Technological advancements in schools: Past, present and future

The history of education stretches back to before records began. It is likely that back then the children’s teachers were their parents or other family members, with perhaps some instruction from elders of the tribe or those holding a particular skill. But as prehistory merged into history, we find records of the first schools in the ancient civilizations, from China to Greece, running through to the monastic schools of the Middle Ages to the far more modern concept of schools for all. Alongside the march in education has been the development of technology, and throughout that time technology has had an impact on education. This has changed the focus on different subjects. Archery, for example, was once a core subject but is unlikely to be so in the schools of today! But tech has also had a more general impact on how lessons are taught and students learn. Technology has meant that the classrooms of today are different from even those ten years ago. And ten years from now, there will likely be further developments.

Decisions on tech

When new technology develops, it needs to be assessed to see whether it should form a part of a curriculum, be used to aid learning, streamline teachers’ work, or have any other uses in education. In the past and the present, these decisions are made by educational leaders. Today these will be the principals, college presidents, deans of faculty, curriculum developers, and anyone else with authority on what or how their students learn.

Knowledge of educational technology and advancements is a useful skill for educational leaders to possess. If you are an educator with this skill, as well as other skills that would make you a competent leader, it could be worth looking into what you need to do to advance your career to an educational leadership position. You may need additional qualifications in the form of an M.Ed. or D.Ed. These can be studied at most universities across the country, but many working professionals prefer a more flexible option. One of the significant technological advancements in education is the online course, which allows students to study at their own pace without needing to be in the same room or even the same country as their teacher. For an M.Ed. or D.Ed. good options can be found at Marymount University, which offers flexible courses that can include hybrid or 100% online learning. Click here to find out more about the educational leadership careers available to you and how an M.Ed. or D.Ed. can help you achieve them.


Books are such a key part of classroom life that it seems hard to remember they have not always been there. In antiquity, learning would have been done by rote, with students expected to memorize texts. Even when books were used, they would have been used almost entirely by the clergy and the rich. The invention of the printing press took place around 1436 in Europe, although movable printing had been carried out around a century earlier in Korea, and this made books more affordable, with the study of literature now possible for a far wider cohort.

Today, children’s literature is a booming business and textbooks are used widely across a range of subjects to aid learning. But times are already changing. Books still have their place in a classroom but today they might be read on a tablet, and audiobooks can be used to bring literature to those who struggle with reading or are visually impaired. And while students might look up information in a book, the internet gives instant access to the most up-to-date research. Technology is also used to make reading more interactive, with programs providing games and activities to boost the understanding of students.

The writing industry is as big as ever, so it seems unlikely that books will ever disappear. But as we learn to become more ecologically conscious, it may be that increasing amounts of reading will be done on an e-reader or tablet rather than on the vast quantities of paper and ink needed for physical copies. There is likely to be an ever-greater increase in interactivity. Virtual reality might be used to bring subjects to life. No longer will students need to learn from books about life in ancient Rome. They will use virtual reality to actually ‘be’ there. Taking virtual field trip to places not physically possible to visit is certainly an exciting prospect.


Fans of the Little House on the Prairie series will know that when Laura and her sister first attended school, they did not use pens and paper. Instead, they had a slate with a special pencil that they used for writing their lessons. Teachers would write with chalk on a blackboard.

Over time, the fountain pen, an often messy implement, was used before the revolution that was the ballpoint pen. Students’ work began to be written in exercise books that the teacher could take away for marking. Pens and exercise books remain in use today, but computers have taken away their exclusivity. Written work completed on a computer no longer needs to be physically handed in. Instead, it can be emailed to a teacher. Many schools have their own cloud computing platforms that can be used for submitting work and on which teachers can give feedback. At times of school closures, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic, these platforms were used for delivering lessons.

The blackboard was gradually replaced in many instances by the whiteboard, with dry wipe marker pens creating an easier writing experience. And then this was replaced by the interactive whiteboard, where a computer is used for the display on the big screen.

Perhaps more work will be carried out on tablets in the future, with styluses becoming a futuristic echo of the slate pencil. As speech-to-text technology becomes more accurate, perhaps writing will become a far rarer activity for both teachers and students.


