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History of Technology in Higher Education

by | Sep 21, 2021

The current rate of technological progress is unprecedented. From the industrial revolution until the twentieth century, technological improvements were incremental. In reality, analysts say that the world is moving from the twentieth-century industrial period to the information age, which will play a more prominent role in evolving the history of technology in higher education.

Contrasting times when laptops were a foreign concept, to the amount of power held in the small devices we hold in our hands today, technology has impacted higher education tremendously.

Technological advancements have played a vital role in education, particularly in higher learning institutions employed for both study and research. However, education is seen as essential for technological development and innovation, particularly at the higher levels.

The Magic Lantern was the first technological object used in a classroom in 1870. The magic lantern displayed images generated on glass plates. Leipzig, Germany, was the first college to utilize a magical lantern.

In addition, the Spectator was a one-of-a-kind amphitheater in Leipzig. It could accommodate up to 400 pupils and has numerous lanterns to display photos.

After the Magic Lantern, in 1877, various institutions of higher learning began to use phonographs. Many schools were using a phonograph for the purpose of teaching students how to read music and play instruments.

Further, instructional films were utilized in the classroom during the 1900s, and Pressey’s mechanical-teaching gadgets were used in the 1920s. During this period, technology was widely employed in higher education.

Initially mainly employed as teaching aids in higher education institutions, instructional films, and mechanical teaching machines were ultimately introduced into all levels of the educational curriculum. Instructional films were utilized in tutorial rooms to augment other teaching techniques.

However, the majority of instructional films were part of a series, such as episodic videos showing scientific experiments and concepts. Each episode concentrated on a fresh idea or experiment. Students and professors viewed the movies at home, comparable to how computers are used now. 

Yet, the widespread use of modern technology began in the 1940s, before WWII when military institutions employed films and other mediated materials to teach soldiers. Such technical advances during this period later evolved into presentation-based technologies such as PowerPoint presentations, which are utilized in computer-assisted instruction.

The entire idea was founded on the assumption that humans can learn from both auditory and visual input. The concept was used in various technologies, including streaming movies and audio and PowerPoint presentations with voice-over. These technological advances were incorporated into the learning and teaching processes at higher education institutions.

Of course, we can’t forget the chalkboard, which was officially recognized in 1844 and was quickly followed by the pencil in 1900. Also, new teaching tools began to develop, such as:

  • Radio ushering in a new age of education in the 1920s, with on-air schools popping up for students within listening range.
  • Television in 1949, which was used at home and eventually moved to the classroom.
  • Videotapes first appeared on the market in 1951, offering a new and exciting means of learning.
  • Computers for education were soon introduced, starting in the 1960s with the programming language BASIC. At this point, computers started to become much more common in schools.
  • The Skinner Teaching Machine; a hybrid teaching and testing system that rewards accurate responses and advances the learner to the next session.
  • The Xerox Learning System in the 1970s, which created a new way to learn information. It was a computer-based drill and practice system that provided reinforcement of certain facts or rules through short quizzes at appropriate intervals.
  • In addition, video games were also utilized by various educational institutions for teaching purposes.
  • In 1972, Michael Sokolski created the Scantron testing system, allowing teachers to grade exams more swiftly and effectively.