Ancient Classroom Technology

This is a photo of an abacus.


I was in Austin, Texas for the Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) conference last week (I’ll get to the specifics of that trip next week) and the first thing I noticed were teachers and administrators cradling iPads and fidgeting around with up to date technology advancements in the classroom. The more I looked around, the more I realized that my old grade school staples were becoming irrelevant.

Take 1996. I was a first grade student at Sally K. Ride Elementary School in Germantown, Maryland. Calculators were a revelation to me back then, much to my father’s dismay. Being from an Asian household, he encouraged me to try out a piece of computing technology called the abacus.  The way he sold it to me was that it’s “just like the calculator, except it builds character.” Looking back, I think my father just felt nostalgic for the days of the abacus just like I was last week for the days of regular chalkboards and calculators that really only had four math functions on it.

It’s amazing how five years after graduating from a high school where chalk and overhead projectors were very much still alive, I’ve seen SMART boards become a regular in many classrooms across the country. Back when I went to school, the idea of the teacher sharing a computer screen with the rest of the class was virtually non-existent. In fact, even growing up during Facebook’s meteoric rise, the computer in the classroom was just that. A hunk of technology barely used and sitting in the back of the room. Now with these SMART boards, classes can become more computer focused and it makes it easier for resources such as Discovery Streaming to be shared with an entire classroom. Gone are the days of lugging in a bulky television set and waiting patiently for the video cassette to rewind.

I can’t help but feel a little ping of jealousy when I see all this great technology being built especially for the classroom these days. But, like my father, I do feel nostalgic for some of the antiquated technology that so defined my childhood schooling. So, teachers, what do you say to breaking out the chalkboard once again, for old times sake?


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