The use of screens in schooling is a far more modern phenomenon. The first screens would have likely been used with film projectors, and watching something on them would initially have been a rare treat. Television was a more portable option, and the use of videos and, later, DVDs allowed programs to be watched in the classroom.

The screens more commonly used today are computer screens, with IT or computer science lessons becoming part of the curriculum in their own right as well as being used for other subjects. Using interactive whiteboards or smart boards, teachers can project virtually anything from their computer onto a large screen in the classroom or other school areas. Screens are used in virtually every part of school life, from monitoring attendance and subpar performance to assessments and class activities.

Existing screen technology platforms such as YouTube allow student performances and presentations to be shared with a much wider audience, and help give parents and the wider family a greater insight into what is taking place at school.

Screen technology is certain to develop. Already tablets are used in the classroom and it may be that this will increase until every child has their own tablet, with drawing tablets bringing greater versatility to art lessons. The graphics used in educational activities are certain to get more sophisticated, and virtual and augmented reality are likely to be used to create truly immersive experiences.

Video conferencing technology makes it easier to communicate anywhere in the world. This allows schools across continents to collaborate on projects and log onto video lectures delivered by experts in their field.

With screens and communication technology both developing so fast, could it be that the teacher will no longer need to be in the same room as the students in the future? Remote learning became commonplace during the COVID-19 pandemic and for now, it is still considered a poor substitute for the real thing. But as technology advances, that could change. And with advances in A.I., one day the teacher may not even be human at all.


As already stated, the invention of the printing press goes back to the medieval era, but in schools, printing was mostly limited to art lessons. From the handprint art of kindergarten to more sophisticated linocuts, printing was a fun activity and a new media to study but nothing more.

Furthermore, the only printing used in school was through the photocopier. Reams of worksheets or letters to parents and carers were printed off in large quantities. Those letters were first typed on a typewriter in an office. While photocopying remains a fairly cost-effective way to print large quantities of the same page, the advent of the computer meant that printing could now take place more easily on the school premises.

Letters home would now be typed on a computer rather than a typewriter and so could befree of mistakes. Students could print off their work, bringing a new dimension to class projects. These too can now be free of crossing-outs or the smudge marks of erasers. The computer also means doing away with printing altogether as letters home or homework can just as easily be emailed. This is at least a sure way of seeing that those end-of-term grades and report cards do get to parents rather than the less favorable reports being unaccountably lost!

The next leap for printing was 3D printing, and technology departments now make full use of this to bring students’ designs to life. Their use is not confined to technology lessons. They can be used across the curriculum to provide a visual three-dimensional representation of concepts that students find hard, giving them a greater understanding.

Printing is likely to continue in schools but its current form will undoubtedly develop further. Portable printers, for example, might become the norm, allowing materials to be printed at any time in any place. It may be that A.I. will take over creating and printing off learning materials, easing the teacher’s workload.

3D printing will likely become more sophisticated and quicker. It may start to use an increasing range of materials, allowing it to be used in more subjects. In the hospitality sector, 3D printing is already used to create dramatic food effects. Perhaps one day this will become a component of food technology education.


Automation allows for those routine, often mundane tasks to be carried out without the need for human action. Traditionally this has had very limited uses in schools, with the most obvious one being the school bell, which can be programmed to go off at set times. Schools might also have an automatic email response set up for when they do not have time to respond immediately to parental queries. Another more recent use is the automatic reminders that schools send to parents for events such as school shows, sporting events, and parent-teacher conferences.

In the future, many more tasks might be carried out automatically. Facial recognition software could log each student entering the premises of a school or college, negating the need for registration. Student assessment results could be automatically collated and sent to parents without the need for staff to do anything. While some worry that too much automation will take the creativity and vision out of education, it is just as possible the opposite will be true. With the more mundane and routine tasks carried out automatically, staff will be free to devote more time to their creative or more personalized projects.

The implication for teachers

Technological advances make this an exciting time for teachers of all levels, from student teachers to educational leaders. While each advancement requires a period of learning, over time they should make the teachers’ lives easier and enrich the students’ educational experience. Overall, they will help make educational settings, from pre-k up to university, a more accessible and exciting place.


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