This image is from 1956: A 5 megabyte IBM hard drive is loaded into an airplane. It weighed over a 1000kg.
This image is from 1956: A 5 megabyte IBM hard drive is loaded into an airplane. It weighed over a 1000kg.
Software programming languages for education range from drag and drop graphical software like Scratch to Small Basic and Python. This page lists programming software geared towards students as young as kindergarten (Turtle Art) on up. Many are visual programming environments where kids can combine blocks to create software. Others, like Codea, allow you to actually code, in that case with Lua. Still other languages, like Code Spell, Run Marco!, The Foos, and World of Codecraft, teach programming skills while kids are engaged in an online game.
The main difference between “block” languages and “real” languages? Block languages let kids create things without having to learn syntax and other details. They can graduate to languages with syntax more easily when they understand basic programming concepts.
Also note these languages work for parents who want to learn and play with their kids, as well as kids who want to learn at their own speed.
Alice teaches programming concepts as kids create animated movies with its friendly interface and storytelling.
Teaches programming in a fun adventure game. An original story with beautiful artwork, designed for 6 to 12 y.o. kids by a team of experts in computer programming, game design, and teaching technology in schools. Translated into 13 languages. Works on tablet, phone, web.
This software programming language for education to build Android applications with a drag and drop visual environment.
Made with the Codea iPad application, a game to teach programming concepts.
Bolt is a complete language that runs entirely (and safely) in the browser. It’s a language explicitly designed for kids, and comes with worked examples that map to the UK curriculum for KS 2/3 and beyond.
An iPad app from the people who bring you Hopscotch.
An amusing story makes it easy for kids to learn about HTML and the coding process.
Requires a little more effort but this is a more professional game development system.
Teaches computer science concepts around coding.
An educational iPad game providing a kid friendly introduction to programming concepts and problem solving to kids 5 and up.
From Microsoft, this visual programming language works on the PC and XBox.
Light-bot is an engaging puzzle game that lets players gain a practical understanding of basic control-flow concepts like procedures, loops, and conditionals, just by guiding a robot with commands to light up tiles and solve levels.
From 1960s, a language geared towards children and serious adult computing. Ideas are incorporated into Scratch, Move the Turtle, and other languages.
A small team of educators and programmers in the US and Finland make it easy for kids to build and learn with Minecraft.
This iPad application teaches programming concepts and coding in a highly visual way.
Create your own games, apps, and music videos with this Android app.
On Microsoft Windows and XBox, kids can play and create using tools provided by Project Spark. Active community and lots of guides and tutorials.
RAPTOR is a flowchart-based programming environment, designed specifically to help students visualize their algorithms.
This iPad application uses blocks coded with logic to let kids control a robot.
Kids learn logic, computer science, and robotics by building a robot.
From Microsoft, a cut down version of Basic to teach programming to kids and adults. Includes lots of tutorials. For Windows computers.
A port of Scratch, from the University of California at Berkeley.
Programming language for Sphero robots, which are also fun.
Uses a visual programming language to create cross-platform applications for almost any platform. Stencyl software works on Mac, Windows, and Ubuntu/Linux.
Kids can play and have fun while learning the basics of coding plus problem solving, critical thinking, and other skills.
Microsoft’s really easy to learn and use software for teaching kids how to program and create software. Great for hackathons and coding in large groups.
Geared towards the wee ones, little kids, who can create really neat artwork and other fun stuff.
This software programming language for education is a hosted drag and drop programming tailored towards classroom teaching of programming and computer science. Also have an iPad version of their curriculum.
Waterbear is a toolkit for making programming more accessible and fun.
Coming soon, Wired did a piece on this project from North Carolina State University in Raleigh.
Top image nicked from Hopscotch website.
If your image of a computer programmer is a young man, there’s a good reason: It’s true. Recently, many big tech companies revealed how few of their female employees worked in programming and technical jobs. Google had some of the highest rates: 17 percent of its technical staff is female.
It wasn’t always this way. Decades ago, it was women who pioneered computer programming — but too often, that’s a part of history that even the smartest people don’t know.
I took a trip to ground zero for today’s computer revolution, Stanford University, and randomly asked over a dozen students if they knew who were the first computer programmers. Almost none knew.
“I’m in computer science,” says a slightly embarrassed Stephanie Pham. “This is so sad.”
A few students, like Cheng Dao Fan, get close. “It’s a woman, probably,” she says searching her mind for a name. “It’s not necessarily [an] electronic computer. I think it’s more like a mechanic computer.”
