Lessons from the Past: Technology in the Classroom

Lessons from the Past: Technology in the Classroom

Discussion about Artificial Intelligence (AI) seems to be everywhere, from the ethics of AI to its usefulness and pitfalls. Professionals worldwide are grappling with its strengths and dangers in their field. And the question on many educators’ minds today is, does AI belong in the classroom? To imagine a path forward with this latest technological advancement, we’re taking a look back at the adoption of technologies which were once the “next big thing.” Check out our key takeaways below.

Adopting new technology comes with excitement and trepidation.

So, you feel nervous about AI’s role in the classroom? You’re hardly alone. Or perhaps you’re over the moon thinking of all the ways AI can save you time in a busy day. As it turns out, trepidation and excitement are a normal part of new technology being introduced to the classroom.

  • Check out this 1997 Atlantic article about student computer usage in school. Though computer use is now exceedingly commonplace in schools, those who lauded its strengths were considered by some as simply “technology evangels,” wasting resources and time.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, consider this 2008 article that dives into the now-familiar practice of one-to-one computer use in the classroom. The potential applications of new technologies can be incredibly exciting! Individualized learning, maximizing students’ one-on-one time with teachers and increasing engagement were all compelling reasons for schools 15 years ago to consider if one-to-one was right for them.

Students are eager to learn about and use the latest technology; educators can use this to facilitate greater learning opportunities and achievements.

Simply put, students are excited to engage with technology in the classroom—yet not all adults in their lives are quite so enthusiastic. Students’ keenness to use new technology presents educators with an opportunity to engage and motivate students in new and unique ways (and it’s backed by research!). With the introduction of new technology in the classroom over the years, it has become evident that, when used well and appropriately, technology tends to keep students engaged in a new manner, provide motivation and further learning in unique ways.

  • Take, for example, the adoption of typewriters in schools. The below 1934 news article on the integration of typewriters in lower grade classrooms lauds the benefits of allowing young students to use the “modern instrument,” and predicts a surge of typewriter use across the country. A contemporary study found typewriter use motivated students, interesting them in new ways and furthering their language arts learning. And what’s more, that research has been proven true by many, many other studies on the use of typewriters in elementary schools.

Ultimately, these technological advancements are not replacing teachers but are an opportunity for educators to enhance students’ learning.

  • As noted in the Atlantic article on computers in school (mentioned above), the positive impact of the new technology in classrooms “had less to do with the computer and more to do with the teaching.”
  • Significant changes in technology have been happening for decades and many eventually find their way, in some capacity, into the classroom. Yet regardless of the technological advancement, students continue to view technology as a tool and means of enhancing learning, rather than an outright substitute for their teachers. Students want rules and guidance around using AI. What does this mean for educators today? In short, it means teachers are faced with an opportunity rather than a threat.

How will educators use new technology to improve their lives and those of their students? It remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: students will continue to look to their teachers for guidance.


Blog image citation: “Mercer Elementary School Students with Computers Photograph.” Photograph. Cleveland, Ohio: Cleveland Press, 1967. From Ohio Memory: Shaker Heights Public Library Photograph Collection. https://ohiomemory.org/digital/collection/p267401coll36/id/14699/rec/14 (accessed June 20, 2023).

A newspaper article with an image of two children, one boy and one girl, using typewriters. A teacher leans in from behind to point out something on a piece of paper. The corresponding article title is above the image and the article body below it. The article is called "Writers First of Kind: Pioneer Typewriter Textbook for Children Uses Simple Language."

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