Recently my wife and I received a letter from our Alma mater indicating that our 40th class reunion would be next spring. Besides a confirmation of our advancing age, it brought back thoughts of how things have changed in the past 40 years.

When we were college students, class meant going to a room with an teacher and receiving a lecture (or if we were lucky, participating in a learning discussion). While this classroom experience remains the norm in undergraduate education, class may also mean hooking up the laptop and connecting via the Internet to receive information in a variety of formats. Class discussions are held electronically and in some cases there is no visual or vocal interaction with the teacher during the whole semester.

In the late 1960’s class notes were handwritten and papers were expected to be typewritten (although a few teachers did permit handwritten papers). Now small digital recorders can quietly record every word the teacher speaks. This can be accomplished while the student is text messaging via a cell phone to someone in the next seat or in a foreign country. The personal computer with its word processing and spread sheet software is now a required part of every student’s educational experience.

The following is but a short list of technological advances of the last 40 years ; (source – inventors.about.com)

  • floppy disk – 1970
  • liquid-crystal display – 1971
  • microprocessor – 1971
  • videocassette recorder – 1971
  • word processor – 1972
  • ethernet – 1973
  • laser printer 1975
  • ink-jet printer 1976
  • cell phones – 1979
  • IBM-PC – 1981
  • Apple Macintosh – 1984
  • Microsoft Windows – 1985
  • Disposable Camera – 1986
  • Digital Cellular Phone – 1988
  • HTTP and HTML Created – 1990
  • Pentium Processor – 1993
  • Virtual keyboard – 2002
  • Intel Express Chipsets – 2004
  • YouTube – 2005

What has not changed over time is the nature of the educational process.  It is still dependent upon what the teacher puts into his/her instruction. Good quality information and a desire to share and be a part of the learning process can be done just as effectively through the use of appropriate technology as it can be through personal classroom interaction.  In other words, good instruction is good instruction no matter what technology is used in its dissemination.  Likewise technology can not help poor instruction.

So long for now!

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