She’s thinking of Ada Lovelace, also known as the Countess of Lovelace, born in 1815. Walter Isaacson begins his new book, The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution, with her story.
“Ada Lovelace is Lord Byron’s child, and her mother, Lady Byron, did not want her to turn out to be like her father, a romantic poet,” says Isaacson. So Lady Byron “had her tutored almost exclusively in mathematics as if that were an antidote to being poetic.”
Lovelace saw the poetry in math. At 17, she went to a London salon and met Charles Babbage. He showed her plans for a machine that he believed would be able to do complex mathematical calculations. He asked Lovelace to write about his work for a scholarly journal. In her article, Lovelace expresses a vision for his machine that goes beyond calculations.
She envisioned that “a computer can do anything that can be noted logically,” explains Isaacson. “Words, pictures and music, not just numbers. She understands how you take an instruction set and load it into the machine, and she even does an example, which is programming Bernoulli numbers, an incredibly complicated sequence of numbers.”
Babbage’s machine was never built. But his designs and Lovelace’s notes were read by people building the first computer a century later.
The women who would program one of the world’s earliest electronic computers, however, knew nothing of Lovelace and Babbage.
As part of the oral history project of the Computer History Museum, Jean Jennings Bartik recalled how she got the job working on that computer. She was doing calculations on rocket and canon trajectories by hand in 1945. A job opened to work on a new machine.
“This announcement came around that they were looking for operators of a new machine they were building called the ENIAC,” recalls Bartik. “Of course, I had no idea what it was, but I knew it wasn’t doing hand calculation.”
Bartik was one of six female mathematicians who created programs for one of the world’s first fully electronic general-purpose computers. Isaacson says the men didn’t think it was an important job.
“Men were interested in building, the hardware,” says Isaacson, “doing the circuits, figuring out the machinery. And women were very good mathematicians back then.”
Isaacson says in the 1930s female math majors were fairly common — though mostly they went off to teach. But during World War II, these skilled women signed up to help with the war effort.
Bartik told a live audience at the Computer History Museum in 2008that the job lacked prestige. The ENIAC wasn’t working the day before its first demo. Bartik’s team worked late into the night and got it working.
“They all went out to dinner at the announcement,” she says. “We weren’t invited and there we were. People never recognized, they never acted as though we knew what we were doing. I mean, we were in a lot of pictures.”
At the time, though, media outlets didn’t name the women in the pictures. After the war, Bartik and her team went on to work on the UNIVAC, one of the first major commercial computers.
The women joined up with Grace Hopper, a tenured math professor who joined the Navy Reserve during the war. Walter Isaacson says Hopper had a breakthrough. She found a way to program computers using words rather than numbers — most notably a program language called COBOL.
“You would be using a programming language that would allow you almost to just give it instructions, almost in regular English, and it would compile it for whatever hardware it happened to be,” explains Isaacson. “So that made programming more important than the hardware, ’cause you could use it on any piece of hardware.”
Hopper retired from the Navy Reserve as a rear admiral. An act of Congress allowed her to stay past mandatory retirement age. She did become something of a public figure and even appeared on the David Letterman show in 1986. Letterman asks her, “You’re known as the Queen of Software. Is that right?”
“More or less,” says the 79-year-old Hopper.
But it was also just about this time that the number of women majoring in computer science began to drop, from close to 40 percent to around 17 percent now. There are a lot of theories about why this is so. It was around this time that Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were appearing in the media; personal computers were taking off.
Computer science degrees got more popular, and boys who had been tinkering with computer hardware at home looked like better candidates to computer science departments than girls who liked math, says Janet Abbate, a professor at Virginia Tech who has studied this topic.
“It’s kind of the classic thing,” she says. “You pick people who look like what you think a computer person is, which is probably a teenage boy that was in the computer club in high school.”
For decades the women who pioneered the computer revolution were often overlooked, but not in Isaacson’s book about the history of the digital revolution.
“When they have been written out of the history, you don’t have great role models,” says Isaacson. “But when you learn about the women who programmed ENIAC or Grace Hopper or Ada Lovelace … it happened to my daughter. She read about all these people when she was in high school, and she became a math and computer science geek.”
Lovelace, the mathematician, died when she was 36. The women who worked on the ENIAC have all passed away, as has Grace Hopper. But every time you write on a computer, play a music file or add up a number with your phone’s calculator, you are using tools that might not exist without the work of these women.
Isaacson’s book reminds us of that fact. And perhaps knowing that history will show a new generation of women that programming is for girls.
