Gone are the days of using chalk and a blackboard to keep students engaged with lessons. With the development of technology, schools are finding new ways to teach their students whilst making the experience even more enjoyable. From the introduction of computers into schools during the early 1980s, to the use of virtual reality which has recently come to the forefront in gaming. The government and schools are working together to create more diverse ways of learning whilst ensuring that students are still acquiring crucial knowledge.
Computers appeared in classrooms from about 1984 but It wasn’t until the 1990s that there was a surge of modern media technology and software in the education sector. After the Education Reform Act of 1988, information and communication technology became a compulsory subject for students aged 5-16. Therefore, it’s not surprising to see that schools both public and private decided to heavily invest in computers. The British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) discovered that in 2015 schools had 1.3m desktop computers, 840,000 laptops and 730,000 tablets. Whereas compared to the early 1980s a secondary school might have only invested in just 1 or 2 computers.
Incorporating gadgets into lessons can help provide students with different resources to learn, such as videos, images and infographics. Not only do computers make learning more enjoyable in schools, having computer specific tasks can help students develop skills that they will use later on in their life like presenting or pitching an idea through the use of applications such as PowerPoint.
In addition to classroom use, most schools are reliant on technology behind the scenes. Programmes like SIMS contains personal information about students, allowing teachers to take the register digitally, to reward good behaviour, discourage bad behaviour and to monitor performance in subjects. Computers are readily available to schools whilst not being overly expensive (depending on your model and specifications) and by investing in them it ensures that the student’s knowledge of computer software does not become outdated. The advance of software such as Office 365 helps schools to stay completely up to date with the latest releases.
With the whiteboard and marker lacking in engagement, Smart Technologies introduced the SMART Board in 1991. An interactive white board that can be projected on, to show the image of the teacher’s computer screen. Accompanied with stylises that come in different colours and an eraser, teachers are able to annotate using resistive technology. This involves the contact point being turned into an analogue signal which is processed by the computer. The contraption provided a surface for a projection of a computer screen to be applied to the screen whilst being able to annotate using the stylises. Therefore, this can be particularly beneficial to subjects such as maths where students are able to work with large amounts of data. This isn’t the only thing that Johnson-Eilola claims that the Smart Board is for. He also states that it offers an information space that invites active collaboration and also that the work produced is “dynamic & contingent”.
Printing has seen a vast development over the past 90 years from Dot matrix, to digital & 3D printers. The latest printers are becoming not only more technical but more interactive with students. When my parents were in school they experienced the dot matrix printer which used a print head that moved up, down, left or right following a similar mechanism to a typewriter but since the letters were drawn dot by dot, various fonts could be achieved but the output was slow and noisy to produce and the quality of print was not great. Dot matrix printing was followed by inkjet printing 26 years later these printers were able to print digital images that had been generated by computers. The print head in an inkjet used piezoelectric crystals this accumulates an electrical charge due to mechanical stress. By doing so this allowed the printer to be quieter than a dot matrix and also resulted in a better resolution with smoother details. However, the ink was affected by moisture. The inkjet printer was soon replaced with laser printing allowing printers to produce permanent high quality text and images. Creating this type of printing was achieved by passing a laser beam back and forth over a negatively charged drum. With some reasonably priced models being able to duplex print (print on both sides of the page) they have become significantly popular in schools since it would halve the amount of paper needed. Today printing has been revolutionised with the ability to create three-dimensional objects by layering the printing filament. 3D Printing offers a lot of variety to different subjects since the printing possibilities are endless. It can help improve learning by having a physical representation of what students are studying. This could be beneficial in biology by printing a cell in 3D, or in art if the students wanted to create a sculpture. 3D printing may not appeal to all schools but it does add another exciting dimension to studying.
With teachers looking for alternative ways to help children learn, they have turned towards more versatile and portable tablets to aid this task. The use of 360-degree videos allows pupils to physically look around and explore environments whilst being in a classroom. Although they may be considered “too expensive” to buy. They provide students with the ability to take interactive notes, for example students can add a graph with a few simple clicks on the tablet as opposed to bringing out their whole geometry set or they are able to record lectures and play them back later. Yes, having a tablet can prove to be effective whilst at university provided you are able to avoid the underlying urge to pick it up and begin playing an intense game of Mario Run of course.
The rise of virtual reality in recent years has massively opened up learning pathways. The Microsoft Hololens allows students to be immersed and surrounded by a computer generated image of countries from all around the world and with programmes such as Holotours, which could be significantly beneficial for history students as it allows students to go back in time and visit certain important historical locations virtually. Additionally, virtual reality can be used to help educate biology students. Students can look at cells, viruses & human bodies in great detail. There are also applications that support virtual planetary exploration helping students venture in to space. Therefore, the use of virtual reality in classrooms could be beneficial to visual learners in the classroom as the would be immersing themselves in an augmented reality completely changing the environment of a classroom.
Looking back over the past 40 years, technology and the use of it in education has developed significantly. In just one generation we have gone from blackboards to smart boards and from pen and paper to tablets. Education has evolved alongside technology and has progressed significantly to provide a learning environment that enhances student engagement. To see the huge improvements in technology and education from my parent’s school days, to my own school days, it makes me consider what education will be like when I’m my parent’s age.