Education

Computers in the Classroom, Then and Now

April 22, 2009 1 min read
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In case you needed a reminder about how far we’ve come in using technology in schools, I thought I’d send you to the Ed Week archives. Greg Chronister, our executive editor, passed along this story which ran in Education Week 25 years ago this week.

“Number of Computers in Schools Doubles,” said the headline, above the lede, which read: “Microcomputers were added to thousands of public-school classrooms during the past year, according to a new survey.”

The story goes on to describe how nearly 70 percent, or 55,765, of the nation’s elementary and secondary schools reported using computers for instruction in fall 1983, up from just 30 percent a year earlier. I was in my senior year of high school in New York state the previous fall, albeit in a Catholic school, and I can’t remember seeing a single computer in classrooms there.

By 1983, there was one computer for every 125 students enrolled in public schools. Apple brands dominated, according to the survey, representing about half those computers, followed by Radio Shack, Commodore, Atari, Texas Instruments, and IBM.

Fast forward to today. The data in 2009 Technology Counts show how far we’ve come. This trend story in Tech Counts, which came out last month, reports that for the 2005-06 school year, 3.8 students, on average, shared each instructional computer in the nation’s public schools. In South Dakota, just two students shared each computer, while in Utah, Delaware, California, Mississippi, and Rhode Island, there was one machine for every five students.

No matter where a child lives in the country these days, computers are a standard classroom feature. That may be why I get that shocked look from my children, and even some of my younger colleagues, when I remind them that “back in the day, we didn’t have computers in my school.”

I may be sensitive, but that look seems to suggest: “Wow, you must really be old.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.

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