“I never used Excel at work but I saw other people making pretty graphs and thought, ‘I could probably draw with that,’” says 73-year old Tatsuo Horiuchi. About 13 years ago, shortly before retiring, Horiuchi decide he needed a new challenge in his life. So he bought a computer and began experimenting with Excel. “Graphics software is expensive but Excel comes pre-installed in most computers,” explained Horiuchi. “And it has more functions and is easier to use than [Microsoft] Paint.”*
Horiuchi also tried working with Microsoft Word but it didn’t offer the flexibility that Excel did. “Take that, Wall St. analysts,” he later added. (not really)
*all quotes have been translated by the author.
[update] we have begun selling limited edition prints by Tatsuo Horiuchi in our shop.
Horiuchi first gained attention when, in 2006, he entered an Excel Autoshape Art Contest. His work, which was far-superior than the other entries, blew the judges away. Horiuchi took first place and went on to create work that has been acquired by his local Gunma Museum of Art.
Don’t believe these were made in Excel? You can even download the excel file and play around with it yourself:
For all of the game industry’s myriad “game of the year” lists and “official” awards from various bodies, as well as ephemeral “best ever” lists from various media outlets, there have been precious few organized attempts to establish a permanent, concrete gaming “canon,” comprised of titles that truly represent the medium. That’s set to change soon, as the Strong National Museum of Play (which also houses the International Center for the History of Electronic Games) has announced the first 15 finalists for induction into its new World Video Game Hall of Fame.
Those nominees are:
The finalists were chosen from among thousands of public nominations by an internal advisory committee at the museum. That committee looked for games that met four criteria: “icon-status” (i.e., wide recognition), longevity (“more than a passing fad”), geographical reach, and overall influence (on games, entertainment, pop culture, etc.). A game with great influence could get into the Hall of Fame even if it didn’t meet the other three criteria, the Strong said.
Looking over the first list of nominees, it’s hard to find ones that don’t deserve Hall of Fame recognition based on those criteria. FIFA may seem an odd inclusion to an American audience, but the game’s huge success in the rest of the world meets the “geographical reach” requirement and then some. And while Minecraft and Angry Birds are arguably new enough that they haven’t been proven to stand the test of time, but their overwhelming influence is undeniable even at this point. “While [Angry Birds] is a simple game with a relatively short existence, it’s had major global impact on video game play and, in a sense, turned hundreds of millions of people into ‘gamers’ that might never have considered themselves that before,” Strong spokesperson Shane Rhinewald told Ars.
Not all 15 games will necessarily make it into the new Hall of Fame this year. A committee of about two dozen international “journalists, scholars, and other individuals familiar with the history of video games and their role in society” will vote on the final inductees, the Strong said in a statement. Committee members will be able to vote on their top five choice for final placement, though Rhinewald said he suspects “five to seven” will be chosen by the time the selections are announced June 4. Games that don’t make the cut will be eligible for renomination next year, and a minimum of 12 games will be nominated each year.
For now, though, the public can place their own votes on which game is most deserving in an online poll. The Sims is currently winning that vote by a large margin, but I’m confident Super Mario Bros. fans will correct that injustice shortly.
As edX CEO Anant Agarwal puts it, “It is pathetic that the education system has not changed in hundreds of years.” The Clayton Christensen Institute’s Michael Horn and Meg Evan argue something similar: “a factory model for schools no longer works.” “How to Break Free of Our 19th-Century Factory-Model Education System,” advises Joel Rose, the co-founder of the New Classrooms Innovation Partners. Education Next’s Joanne Jacobs points us “Beyond the Factory Model.” “The single best idea for reforming K–12 education,” writes Forbes contributor Steve Denning, ending the “factory model of management.” “There’s Nothing Especially Educational About Factory-Style Management,” according to the American Enterprise Institute’s Rick Hess.
I’d like to add: there’s nothing especially historical about these diagnoses either.
The “factory model of education” is invoked as shorthand for the flaws in today’s schools – flaws that can be addressed by new technologies or by new policies, depending on who’s telling the story. The “factory model” is also shorthand for the history of public education itself – the development of and change in the school system (or – purportedly – the lack thereof).
Here’s one version of events offered by Khan Academy’s Sal Khan along with Forbes’ writer Michael Noer – “the history of education”:
Khan’s story bears many of the markers of the invented history of the “factory model of education” – buckets, assembly lines, age-based cohorts, whole class instruction, standardization, Prussia, Horace Mann, and a system that has not changed in 120 years.
