The three decades of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s were key to the study of educational technology because it was during the 1970s that the definition was developed. It is not a coincidence that during the 70s, 80s and 90s that the computer emerged. The computer was the pinnacle of many systems of education technology, and became a vehicle for Toffler’s Third Wave of the Informational Age that began in the 1980s. Public schools would get access to computers during these decades, but few teachers used them for instructional purposes.
Technological Innovation 1970s, 1980s and 1990s
“The term information technology is of relatively recent origin and did not evolve until the 1970s” (Saettler, pg. 454, 2004). Saettler indicates that during World War II the foundation of educational technologies were developed because of the merging of military and industrial foundational principles; however, the basis of the term that is still utilized today was developed in the 1970s, which seems like a logical decade to start the analysis of the evolution of technology timeline.
Additionally, the concept and components of the computer, both in industry or as a personal device, and as a mechanism of instructional technology was developed during the 70s, 80s and 90s. The computer is a tool that was developed from a scaffolding of different educational technological systems using digital, logical, and metallurgical technologies that humans developed. It is not the pinnacle of technological innovation, but a culmination of human genius.
The educational technology that developed in the 70s-90s utilized essential key technological innovations from the first wave of the agricultural era in 12,000 BC through the second wave of industrial revolution in the 1600s, and into the third wave of the information age in the 1980s. The third wave of the Information Age began in the 1980s and the development of the computer and all of its processes helped to usher in this wave.
The personal computer emerged during the 1970s. “A new phase in the history of computers began in 1975 with the development of microcomputers by MITS. This was quickly followed by Tandy Corporations first Radio Shack computer in 1976, and by the Apple microcomputer business, selling both hardware and software” (Saettler, pg. 454, 2004). Elements of the personal computer such as the floppy disc, the Ethernet, and email were also founded. It is not coincidental that the definition of educational technology was formulated around the time that the personal computer was developing. Computers are often mistaken, by the lay person, as the most important component of instructional and educational technology. Saettler (2004) explains “A new hope for the use of the computer in education arose in the late 1970s when the first microcomputer became available to a growing market” (pg. 457, 2004). The computer was a compilation of various other educational technologies that were put together in order to process huge chunks of information.
Important elements of the personal computer were created in the 1970s, which ushered in Toffler’s third Informational Age wave. “IBM introduced the first personal computer in the fall of 1981” (Saetler, pg. 245, 2004). Toffler indicated that the Information Age began in 1980 and
“in the words of Alvin Toffler, the "Third Wave,"… is being fueled by dramatic advances in technology. … The current communications revolution is born of explosive changes in technology. The primary defining attributes include: (1) microprocessor power; (2) digitalization; (3) Internet protocols; and (4) bandwidth” (Powell, 1999). The personal computer permitted more access to information, at a faster rate of speed and enhanced communications.
The personal computer held much promise to improve instructional technology. Administrators predicted that the computer was going to revolutionize instruction. “By the early 1980’s school systems began to invest heavily in microcomputers for classroom use, and, by 1985, it was reported that there were at least one million microcomputers in American elementary and secondary schools (see Becker, 1986). By 1988, the estimate was as high as three million!” (Saettler, pg. 457, 2004). The device was flooding into the schools, but few teachers knew how to use them in instruction.
Ironically, even though there were more than three million computers estimated to be placed in schools there were fewer teachers using the personal computer for anything beyond computerized drills (2006): “Survey of teachers reported that computers were rarely used for instruction, but were used in elementary schools for drill and practice and in secondary schools for computer-related skills such as word processing (Reiser, 2002)” (Treat, A. & Wang, Y & Chadha R &, Dixon, M.). Teachers had not received training and even though computers were available they weren’t being used. Technological innovation without training, or a foundational understanding by teachers can decrease the predicted gains in education.
The 1990s also proved to have significant gains in other educational technology advances. “One important developmental process is reflected in the emergency of simpler, more practical video recorders, cassettes, and discs, and low-cost television equipment… cellular communications may even render obsolete… radio, telephone, television, and navigation systems” (Saettler, pg. 463, 2004). The use of personal cellular devices started to grow during this decade and people had unfettered access to information and each other. These devices would grow in the next two decades, but the foundational technology of important steps in education technology were crucial in this decade.
The 1970s were a decade of developing the infrastructure in business, industry (in the private sector) for the personal computer. These developments created the personal computer that ultimately led to the acquisition of information by millions of Americans. Providing computers to American schools was not enough to ensure that instruction or curriculum was advanced by the introduction of these devices. Instead, teachers, administrators and students had to develop other educational technology systems before computers would be utilized for something other than basic drills. References
Powell, M. (1999). “North Dakota Telecommunications Technology Symposium.” Remarks Commissioner Federal Communications Commission. Retrieved from ftp://ftp.fcc.gov/pub/Speeches/Powell/spmkp904.txt
Saettler, P. (2004). The evolution of American educational technology (2nd ed.). Greenwich, CT:Information Age Publishing.
Treat, A. & Wang, Y & Chadha R &, Dixon, M. (2006). “Major Developments in Instructional Technology: During the 20th Century” Retrieved from http://www.indiana.edu/~idt/shortpapers/documents/ITduring20.html