A Brief History of Classroom Technology

With students back to school and the semester already in full swing, we’re reminded of how much technology in the classroom has changed over time. We couldn’t help but notice how many early classroom technologies have been adapted and are still readily used today. However, with the rapid pace of technology evolution, it seems as though the classroom will soon be vastly different. Take a look as some milestones in classroom technology:

  • 1650 – Hornbook: Wooden paddle with lessons nailed to it, it is believed to be the first classroom staple.

    The hornbook (1650), a wooden paddle with lessons nailed to it, is believed to be the first classroom staple.

  • 1870 – Magic Lantern: First slide projector, it illuminated large glass slides onto cloth screens.
  • 1890 – Chalkboard: Once black, but now green, this teaching-tool breakthrough allowed teachers to write lessons for the entire class to copy.
  • 1900 – Pencil: Still considered a student necessity, this invention replaced the need for individual slates and chalk.
  • 1930 – Overhead Projector: Originally used for military training, the projector later became a huge classroom hit because it allowed teachers to write their lessons on transparencies prior to class. Projectors have come a long way since 1930; today they are digital and project images from an instructor’s PC. The Panasonic Wireless Projector for iOS app even allows users to send PDF files and JPEG images saved to an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch to any Panasonic wireless compatible projector using a Wi-Fi Network or wireless LAN.
  • 1950 – Language-lab Headset:  Designed after research showed students learn through repetition, these headsets allowed students to listen to pre-recorded lessons.
  • 1960 – Liquid Paper: Invented 20 years after the ballpoint pen, it seems this corrective fluid may have come too late for some frustrated students, especially those is calligraphy class.
  • 1972 – Scantron Machine: This machine was designed to free teachers from grading individual multiple choice exams.
  • 1980 – Plato Computer: First used by school administrators and counselors, the computer quickly trickled down to the students for word processing and learning games.
  • 1985 – Handheld Graphing Calculator: Allowed students to complete complicated math problems with ease.
  • 1999 – Interactive Whiteboard: This board connects a computer to a digital projector, allowing presenters to change the images on the screen with a pen. Today, the Panasonic Panaboard and PB1 Series Interactive Displays take interactivity to the next level, with the PB1 providing pixel-by-pixel accuracy.
  • 2010 – Tablet: Many believe the tablet to be the next classroom staple due to its versatility and portability.

The magic lantern (1870) was the first known slide projector.

Although many of the technologies listed above are still being used today, we’re seeing a push toward student-centered learning, an approach that focuses on the abilities, interests and learning styles of the student. With this shift come interactive classroom technologies, such as interactive Panaboards and displays, 3D projectors and tablets in the classroom. With constant advancements in technology, the classroom is quickly evolving, while providing new and better ways for students to learn and interact with the world around them. What do you think will be the next big classroom technology?


Photos courtesy of Flickr users kratz, dougbelshaw and wfryer.