There are several errors and omissions in Khan’s history. (In his defense, it’s only eleven and a half minutes long.) There were laws on the books in Colonial America, for example, demanding children be educated (although not that schools be established). There was free public education in the US too prior to Horace Mann’s introduction of the “Prussian model” – the so-called “charity schools.” There were other, competing models for arranging classrooms and instruction as well, notably the “monitorial system” (more on that below). Textbook companies were already thriving before Horace Mann or the Committee of Ten came along to decide what should be part of the curriculum. One of the side-effects of the efforts of Mann and others to create a public education system, unmentioned by Khan, was the establishment of “normal schools” where teachers were trained. Another was the requirement that, in order to demonstrate accountability, schools maintain records on attendance, salaries, and other expenditures. Despite Khan’s assertions about the triumph of standardization, control of public schools in the US have, unlike in Prussia, remained largely decentralized – in the hands of states and local districts rather than the federal government.
The standardization of public education into a “factory model” – hell, the whole history of education itself – was nowhere as smooth or coherent as Khan’s simple timeline would suggest. There were vast differences between public education in Mann’s home state of Massachusetts and in the rest of the country – in the South before and after the Civil War no doubt, as in the expanding West. And there have always been objections from multiple quarters, particularly from religious groups, to the shape that schooling has taken.
Arguments over what public education should look like and what purpose public education should serve – God, country, community, the economy, the self – are not new. These battles have persisted – frequently with handwringing about education’s ongoing failures – and as such, they have shaped and yes changed, what happens in schools.
Sal Khan is hardly the only one who tells a story of “the factory of model of education” that posits the United States adopted Prussia’s school system in order to create a compliant populace. It’s a story cited by homeschoolers and by libertarians. It’s a story featured in one of Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talks. It’s a story told by John Taylor Gatto in his 2009 book Weapons of Mass Instruction. It’s a story echoed by The New York Times’ David Brooks. Here he is in 2012: “The American education model…was actually copied from the 18th-century Prussian model designed to create docile subjects and factory workers.”
For what it’s worth, Prussia was not highly industrialized when Frederick the Great formalized its education system in the late 1700s. (Very few places in the world were back then.) Training future factory workers, docile or not, was not really the point.
Nevertheless industrialization is often touted as both the model and the rationale for the public education system past and present. And by extension, it’s part of a narrative that now contends that schools are no longer equipped to address the needs of a post-industrial world.
Perhaps the best known and most influential example of this argument comes from Alvin Toffler who decried the “Industrial Era School” in his 1970 book Future Shock:
Mass education was the ingenious machine constructed by industrialism to produce the kind of adults it needed. The problem was inordinately complex. How to pre-adapt children for a new world – a world of repetitive indoor toil, smoke, noise, machines, crowded living conditions, collective discipline, a world in which time was to be regulated not by the cycle of sun and moon, but by the factory whistle and the clock.
The solution was an educational system that, in its very structure, simulated this new world. This system did not emerge instantly. Even today it retains throw-back elements from pre-industrial society. Yet the whole idea of assembling masses of students (raw material) to be processed by teachers (workers) in a centrally located school (factory) was a stroke of industrial genius. The whole administrative hierarchy of education, as it grew up, followed the model of industrial bureaucracy. The very organization of knowledge into permanent disciplines was grounded on industrial assumptions. Children marched from place to place and sat in assigned stations. Bells rang to announce changes of time.
The inner life of the school thus became an anticipatory mirror, a perfect introduction to industrial society. The most criticized features of education today – the regimentation, lack of individualization, the rigid systems of seating, grouping, grading and marking, the authoritarian role of the teacher – are precisely those that made mass public education so effective an instrument of adaptation for its place and time.
Despite these accounts offered by Toffler, Brooks, Khan, Gatto, and others, the history of schools doesn’t map so neatly onto the history of factories (and visa versa). As education historian Sherman Dorn has argued, “it makes no sense to talk about either ‘the industrial era’ or the development of public school systems as a single, coherent phase of national history.”
If you think industrialization is the shift of large portions of working people to wage-labor, or the division of labor (away from master-craft production), then the early nineteenth century is your era of early industrialization, associated closely with extensive urbanization (in both towns and large cities) and such high-expectations transportation projects as the Erie Canal or the Cumberland Road project (as well as other more mundane and local transportation improvements). That is the era of tremendous experimentation in the forms of schools, from legacy one-room village schools in the hinterlands to giant monitorial schools in cities to academies and normal schools and colleges and the earliest high schools in various places. It is the era of charity schools in cities and the earliest (and incomplete) state subsidies to education, a period when many states had subsidies to what we would call private or parochial schools. It is also the start of the common-school reform era, the era when both workers and common-school reformers began to talk about schooling as a right attached to citizenship, and the era when primary schooling in the North became coeducational almost everywhere. It was an era of mass-produced textbooks. It was an era when rote learning was highly valued in school, despite arguments against the same. And, yes, the first compulsory-school law was passed before the Civil War… but it was not enforced.
