be successful in school, joined the army. The system for accomplishing this “stunt” in learning was to divide the school day up into different learning subjects, giving a set amount of time for each subject allowed while still having all subjects taught in the same day at a steady pace. The problem with this system is, only allotting  a certain amount of time per subject at a steady pace, leaves no room for student error or processing. If  the average student cannot process and retain the information within the subject period, they will be left behind and eventually fail.

Our American Education System has adopted this model of the Prussian system and the trend of teaching for the workforce has held true. In the 1930’s during the first world war, students were taught to be obedient and rote  learners. This prepared them to be respectful factory workers.  Thirty years later when Russia launched the first artificial satellite into space and thus beating America in the (technological competition) race to space. Americans shifted their education focus primarily toward math and science. Today, education focuses on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in order to try and stay at a competitive rank with countries like China, Japan and Russia.

No matter what the new trend is, educational decisions are made by the government. Each year new laws and standards are created to ensure that children are getting the best education possible. However, disconnect between government and schools along with corruption and greed has tainted the system and is leaving a lasting impact on everyone.

The greatest example of this would be in 2001 when president George W. Bush Jr. passed the infamous “No Child Left Behind Act”. In theory this act was wonderful. Its core premises was to give equal education to all students no matter what their demographic or background. However, due to disconnect between schools and  politics, the effect of this act would reap havoc on schools for years to come. It is thirteen years later, and only recently have some states started passing laws against the act.

What the NCLB ( No Child Left Behind) did  was set high standards for schools around America to abide by, as well as establish measurable goals that would improve individual educational outcomes. Each state had to create their own set of standards . The way of ensuring standards are being met is through standardized testing. The test scores of the district, reflects their efficiency, thus determining the amount of state aid the district receives. As a result, state assessments have become the norm in classrooms all over America from third grade on, and the term “teaching to the test” has become coined by teachers.

Due to law reforms like No Child Left Behind, and politicians looking out for their own interests, the educational system is in turmoil. Issues ranging from statewide assessments to tenure, are under attack, and parents and teachers alike are saying enough is enough.

To try and justify the issue of state assessment, and create a common curriculum throughout all the states, The Common Core Curriculum was established. Today only five states are not participating in the CCLS ( Common Core Learning Standards). Just like NCLB the CCLS has an essential goal of inspiring kids to rise above their circumstances and go to college no matter where they came from. For schools, the CCLS installed stricter standards and harder assessments to have students become college and career ready. This change in the curriculum mainly focuses on mathematics and reading.

There is a major contradiction in the CCLS. Differentiation and individual learning plans are being demanded of teachers, but the state assessments and CCLS are all based on one model. Meaning, even though the teacher differentiates their instruction, every child is expected to take the same test and pass. An example of this implemented in the CCLS is the Closed Read. This is a three day assessment of the student where a teacher chooses a text and expects the students of all reading levels to not only read the text but comprehend it and answer questions about the text. During the time of the “assessment” if a student is struggling or needs help, the teacher is specifically instructed not to help the student. This contradicts not only the basic core of teaching, a teacher which is helping a student in need but also the idea of differentiation itself. If a teacher is supposed to group students in the classroom by ability and customize their learning to their needs, but the students are all expected to read and comprehend at the same level, what is being accomplished?

Pressures put on teachers by administration is unrelenting. High test scores equal higher state aid for many districts and administrators will go to any cost to meet that expectation. Teachers are expected to have a class of students with various learning levels, and by the end of the year, have every student on the same level or higher. This task is impossible with the standards children are expected to meet, as well as the resources teachers are given.  It seems students are no longer looked at as young children to administrators and are just a number that needs to pass state tests. It is this mentality that has many teachers and parents rebelling against state tests. Teachers are starting to speak up against standardized testing and parents are using their power as primary care takers and opting their children out of taking state tests. This battle has just begun and won’t end for years to come.

Whenever there is an issue within the educational system, teachers seem to be the ones some people look to blame. This is due to the media and politics, and the fact that teachers are more visible. One of the major issues with teachers right now is tenure, and power of the teachers union. The union was once there to protect the good teachers and tenure was there to give the teachers stability. Unfortunately, these two safety nets tend to protect ineffective teachers. To correct this problem, implemented this year was APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review). APPR is making teachers accountable for the learning that is going on in their classroom and putting teachers on a grading system accesses how “effective” they are. After three years of being “ineffective” teachers  can be let go, regardless of tenure. Again, in theory, APPR is logical along with NCLB and CCLS. However, the problem with APPR is districts are able to choose which standards are to be met, and there is no consistency within the CCLS and state standards. Again, so teachers are having unrealistic expectations placed upon them, and just like their students are being set up to fail.

