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Platform Wars

Ed Tech: A Brief History

From computer games to interactive apps, here's a look at the increasing sophistication of classroom technology in the information age.

Ed Tech: A Brief History

[Photo: Flickr user Kevin Jarrett]

1971

Three teachers invent the Oregon Trail computer game to teach students history and math skills while navigating the hardships of 19th-century pioneer. It infiltrates schools one floppy disk at a time.

1983

In a foresighted move, Steve Jobs's young company donates an Apple IIe each to roughly 9,000 California public schools; its products have been classroom mainstays ever since.

1988

Bill Gates packages Word, Excel, and PowerPoint together to create Microsoft Office, a program that eventually claims more than one billion users worldwide—many of them students who quickly become accustomed to grade-saving tools like spell-check.

1991

Buh-bye, chalk. The digital Smart Board allows teachers to display interactive information from their computers.

1996

Texas Instruments releases its TI-83 graphing calculator, which swiftly becomes a standard-bearer for solving complex math problems (and passing notes).

2005

Nicholas Negroponte launches One Laptop Per Child to bring affordable computers to children in the developing world. It falters, but is a precursor to Google’s Chromebook.

2010

A year after Apple releases its first iPad, schools across the country start experimenting with it as a way to replace expensive textbooks and offer students interactive learning experiences.

2015

The Chromebook overtakes the iPad as the best-selling education device in the U.S.

2016

Microsoft gives students a further boost with two significant updates to Word: Researcher, which pulls information from trusted Internet sources, and Editor, which uses machine learning to offer suggested improvements to a user’s writing.

Facebook and nonprofit charter school network Summit Public Schools begin releasing their self-directed learning platform to schools across the country.

A version of this article appeared in the October 2016 issue of Fast Company magazine.

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