Maybe you think industrialization is the development of railroads, monopolies, national general strikes, metastasizing metropolises, and mechanized production. Then you mean the second half of the nineteenth century, and that is the era where the structural dreams of common-school reformers largely came to pass with tuition-free schooling spreading in the North, the slow victory of high schools over academies, more (unenforced) compulsory school laws, a pan-Protestant flavor to schooling without official religious education, the initial development of a parallel Catholic parochial school system when Catholic leaders became convinced the public schools were hostile to their interests, the first research-oriented universities, a broad diversity of languages of instruction through the Midwest and south to Texas, the development of extensive age-graded self-contained elementary classrooms in urban school systems, the bureaucratization of many such systems, the (contentious) development of public schooling in the South, and the era when segregation laws were written at the tail end of the 19th century. It was also an era of mass-produced textbooks, and an era when rote learning was highly valued in school, despite arguments against the same.
Or maybe you think industrialization was assembly-line factories, private-worker unionization supported by federal law, the maturation of marketing techniques and the growth of a consumer economy, major economic crises, the introduction of cars and trucks, the mechanization of agriculture, and brutal, mechanized wars. Then you’re talking about the first half of the twentieth century. That was an era of rural-school consolidation forced by states, continued racial segregation, efforts to Americanize immigrant children and force them to speak English only in schools, the first legal successes in undermining segregation, the growth of (mostly small) high schools across the U.S. and tracking within those schools, the growth of standardized testing for local administrative purposes (including tracking), the evolution of normal schools into teachers colleges, and the slow separation of higher education into secondary and tertiary levels. It was the era when several regions of the country first experienced a majority of teenagers graduating from high school. It was also an era of mass-produced textbooks, and an era when rote learning was highly valued in school, despite arguments against the same. It was an era when compulsory school laws were finally enforced at selective ages, when child-labor opponents first failed and then succeeded at efforts to limit child labor by legislation… aided significantly by the Great Depression and the mechanization of agriculture, as teenagers found fewer opportunities for full-time work.
As Dorn notes, phrases like “the industrial model of education,” “the factory model of education,” and “the Prussian model of education” are used as a “rhetorical foil” in order make a particular political point – not so much to explain the history of education, as to try to shape its future.
It’s tempting to say that those who argue that today’s schools are fashioned on nineteenth century factories have never read much about the Industrial Revolution. (Frederick Engels’ The Condition of the Working-Class in England in 1844 is in the public domain and available via Project Gutenberg, for what it’s worth.) Schools might feel highly de-personalized institutions; they might routinely demand compliance and frequently squelch creativity. But they don’t really look like and they really don’t work like factories.
In fact, the “Prussian model” superseded an education system that actually did look like a factory. The monitorial system and its variants the Lancaster, the Bell, and the Madras systems, involved schools that were housed in large warehouses – larger often than many of the nascent factories at the time – with hundreds of students in one massive classroom with one teacher. Students were grouped (30 or so together) not by age but by reading proficiency, with more advanced students – “monitors” – assigned to tutor and train the others.
Khan argues in his “History of Education” video that the Prussian model was the only way to provide a free public education, but as the widespread popularity of the monitorial system in the same period demonstrates, it was really just one way. Due to labor costs alone, the monitorial system was actually far cheaper. (After all, the major innovation of the Prussian model was in levying a tax to fund compulsory schooling, not in establishing a method for instruction.)
In his book A Voyage to India (1820), James Cordiner explains the functioning of the Madras system following his visit to the Military Male Orphan Asylum in India where this model originated:
From the perpetual agency of this system, idleness cannot exist. On entering the school, you can discover no individual unemployed, no boy looking vacantly round him: the whole is a beautiful picture of the most animated industry, and resembles the various machinery of a cloth or thread manufactory, completely executing their different offices, and all set in motion by one active engine.
In other words, the monitorial system expressly operated like a factory. “Industry” here isn’t simply a reference to manufacturing or production; “industry” is the opposite of “idleness.” To counter idleness, students must be taught to work – and the functioning of the classroom should be like a machine.
