The History of Technology in the Classroom


Since the early 1980s, advances in computer technology have transformed how we communicate, entertain ourselves, work and even learn. The rapid pace of technological change has been felt in elementary, secondary and college classrooms. Over the years, technology has advanced to become not only an instructional tool but also a medium of education itself.


  • IBM introduced its first personal computer in 1981. A year later, Time magazine declared the IBM PC its "Man of the Year." By 1983, the government and scientists laid the foundations of the Internet. Since the early years of the personal computer, technology has had a place in school classrooms. Many schools offered basic courses in computer use, and the Apple II was a popular computer in many classrooms.


  • Personal computers and similar technologies remained staples in schools, but the growth of the Internet in the 1990s fueled the push for expanded classroom technology. During the 1980s, the Internet was a text-based system, its use largely limited to government researchers, scientists and academics. The National Science Foundation, which managed the Internet in the early years, prohibited use of the medium for commercial purposes until 1993, when it lifted the ban. This led to the growth of the World Wide Web, with its user-friendly features and colorful graphics.


  • Over time, the Internet became a massive electronic library of information, thanks in part to advances that linked numerous websites. The vast amount of information available through the Internet made the medium attractive as an educational tool and spurred the use of technology in elementary, secondary and college classrooms.

    Over time, as the Internet became a platform for not only text-based information but also audio and video material, its educational applications increased to the point that the medium itself has become a virtual classroom through which students, especially at the college level, can take courses and even earn degrees.

Expert Insight

  • In a 1999 paper for the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington, D.C., Professor Gary Chapman of the University of Texas wrote that the access to technology has been greater among high school students than their elementary counterparts, based on the number of computers available in schools. He also found that many school computers in the late 1990s were not Internet capable and even included some 20-year-old Apple II models.

Widespread Use

  • According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), about 35 percent of American public schools had Internet access in 1994. By 2002, that percentage increased to 99 percent. America's schools had not only embraced the boom in technology but encouraged educators to utilize it as an instructional tool. More than 80 percent of schools with Internet access reported in 2001 that they offered professional development training for teachers on how to integrate technology into their classrooms.

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  • Photo Credit "Glion Teamwork" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: GIHE (Glion Institute of Higher Education) under the Creative Commons Attribution license.
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