Equity & Diversity

Planning an Ed-Tech Transformation...in 1989

By Benjamin Herold — September 02, 2014 2 min read
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Converting your school into a showcase for educational technology has always been hard work.

Especially back in 1989.

For starters, there were these devices called “microcomputers” you had to worry about.

And what about having enough electrical outlets in your classrooms?

Of course, there were also the requisite concerns about data privacy and conflicted reactions from teachers’ unions.

It’s a mostly familiar scene laid out in this 25-year old Education Week feature story on Mainland Senior High in Daytona Beach, Fla., a piece recently unearthed by our friends in the Ed Week research library as part of a look back at our quarter-century of top-notch education news coverage.

The story offers a fascinating glimpse of what’s changed—and what hasn’t—in the world of ed-tech.

Hard to imagine a school with no Internet, isn’t it?

But then again, I’ve spent the last 10 minutes trying to identify the contemporary equivalent of two of my own greatest thrills as an elementary-school-teacher’s-pet: Getting selected to thread the film projector during science movies, and feeding my classmates’ ScanTron test answer sheets into the scoring machine.

(Suggestions on what that looks like today are welcome. And yes, I realize now, as I realized back in the 80’s, that no one likes a teacher’s pet.)

The impetus for the 1989 story was a report, then newly released, titled “Thinking About Technology in Schools: A 1988 Snapshot.”

The big findings? A survey of 773 districts enrolling 10,000 or more students showed that “technology planning is clearly a weak area of endeavor.”

That meant written plans focused on buying computers and responding to outside pressures, not weighing the instructional merits of the various technologies available (such as cable TV, satellite, and..."videodisks”?)

Lack of long-term flexibility, lack of public involvement, and complaints from teachers that they aren’t often involved in the planning of new technology initiatives were also major threads.

Sound familiar?

The survey was by the National School Boards Association’s Institute for the Transfer of Technology to Education, and by the Control Data Corporation (guess tech-companies’ branding priorities have changed a bit, too.)

Check out the original story here.

And send along via Twitter links to your own best ‘back-to-the-future’ ed-tech stories...this fall, we’ll be digging in the Education Week and Digital Education crates, looking for the best archival material to show the funny and the fascinating when it comes to the evolution of technology in schools.

Photo of Alicia Custodio, a volunteer for Upward Fund, an organization that ran after school programs in East Harlem, helping two unidentified children with the use of a at computer in June 1989, New York. --AP-File

Chart from 1989 Education Week story, based on data from Control Data Corporation and the National School Boards Association

Follow @BenjaminBHerold and @EdWeekEdTech for the latest (and oldest!) news on ed-tech policies, practices, and trends.

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