As Mike Caulfield points out, the monitorial system quite arguably provided a certain amount of “personalization” – at least as that word is often used today – insofar as students could move at their own pace, one of the shortcomings so often indentified in the “factory model of education.” Caulfield cites Andrew Bell’s guide to the monitorial system Mutual Tuition and Moral Discipline (1823):
The Madras System consists in conducting a school, by a single Master, THROUGH THE MEDIUM OF THE SCHOLARS THEMSELVES, by an uniform and almost insensibly progressive course of study, whereby the mind of the child is often exercised in anticipating and dictating for himself his successive lessons, by which the memory is improved, the understanding cultivated, and knowledge uniformly increased – a course in which reading and writing are carried on in the same act, with a law of classification by which every scholar finds his level, is happily, busily, and profitably employed every moment, is necessarily made perfectly acquainted with every lesson as he goes along, and without the use or the need of corporeal infliction, acquires habits of method, order, and good conduct, and is advanced in his learning, according to the full measure of his capacity.
But as Frederick John Gladman’s manual on education School Work (1886) suggests, despite its widespread adoption throughout the UK and US, the Lancaster system fell out of favor, in part because this “personalized” model of education did not stimulate sufficient intellectual curiosity in its students:
Failure occurred, as it always will, when masters were slaves to “the system,” when they were satisfied with mechanical arrangements and routine work or when they did not study their pupils, and get down to the Principles of Education.
According to Gladman, the Lancaster system was replaced by the Glasgow system, developed by David Stow, which emphasized the training of teachers so as to “cultivate the whole nature of the child, instead of the mere head – the affections and habits, as well as the intellect.” Training of teachers was necessary, Gladman contended, as “it is useless to have the machinery without the skilled workman, or the well-trained workman without the suitable premises.”
Similarly, the Prussian model was based on the training of teachers. As Victor Cousin wrote in his Report on the State of Education in Prussia (1837) – a report commissioned by the French government but, once translated into English, with great influence in the US:
Our principal aim, in each kind of instruction, is to induce the young men to think and judge for themselves. We are opposed to all mechanical study and servile transcripts. The masters of our primary schools must possess intelligence themselves, in order to be able to awaken it in their pupils; otherwise, the state would doubtless prefer the less expensive schools of Bell and Lancaster.
Caulfield concludes, “That is those nasty sounding Prussians agreeing with the somewhat less nasty sounding Glasweegians that education must be reformed because it works too much like a factory. And the way to make it less like a factory is to bring in the expertise of a craftsman, in this case, the trained teachers that were the heart of the Mannian, Glasgow, and Prussian systems.”
Many education reformers today denounce the “factory model of education” with an appeal to new machinery and new practices that will supposedly modernize the system. That argument is now and has been for a century the rationale for education technology. As Sidney Pressey, one of the inventors of the earliest “teaching machines” wrote in 1932 predicting “The Coming Industrial Revolution in Education,”
Education is the one major activity in this country which is still in a crude handicraft stage. But the economic depression may here work beneficially, in that it may force the consideration of efficiency and the need for laborsaving devices in education. Education is a large-scale industry; it should use quantity production methods. This does not mean, in any unfortunate sense, the mechanization of education. It does mean freeing the teacher from the drudgeries of her work so that she may do more real teaching, giving the pupil more adequate guidance in his learning. There may well be an “industrial revolution” in education. The ultimate results should be highly beneficial. Perhaps only by such means can universal education be made effective.
Pressey, much like Sal Khan and other education technologists today, believed that teaching machines could personalize and “revolutionize” education by allowing students to move at their own pace through the curriculum. The automation of the menial tasks of instruction would enable education to scale, Pressey – presaging MOOC proponents – asserted.
We tend to not see automation today as mechanization as much as algorithmization – the promise and potential in artificial intelligence and virtualization, as if this magically makes these new systems of standardization and control lighter and liberatory.
And so too we’ve invented a history of “the factory model of education” in order to justify an “upgrade” – to new software and hardware that will do much of the same thing schools have done for generations now, just (supposedly) more efficiently, with control moved out of the hands of labor (teachers) and into the hands of a new class of engineers, out of the realm of the government and into the realm of the market.
Classrooms have come a long way. There’s been an exponential growth in educational technology advancement over the past few years. From overhead projectors to iPads, it’s important to understand not only what’s coming next but also where it all started.
We’ve certainly come a long way but some things seem hauntingly similar to many years ago. For example, Thomas Edison said in 1925 that “books will soon be obsolete in schools. Scholars will soon be instructed through the eye.” I’m pretty sure this is exactly what people are saying these days about the iPad.