So where do we go from here? We have a failing education system where teachers are being scrutinized for decisions made by politicians driven by money and what they feel are good intentions for children. The teaching profession that was once loved for embracing children’s creativity and individuality is now trying to fit all students in the same mold.

Thankfully, due to modern technology, our educational system has new hope.  Due to technological advances like the Ipad and Smartboard, interactive education is becoming a part of every classroom. With the interactive element, students are becoming more engaged in learning. Programs created by progressive thinkers are pushing educators and politicians alike to re-evaluate the system and make changes altogether while standardize testing continues.

Salman Khan is one of the biggest influences in progressive education today. He is the creator of Khan academy. Salman was a successful hedge fund analyst at Connective Capital Management when in 2004 he began to tutor his younger cousin in math. As a result of a poor standardized test score, she was put into remedial math. It was then that Salman came to the realization that a test score does not accurately assess a student’s intelligence. To help solve this problem Salman created Kahn Academy. Not even Salman realized the significance of his program at the time. It started as a simple tutoring session that grew from a few family members to millions of students of all ages within months.

What makes Khan Academy so successful is the theory and programming behind it. Khan’s philosophy is to “ accelerate learning for students of all ages”.  He believes that every child deserves an equal education no matter where they live or what their circumstances are. Khan believes that true understanding results in lasting learning. The programing behind the Academy is based upon data driven analysis. After the lesson, students answer a series of questions. If the question is correct they receive a harder question, if it is wrong an easier question shows. All of this information is collected as data. The data is used to create an individual learning plan for the student and customize their learning to get maximum results.

Khan Academy is the future of education. Due to technology, individualized learning and differentiation are more accessible than ever to incorporate into the classroom.  Programs like Khan Academy and data driven instruction will help build a solid foundation of knowledge for students and help teachers become more effective.

The perfect compliment to Kahn Academy is the theory of the flipped classroom. This is where the students do their learning at home on programs like Kahn Academy, and teachers look at the data from the night before and base their lessons for the day on the students’ progress. This drives individual instruction and helps the teacher work on the students’ weaknesses while nurturing their strengths. The key to this success however lies within the student’s self-motivation.

We are a point in education where teachers, parents and students are saying enough is enough. There is shift that needs to be made where the students have to become their own motivators and the teachers become their learning facilitators. Only then, will the standards and standardized testing be a testament to the success of a school. The disconnect between government and schools needs to filled and we all have to work together with the best interest of our students at mind.


“The One world School House” by Salman Kahn

“One Size Does Not Fit All” by Nikhil Goyal

When I Grow Up

We all know the saying “When I grow up I want to be…” and have all thought about it when we were kids. Teachers also think about this question when it comes to their students. Teachers use that information to determine how to direct their lessons. They want children to be successful and reach their goals. So what happens when the jobs that are going to be available in 5-10 years don’t exist yet?  That is still a question that goes unanswered for many.

The educational system has always been based upon preparing students for their futures. The Prussians prepared their students for becoming good soldiers, while years later industrialized Americans prepared their students to become obedient factory workers. Today Common Core Learning Standards are being applied as well as a focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to have students become college and career ready.

The education system as well as our economy is in a state of reform. New laws and programs are being placed in schools to enhance student performance. Jobs across America are being lost and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. In  an effort to fix the failing system, new jobs are being created and technology is flourishing. It is only in the past year or two that a push for technology is being made in the educational field. Traditional teaching methods are shifting and teachers and students alike are to move with the wave of reform.

Roles in the classroom are being transformed. The teacher who was once the sole educator is now becoming the facilitator. The student who was once the consumer of information is now responsible for his or her own learning. It is due to modern technology that this is all possible.

Differentiation has always been prominent in the classroom. Teachers have used it to create homogenous or heterogeneous groups to help maximize student comprehension. Individualized Education Plans (IEP’s) in the past were only used in Special Education. These plans were created by a team of teachers and the student’s parents to create a set of obtainable goals for the child to achieve in the school year. Due to advancements in educational technology, differentiation can be taken to the next step by allowing the teacher to create an IEP for every child in their class.

Raz-Kids, Khan Academy and many more educational programs are being brought into the classroom to reinforce basic skills and aid in the students learning. What makes these sites so successful is the programing behind them. The sites track each student’s progress and automatically set up an IEP. The students think they are playing a game, while in reality the teacher is recording data on the student’s progress and planning ways to help aid the student in academic success.

