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Technology and how it is transforming education

Technology and education have gone hand in hand for years. From pen and paper to the invention of the computer, we have utilised different technological advances to gain a greater understanding of a particular subject, or to use technologies in order to manipulate datasets and present educational data in a range of different formats.

GPS Installations, who specialise in audio visual products ranging from public address system installations to impressive video wall displays, discuss the history of education technology.

For those of us old enough to remember, it all started with the chalkboard, which was masterminded by James Pillans in 1801; this was more useful than paper because information could be written down and then wiped off a number of times in front of a class. As well as this, individual slates were used so that students could write down an answer and present it to the teacher or the class.

As the 20th century began, technology became more advanced with the introduction of projected images in the classroom. The Filmstrip Projector saw its debut in 1925 so that students could view moving images depending on the subject being taught. The radio was also a useful tool within teaching, as lessons could be broadcasted to other schools around the UK. In 1940 the mimeograph was introduced, and this allowed teachers to copy documents from a stencil.

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Ten years later saw the introduction of the slide ruler, which is essentially an old fashioned ruler. As well as this, the first photocopier machines were created, superseding the earlier mimeograph machines.

In terms of developing technologies, the decades that followed witnessed many years of great expansion:

  • 1960s. The calculator was introduced, but this didn’t become a popular device for another ten years.
  • 1970s. The Scantron machine was also used as a device to mark exam papers and other question papers, and in one form or another, has lasted to the present day as a way of speeding up the marking process.
  • 1980s. Personal computers were just starting to become available around this time.
  • 1990s. The desktop computer was becoming something that was a legitimate feature within most households and traditional blackboards were replaced with interactive whiteboards.

With the invention of smartphones, YouTube, tablets, laptops and other smart devices, no decade has seen so much change in terms of technology as the 2000s. Considered as the digital revolution, this has also had an impact on our classrooms.

Interactive technologies such as screen devices have revolutionised education because students can take a more interactive and hands on approach to their learning. This has also strengthened the learning relationship between students and teachers, as teachers can mark homework electronically and send it straight back the student anywhere on their smart device.

In regards to how teachers feel about technology in the US, 86% believed technology was a fundamentally essential part of students’ education. In addition to this, 92% felt that they could have more technologies in their classrooms to improve students’ learning further.

More advanced technologies within education have also resulted in cost savings to schools and also students. This is because electronic copies of textbooks, or eBooks as they are more commonly known, are on average 33-35% cheaper than the physical alternative. Studies have also found that a student’s interaction with a tablet has increased their chances of passing an exam, whilst improving their literacy and numeracy skills.

However, where technologies result in greater interaction, this more often than not can mean greater distractions. Children are more susceptible now to being distracted by social apps when they should be learning. In a study conducted by A Common Sense Media, 71% of teachers believed that a student’s attention span had been compromised by technology. What this means is that in the digital age, we still haven’t cracked the balance between technological usage and waste usage.

One question to be asked is how can students really move forward and improve their attention spans? Limiting Wi-Fi access can help limit a student’s ability to browse social media in school, but they’re still able to gain the benefits of interactive whiteboards and displays within a learning environment.

What we can be sure of is that this is just the beginning of the digital revolution in the classroom. As technologies become more advanced, the boundaries between class subjects, students, and teachers also become less rigid, which encourages a more cohesive and collaborative learning environment for all.