Also in 1925, there were “schools of the air” that delivered lessons to millions of students simultaneously. Scroll down to find out how that worked (hint: it wasn’t by using the Internet!)
Here’s a brief look at the evolution of classroom technology. Do you have a piece of technology that you think should be included? Tweet @edudemic or let me know in the comments and I’ll be sure to add it to the timeline! Updated to include items suggested in the comments! Videotapes, Pens, Copiers, and more!
Wooden paddles with printed lessons were popular in the colonial era. Perhaps this is where fraternities got the idea? On the paper there was usually the alphabet and a religious verse which children would copy to help them learn how to write.
This is a pointer and also a corporal punishment device. Seems like both this and the Horn-Book had dual purposes in terms of ‘educating’ the youths of that era.
The precursor to a slide projector, the ‘magic lantern’ projected images printed on glass plates and showed them in darkened rooms to students. By the end of World War I, Chicago’s public school system had roughly 8,000 lantern slides.
Used throughout the 19th century in nearly all classrooms, a Boston school superintendent in 1870 described the slate as being “if the result of the work should, at any time, be found infelicitous, a sponge will readily banish from the slate all disheartening recollections, and leave it free for new attempts.’
Still going strong to this day, the chalkboard is one of the biggest inventions in terms of educational technology.
Just like the chalkboard, the pencil is also found in basically all classrooms in the U.S. In the late 19th century, mass-produced paper and pencils became more readily available and pencils eventually replaced the school slate.
At the turn of the century, the Keystone View Company began to market stereoscopes which are basically three-dimensional viewing tools that were popular in homes as a source of entertainment. Keystone View Company marketed these stereoscopes to schools and created hundreds of images that were meant to be used to illustrate points made during lectures.
Similar to the motion-picture projector, Thomas Edison predicted that, thanks to the invention of projected images, “books will soon be obsolete in schools. Scholars will soon be instructed through the eye.”
New York City’s Board of Education was actually the first organization to send lessons to schools through a radio station. Over the next couple of decades, “schools of the air” began broadcasting programs to millions of American students.
Initially used by the U.S. military for training purposes in World War II, overhead projectors quickly spread to schools and other organizations around the country.
While it was originally invented in 1888, it was not until 1940 that the ballpoint pen started to gain worldwide recognition as being a useful tool in the classroom and life in general. The first ballpoint pens went on sale at Gimbels department store in New York City on 29 October 1945 for US$9.75 each. This pen was widely known as the rocket in the U.S. into the late 1950s.
Surviving into the Xerox age, the mimeograph made copies by being hand-cranked. Makes you appreciate your current copier at least a little bit now, huh?
Thanks to theories that students could learn lessons through repeated drills and repetition (and repeated repetition) schools began to install listening stations that used headphones and audio tapes. Most were used in what were dubbed ‘language labs’ and this practice is still in use today, except now computers are used instead of audio tapes.
William Oughtred and others developed the slide rule in the 17th century based on the emerging work on logarithms by John Napier. Before the advent of the pocket calculator, it was the most commonly used calculation tool in science and engineering. The use of slide rules continued to grow through the 1950s and 1960s even as digital computing devices were being gradually introduced; but around 1974 the electronic scientific calculator made it largely obsolete and most suppliers left the business.
What would school be without videotapes? (Thanks to Jaume in the comments for reminding me about this one!) The electronics division of entertainer Bing Crosby’s production company, Bing Crosby Enterprises (BCE), gave the world’s first demonstration of a videotape recording in Los Angeles on November 11, 1951. Developed by John T. Mullin and Wayne R. Johnson since 1950, the device gave what were described as “blurred and indistinct” images, using a modified Ampex 200 tape recorder and standard quarter-inch (0.6 cm) audio tape moving at 360 inches (9.1 m) per second. A year later, an improved version, using one-inch (2.6 cm) magnetic tape, was shown to the press, who reportedly expressed amazement at the quality of the images, although they had a “persistent grainy quality that looked like a worn motion picture”.
With an adjustable metal bar that helped students tamp down a page, the reading accelerator was a simple device designed to help students read more efficiently. Personally, this looks like a torture device and is probably the least portable thing to bring along with a book. Is turning the page of a book or holding a book really that difficult?
B. F. Skinner, a behavioral scientist, developed a series of devices that allowed a student to proceed at his or her own pace through a regimented program of instruction.
By the early sixties, there were more than 50 channels of TV which included educational programming that aired across the country.