The newest team member in the IEP is now the computer and the teacher has gone from being in charge to facilitator in one simple click.  So far these programs have proven to be successful in the improvement of student test scores. We are teaching to a new generation and our methods of teaching also need to change.

Twenty years ago when technology was still being introduced into the classroom with the first smart boards, students were using mostly pen and pencil to problem solve and complete tasks. Skills like cursive writing and penmanship were  still vital parts of the school day. Today, the pen and pencil are being replaced by ipads and tablets and cursive writing is being overshadowed  by the skill of keyboard typing.

The students attention span have changed as well. A story or read aloud that was once engaging does not seem to be enough for this generation, you need to pull out all of the bells and whistles to engage the class. With this new demand comes new technology and the mind is fed constant stimulation.

It is clear teachers have to change as well. We are taught to mold our students into well rounded people. As a result of our changing world, we have to adjust our classroom lessons and expand on the important skills of today’s workforce. The problem is no one knows what jobs lie ahead. A transformation must happen in education. The newest skill that needs to be taught is technology using computers and coding skills. Bill Gates, chairmen of Microsoft, an influential software genius is one of the biggest supporters of this push in education.  Gates and many other influential software programmers like Mark Zuckerberg founder of Facebook and Twitter creator Jack Dorsey are coming together to support a non-profit organization to help bring coding programs into schools.  It is their belief that the skill set of coding will help mold the students into better thinkers and become more prepared for their future careers.

The biggest predictor of our future is our past. In education, this does not say much. With all of the major transformations that have happened in the educational field, it is easy to see that it takes a long time to modify tradition. Chalkboards and antiquated models are still being used in classrooms across America and have been for hundreds of years. Unfortunately, with a world that seems to be run by politics and money whatever can make the most profit wins. Therefore, it is hard to see what the future holds for our students.

The obvious can be foreseen, new laws and standards will continue to change with the times and teachers will be expected to abide by them. Curriculum will also continue to transform and children’s success will be marked through student test scores.

One thing that will change is the role college plays in future success. A hundred years ago, college was mostly for men to prepare them for successful careers and women were encouraged to be housewives. Fifty years ago college was an experience for men and women to better themselves and become career ready. This was done by attending a University and living on campus for four years going scheduled classes. Today you can get a degree without even getting dressed or leaving your house! This is due to the majority of people owning a computer and advancements in educational technology being taught as early as primary school.

People can complete an advanced degree online and communicate with professors via video chat. Reinforcement through technology is immediate and therefore gaps in understanding are corrected instantly with greater understanding and advancement in learning. A great model of online education is MOOCs ( Massive Open Online Courses). MOOCs is available to anyone in the world and has a wide variety of courseware taught by experts in their field. Right now many of the courses are based upon STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) because the topics are straightforward and can be easily graded by a computer. MOOCs is a networked based model where the student dictates their own success. Meaning, they choose the course they are interested in, they participate through discussion and sharing with others and they take out of the learning experience what they put in it. Many top tier Universities are creating spin offs of MOOCs. One of the biggest ones is Coursera who has 69 partner Universities including Duke, Stanford,  Brown and Columbia. At this time the courses are creditless and free for students not enrolled in another university. If a student is taking the course with the university, the course cost is included in the tuition.  What makes this model of education trump going to a regular University and attending classes is the opportunity to learn from a variety of world-class professors. Just a few years ago this wealth of information was only available for students who were top of their class and accepted into these top tier Universities.

It will only be when the classroom structure changes that the shift in education will be made. Students need to take charge of their own education with the help of the classroom teacher and assist in creating their future. They must answer the open ended question “When I grow up, I want to be..”. Hopefully in the future, they are not restricted by thinking of jobs already in today’s society, but jobs they foresee in the future. The teacher will then truly become the facilitator in the students learning through helping them achieve their goal of becoming career ready in this ever-changing world.

It is our job as educators to prepare students to be ready for any job by giving them all the resources they need to become successful. As John Dewey once said, “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.”


“The One world School House” by Salman Kahn


One comment

  1. Patrick · March 18, 2013


    Very good start – yikes!!! Start – you thought you were done, huh? Big stuff happening here in this space. Lots to tell you. You won’t believe what this looks like from the inside. Very big interest and very big funding going on. The area I want to tell you about is the confusion going on in the space.
    The term I personally love is “pet the computer” – this is how the use of computers is referred to by some people and how this is going to change.
    Speak lots tomorrow night.

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