The Apple II computer—in all its gray boxiness—was introduced. Aggressive marketing and volume discounts made it popular in schools. The landmark, garage-built computers, which retailed for $1,295, were the first Apples to use full color graphics—for a simple reason: Designer Steve Wozniak wanted to be able to play Breakout on the machine, and that original game ran in color.
The mid-‘80s ushered in an era of educational computer games. Oregon Trail taught kids about the harsh realities of life as a 19th century pioneer, dysentery and all (and it’s still around today, though children of the ’80s and ’90s would hardly recognize it). Mavis Beacon taught typing—fast. Carmen Sandiego tried to pique kids’ interest in geography. And Number Munchers aimed to get children excited about multiplication and division.
Texas Instruments kicked off a graphing calculator craze in 1990 with the introduction of the TI-81 calculator, which could graph up to four math functions at once. From 2002-04, the calculator was featured in the Smithsonian’s “Slates, Slide Rules, and Software: Teaching Math in America” exhibition at the American History Museum.
In 1994, public schools started adopting the Internet, with 35 percent having some sort of access. By 2000, 98 percent were connected. By 2013, 39 percent of public schools had wireless network access throughout the entire school.
The traditional schoolroom blackboard got a big makeover in 1998 when the SMART introduced its 500 series, the first interactive whiteboard to have large-scale success in schools.
It may be hard to imagine life these days without YouTube, but the video-sharing site saw its first uploads in 2005. YouTube quickly became a valuable educational and entertainment platform.
Poll Everywhere silenced classroom clickers in 2008 by enabling real-time feedback online and through text messages. By 2014, the web technology was in use in 100,000 classrooms around the world, and some 10 million people had responded to a Poll Everywhere question.
As schoolroom technology evolved, so did online education and distance learning. The University of Southern California became the first school to offer a master’s in teaching program entirely online. The offerings for online college degree programs expanded so quickly, U.S. News & World Report created a “Best Online Rankings” list in 2012 to pair with its traditional college evaluations.
After Apple introduced the iPad in 2010, public school districts in California and Minnesota announced they would start providing them to students in their classrooms. In 2012, Northwestern University used the iPad to teach Chinese language classes.
“Skype in the Classroom” is introduced, allowing teachers and students to call and communicate with other classrooms all around the country and the world. At use today in nearly 85,000 classrooms, teachers “bring in” guest speakers via Skype, or create virtual field trips [ http://vimeo.com/84676799 ] for their students.
And most recently, an app called TouchCast has allowed teachers to integrate maps, tweets, web pages and other online content into video presentations for their classrooms.