Xerographic office photocopying was introduced by Xerox in 1959, and it gradually replaced copies made by Verifax, Photostat, carbon paper, mimeograph machines, and other duplicating machines. The prevalence of its use is one of the factors that prevented the development of the paperless office heralded early in the digital revolution.Photocopying is widely used in business, education, and government. There have been many predictions that photocopiers will eventually become obsolete as information workers continue to increase their digital document creation and distribution, and rely less on distributing actual pieces of paper.
A secretary made this white liquid in her kitchen and sold the company to Gillette for about $50 million. The rest is (redacted) history!
A precursor to the iPad perhaps, this filmstrip viewer is a simple way to allow individual students watch filmstrips at their own pace.
The predecessor of the much-loved and much-used TI-83, this calculator paved the way for the calculators used today. There were initial concerns however as teachers were slow to adopt them for fear they would undermine the learning of basic skills.
The Scantron Corporation removed the need for grading multiple-choice exams. The Scantron machines were free to use but the company made money by charging for their proprietary grading forms. Sneaky stuff.
Public schools in the U.S. averaged about one computer for every 92 students in 1984. The Plato was one of the most-used early computers to gain a foothold in the education market. Currently, there is about one computer for every 4 students.
A single CD could store an entire encyclopedia plus video and audio. The CD-ROM and eventually the CD-RW paved the way for flash drives and easy personal storage.
The successor to the hand-held calculator (see above), the graphing calculator made far more advanced math much easier as it let you plot out points, do long equations, and play ‘Snake’ as a game when you got bored in class.
The chalkboard got a facelift with the whiteboard. That got turned into a more interactive system that uses a touch-sensitive white screen, a projector, and a computer. Still getting slowly rolled out to classrooms right now, betcha didn’t know they were first around in 1999! (I didn’t know that, at least)
There are many similar tools available now, but iClicker was one of the first to allow teachers to be able to quickly poll students and get results in real time.
The ‘One Laptop Per Child’ computer was built so it was durable and cheap enough to sell or donate to developing countries. It’s an incredible machine that works well in sunlight, is waterproof, and much more. Learn more.
Just like the original school slate, could the iPad bring Thomas Edison’s statement to life? Could the iPad make it so “scholars will soon be instructed through the eye.” Only time will tell.
From September, coding will be part of the primary and secondary education curriculum in the UK, as part of wider changes designed to boost computer literacy alongside reading, writing and maths skills for British children.
Some independent schools are already providing a glimpse at the potential. Which is why I recently found myself in Cambridge, watching a classroom of Year 5 girls – 9-10 year-olds – practising their programming skills on iPad apps like Hopscotch, Move the Turtle and Kodable. Continue reading Tablets in schools: coding, creativity and the importance of teachers
Europe is at risk of missing out on the economic and social benefits of trends like big data and cloud computing if not enough technical workers are produced in the region.
Andrus Ansip, European Commission (EC) Digital Single Market chief, issued the warning during a speech in Belgium, where he outlined the scale of the skills gap facing Europe.
“Despite rapid growth in the ICT sector, creating some 120,000 new jobs a year, Europe could face a shortage of more than 800,000 skilled ICT workers by 2020,” he said.
“We still see big differences in skills levels between EU countries, and different implementation of national skills programmes designed to minimise Europe’s digital divide.”
Ansip described this as an alarming state of affairs, especially as the benefits of new IT trends such as big data can be truly realised only with tech-savvy workers.
“Global big data technology and services are set to grow from €3bn in 2010 to €16bn this year, seven times more quickly than the overall IT market,” he said.
“To me, that is the kind of rapid growth that means hundreds of thousands of new jobs across Europe in the coming years.
“But is Europe ready for the advent of big data? Perhaps not yet: 29 percent of larger EU companies see themselves as ready, but more than 50 percent say they are not.”
This will also affect technologies such as cloud computing, another area where Europe is primed for growth, as Ansip outlined.
“By 2020, cloud computing is due to expand to almost five times its market size in 2013, meaning more value to the economy, more jobs, more innovation,” he said.
“Since much more data is likely to be stored in the cloud in the years ahead, it is vital to address issues like data storage, ownership and management sooner rather than later.”
Ansip explained that the EC’s effort to create a more efficient digital single market that removes barriers to cross-border trade is just one way to boost the digital economy in Europe, which could act as a catalyst to create more digital workers.
The need for more tech-savvy workers has been on the UK government’s agenda for some years, and a revamped computing curriculum was introduced to improve the situation.
However, while this may address the problem in the long-term, others have said that the UK needs to accept its current lack of skilled tech workers and reinstate visas that allow foreigners to work for UK firms if they have the relevant skills.
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