Technology Lessons for Schools
September 14, 2020
There’s a Keystone in every great invention.
September usually means the end of summer and back to school for students. However, COVID-19 has introduced many challenges for the beginning of the academic calendar for school systems. Whether public or private, primary or PhD, the health concerns surrounding this pandemic have many students learning from home. Online education is possible because of significant cultural and technological advancements. The acceptance of distance learning and evolution of telecommunications has transformed education as we know it today. Educational platforms changed and grew because of technological developments including the phonograph, radio, television, computers, and now the Internet. The Internet enables students to access information and submit work/projects online, while virtually interacting with teachers and classmates. Here is a quick overview on how education practices have evolved with technology.
Tracing the history of online education starts with the principle of distance learning. In 1858, the University of London introduced the “External Programme,” becoming the first university in the world to offer full degrees through distance learning. The first formal correspondence schools in the United States didn’t begin until 1873. Ana Eliot Tickner founded The Society to Encourage Studies at Home in Boston, Massachusetts, an organization that created and promoted home study materials for woman. In 1892, the University of Chicago became the first traditional American educational institution (college or K–12) to offer correspondence courses.
Invented by Thomas Edison in 1887, the phonograph enabled mechanical recordings and reproduction of sound played backed on records. Alexander Graham Bell's Volta Laboratory made many improvements in the 1880s and introduced the Graphophone. This technology was first embraced by The University of Wisconsin–Madison. The University sent course materials and lectures on phonograph records to distance learners. The University of Wisconsin–Madison coined the term “distance education” in a 1906 advertising pamphlet. Distance education courses quickly grew and were adopted by other universities.
In the mid 1890’s Guglielmo Marconi developed the first apparatus for long distance radio communication. Building off of techniques physicists were using to study electromagnetic waves, the radio as we know it today would go through many iterations over the next 30 years. In 1922, Pennsylvania State University became the first college or university to broadcast courses over the radio, increasing the speed and efficiency of contact between distance learners and course content. To this day, many universities have their own radio stations for educational and entertainment purposes.
With the advent of video cameras for use in broadcast media in the early 1900’s, it is no surprise that television was a welcomed media to distribute educational materials. In 1950, WOI-TV of Iowa State University went on the air with the first non-experimental, educationally owned television station. In 1953, the University of Houston offered course credit for television correspondence courses.
Computers & Computer Networks
Enter the space race and age of early computing as we know it. The first computers ever built were the Turing Machine in 1936 and Colossus in 1942. Both machines were code-breakers used in WWII. The Germans invented their own machine called the Z23. It was the first automated electro-mechanical programmable digital computer developed by Konrad Zuse.
Satellite communication began in 1957 with the launch of Sputnik by the former Soviet Union (SSR). The satellite commenced a new era of global communications. In response to the success of Sputnik, the US Government created the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). This agency would go on to lay much of the groundwork for the Internet.
In 1958 Bell Labs invented a device that turns digital signals to analog signals, enabling wired communication between computers. By combining two words, modulator and demodulator, you know this device as a modem.
In 1960, the University of Illinois created an Intranet system for students to access course materials and recorded lectures.
In 1976, the first virtual campus, Coastline Community College (CCC) was established. CCC offered a degree program entirely through telecommuting courses, also known as telecourses using telephone, television, radio, records, and tapes. The virtual campus operated out of Fountain Valley, California.
Notable Internet Developments
- 1965 - Sponsored by ARPA, Leonard Kleinrock, Lawrence Roberts, and Thomas Merrill create the first wide area computer network, using telephone lines
- 1966 - ARPA sponsors the launch of ARPANET research project to bridge packet-switching technology and computer networks
- 1969 - The first four nodes of the preliminary internet, the ARPANET, are linked through a physical Interface Message Processor (IMP) network. The nodes are in UCLA, UC–Santa Barbara, Stanford, and the University of Utah
- 1969 - Charley Kline transmits the first internet signal (data packets) under the supervision of Leonard Kleinrock at UCLA
- 1974 - Lawrence Roberts founds Telenet through the support of Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN). This is the first public version of ARPANET
- 1977 - Lawrence Landweber establishes the Computer Science Network (CSNET) with the intention of connecting all US universities and industrial computer research groups.
Online Education Developments
Developments in the 1980’s and 1990’s brought the computer age and modern era of the Internet. Although internet-type signals had been transmitted from school to school in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the 1980’s are the birth years of modern internet. In 1983, the modern internet is born when ARPANET transitioned to TCP/IP protocols, leaving behind the former protocols of the Network Control Programs (NCP).
In 1985, the first US research and education network is developed. The NSFNET network is the first open computer network focused on research and higher education. All previous networks were all closed networks. Also in 1985, the first accredited online graduate program is offered by Nova Southeastern University.
In 1991, the World Wide Web (WWW) opens to the public, allowing for internet use and online education as we know it today. Computer use quickly spread throughout school systems and into homes for the first time.
Fast forward to 1994, CALCAMPUS is the first online college courses with real–time instruction and participation for synchronous learning. By 2009, more than 5.5 million students around the world are enrolled in at least one online college course. And by 2018, 98% of public universities and colleges offered some form of online program.
School’s in Session
Technology has always shaped our educational system. Over the past two decades, the Internet has had a major impact on educational programs. The Internet has shaped how instructors teach material, how students learn, and how both can access and deliver information. Online education is still rapidly evolving. Virtual classrooms now provide a shared online space where instructors and students work, interact and participate simultaneously - all in real time. Teachers and students can login to virtual classrooms via a wide range of wireless devices from laptop computers to tablets to smart phones and even smart watches. Who knows what technology development will impact education next. Perhaps virtual reality will play a role.
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