The History of Edtech in Our Classrooms

Edtech isn’t a new phenomenon. We can find research into the benefits of edtech going as far back as 1967, when Seymour Papert, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, researched how computers could help students learn. Papert believed in the constructivist model of learning; that we learn better by doing.

“With computers, there is a substantially bigger chance that you can lead the child with less effort into something he really likes doing,” said Papert in 1970 (via Corcoran). “The intersection with the set of fun things with the set of educational things is sufficiently big so that you should be able to keep every student internally motivated.”

This constructivist model is still a central part of edtech advancements to this day. Edtech has progressively transformed our classrooms and teachers are constantly aware of having to keep up with the latest technologies.

We thought it would be fun to take you down memory lane with our top 10 edtech highlights from the past 100 years.

Top 10 Edtech Highlights

1. Film Projector (early 1930s)

film-projector Filmstrip projectors allowed teachers to play and pause presentations for class discussions by turning a knob, and the projectors were widely used in classrooms until VCRs replaced them in the 1980s. Similar to the motion-picture projector, Thomas Edison (American inventor) predicted that, thanks to the invention of projected images, “books will soon be obsolete in schools. Scholars will soon be instructed through the eye.”


2. Skinner’s Teaching Machine (1950s onwards)

The teaching machine was a mechanical device whose purpose was to administer a curriculum of programmed instruction. The machine embodies key elements of Skinner’s theory of learning and had important implications for education in general and classroom instruction in particular. The machine was a box that housed a list of questions that could be viewed one at a time through a small window. There was also a mechanism through which the learner could respond to each question. Upon delivering a correct answer, the learner would be rewarded. Skinners Learning Machine


3. Overhead projectors (1970s, 1980s and 1990s)


over-head-projector Roger Appeldorn created the projector in the early 1960s and it wasn’t long before the presentation devices became a mainstay in classrooms through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Projectors not only saved time in reducing the hours spent writing on the chalk board but also saved money on printing individual handouts.


4. Cassette recorders (early 1970s-late 1990s)

There are now a huge number of free apps that can record just about anything. Back in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s when students  had an oral exam, or really needed to prove their foreign language competency, out came the cassette recorders. A popular and well used tool to listen back to their oral developments. casette-recorder

5. Floppy disks (mid 1970s-early 2000s)

floppy-disk The first time we used floppies for computer work, we could practically bend them in half without any damage–the case was even paper-based. Then came the virtually indestructible hard-shelled disks. Nowadays the USB has replaced floppy disks – you can even attach a USB to your car keys, you couldn’t do that with a floppy disk!


6. Oregon Trail (1974)

The original game was designed to teach school children about the realities of 19th century pioneer life on the Oregon Trail. “Betty has cholera” should sound familiar to countless American school kids who played this classic educational title between the 1980s and early 1990s. The Oregon Trail simulated American pioneer life in the mid-1800s as a family struggles to make its way across the wilderness of the untamed U.S. territories. Along the way, the player must manage his or her family’s resources while hunting for food, crossing treacherous rivers, and fending off disease. dysentry


7. Lemonade Stand (1979)

lemonade Lemonade Stand was one of the first educational math games created for elementary students. Why are your sales declining even though you added more lemonade signs than last week? How do you multiply 20 cents by 62? To this day we can’t walk by a child’s lemonade stand without trying to reason how weather and price points will affect their daily profits…and that’s probably not normal.


8. Reader Rabbit (1986)

Students of the 80s should all remember Reader Rabbit. Reader Rabbit first taught kids to spell and read in 1986, with a package of educational mini-games for popular computers of the time. Most of the mini-games, like the Word Train seen here, challenged the player to fill in missing letters, completing simple words in the process. Over the years, The Learning Company added more titles to the Reader Rabbit series, which continues today. rabbit


9. CD Roms (1990s)

encarter95 The CD-ROM software explosion of the 90’s was huge! The movement from floppy disks to CDs meant access to a huge amount of educational content was now available at home, as well as in school libraries and IT classes.  Microsoft Encarta Multimedia Encyclopedia on CD-ROM proved incredibly popular with students for research, homework and general interest! The first edition came out in 1993, and was continually updated until 2009. An online subscription site appeared as early as 1999 but by then we had moved on – who needed it when we had Wikipedia and Google!?


10. Tamagotchi (1996)

The late 1990s saw teachers setting ‘this egg is your baby’ projects! Utilising the newest (and possibly the most additive craze) many teachers in the late 1990s allowed students to use their fake digital pets and aliens instead of eggs (which could often be messy if there was an accident). Game-play included feeding, clean ups and constant attention. p7_tamagotchi


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