32K RAM Acorn BBC Microcomputer Model B

Photo Essay: classroom technology

Technology in the classroom has come a long way. From the BBC Micro computer to interactive touchscreens, the education sector has embraced innovative and engaging learning methods.

1. The 32K RAM Acorn BBC Microcomputer Model B was arguably the first personal computer to have a significant impact on the way IT affected classroom teaching. Built by Acorn Computer in 1981 for the eponymous broadcaster, it supposedly sold over one million units.The Model was designed with the emphasis on education, and the BBC made it its mission to have at least one machine available in every school around the UK.

2. The Commodore Personal Electronic Transactor (PET) became a best-seller in the North American educational markets in 1977. The PET included either 4KB or 8KB of 8-bit RAM but received frequent complaints about the calculator-like keyboard, often referred to as a ‘Chiclet keyboard’ because the keys resembled that American brand of chewing gum. The Commodore PET was later replaced by the Commodore Educator 64 in schools.

3. According to research by the International Research Agency on behalf of Texas Instruments, 3D projectors used as learning resources in the classroom have improved test results by 17 per cent. Attention levels also soared, as 92 per cent of the class paid attention during 3D lessons compared to 46 per cent in the traditional learning environment.

4. Schools are installing LCD or plasma screens for digital signage with the aim of faster communication to students and teachers about sporting events, emergency alerts and schooling activities in real time. As students become tech-savvy, digital signage methods are more likely to increase attention spans.

5. Its inventors claim the Raspberry Pi could transform the way students learn about computing, programming and technology in school. The credit-card-sized single-board computer was developed in the UK by the Raspberry Pi Foundation and was designed to plug into a TV and keyboard. The miniature ARM-based PC can be used for spreadsheets and word-processing, and can play high-definition videos.

6. The interactive whiteboard is a large multi-purpose display panel that can function as an ordinary whiteboard, a projector screen, an electronic copy board or as a computer projector screen on which the computer image can be controlled by touching or writing on the surface without the use of a mouse or keyboard. Boards are designed for collective viewing and classroom involvement.

7. In 2009, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger launched an initiative to scrap traditional school textbooks in favour of electronic books, such as Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad, stating “textbooks are outdated”.

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