What is Technology?

There is no doubt that technology is a significant part of everything that humans do, particularly in education where it has catalyzed giant leaps in the way learning is done. However, at what point did technology enter into education, and how far has it taken it?

If technology is considered as advancements in engineering, like electric cars and space shuttles, then it is clear to see that it’s only had a small influence in education. Robotics in places like Japan−where students learns to program and engineering−would be a case in point. However, technology cannot be defined in terms of what is considered to be remarkable advancements to the 21st century, as this would exclude many advancements that would not be possible without it.

Technology should be viewed as the application of knowledge obtained from scientific methodology to practical situations and problem-solving. A more fundamental description of technology would be to call it a collection of methods, knowledge, and skill that can be used to accomplish goals. Defining technology in this way opens up a new perspective on answering the question of its origins in education. For starters, it is clear that its roots in education predate robotics and programming, and extends further back to situations where basic knowledge and skills were used to facilitate learning.

Cave Paintings

Before education was organized in four-walled classrooms, it was haphazard and primitive. Cave dwellers had to learn and transfer knowledge to their young, as their lives depended on it.  They often did this by adopting a method similar to the more modern chalkboard. They used wall paintings to tell stories that could help their offspring identify friend and foe. The stakes for education were much higher back then, and so were the demands for technology, even though they didn’t know it back then. The use of cave paintings and illustrations could be considered as the earliest application of technology in education.

Pencils and Paper

By the 1900s, students had gotten new ways to document their thoughts. Pencils and paper reflected the impact of technology because they were entirely new tools, but they were made from the same materials as slates and chalkboards. With a pencil, a student could quickly correct a mistake, write and rewrite an essay, and permanently save information, as opposed to the write and erase methodology of slates.

Film Projectors

While students were replacing their slates with a flatter, more flexible alternatives, teachers also got new tools to help communicate their ideas−Magic lanterns. These projectors were introduced in the late 1800s, and they worked in the same ways that modern-day projectors do, except for the fact that they relied on candlelight and oil lanterns to illuminate their slides. By 1925, even these began to get replaced by film strip projectors. They were superior to magic lanterns because they could project several images at once. Those could even be accompanied by audiotapes and cassettes to enhance the learning experience further. This visual-audio combination proved to be an effective tool in learning, and it formed a precursor to the television as technological advancement in education.

Ballpoint Pens

The only writing instruments available in the early 1900s besides pencils were dip and fountain pens which needed to be continuously refilled. Needless to say, they posed a very significant limitation to the users. Then in 1938, Laszlo Biro created the ballpoint pen, and like most revolutionary inventions, it threatened to change the way people operated. Even though it was met by significant opposition and criticism, it was eventually adopted and formed the precursor of the pens we have today.

The Television

The television was introduced to classrooms in the 1950s and in many ways, it was an upgrade of film projectors. It was so effective that it was once believed to have the potential to replace classroom teachers altogether.  However, it was only effective in introducing ideas and generating interest in students, as there is only so much a television set can do.

The Photocopier and the Handheld Calculator

The photocopier entered the classroom in 1959 and allowed an enormous amount of materials to be produced and distributed for learning. This was followed in the early 1970s by the handheld calculator which allowed students to complete mathematical calculations. At this point, technology had made significant contributions to education. However, they were nothing compared to what would come next.

The Internet and the personal computer

The internet is often seen as the ultimate learning tool because it can connect systems from all over the world and link information that would otherwise have taken much effort to obtain. It began in 1983 as a single network of various networks of computers, and as it grew in users, the amount of available information also grew. The personal computer further added to this nexus of information.

The first personal computer was much larger than the one’s available today, cost over $1,500 and weighed about 20 pounds. Even though it was tagged personal, it was impractical for individuals to use it. As companies like Toshiba and Apple entered the computer market, they made them more readily available for individuals. The combined effects of the internet and the personal computer has taken education and learning to new heights. Now, a student can get college homework help by the Internet in no time.

The future of Technology in Education

Technology has now become inseparable from education, and that’s not likely to change soon. It allows teachers the flexibility and leeway to apply several approaches to teaching and gives students access to various forms of learning. Consider the emails for example. Teachers and students can share assignments over long distances without limitation.

There is no telling what the future of technology holds for education. This is because many of the previous advancements were thought to be the ultimate educational tool, until a better, more advanced one came along. So who is to say the same will not happen with the internet?