The Old Classroom
By Paul Morrone, CFP®, CPA, MSA
Education has changed a lot over the past decade, so much so that many of us would barely recognize the modern classroom. When I think of what my classrooms looked like growing up, they were not materially different from generations before. There would be a grid of individual desks, a teacher’s desk, some educational/motivational posters on the wall and of course the big green or black chalk board that was the centerpiece of every room. I remember what a big deal it was when our teachers got whiteboards and could finally stop sending the students to the janitor’s office to get the chalk board erasers cleaned (yes, Mrs. Miller I do remember doing this!!). With the exception of new editions of textbooks, there really wasn’t much difference between the classroom of the late 1990’s and the classroom of the 1920’s (not withstanding some crazy clothing and fashion trends that prevailed over the years).
Even once computers became a staple in every school; it was not on a per-student basis. Rather we had computer labs that housed the majority of the school’s computers and each classroom was given maybe one or two computers each as time went on. Anyone growing up in my era remembers the progression of how technology was integrated into our lives. First it was the Apple Macintosh, an off white box that had only a small monitor and a floppy disk drive. Soon thereafter, those were phased out for more contemporary machines (the PowerMac for those of you techies) with, yes, a CD ROM drive and real speakers! But the biggest leap forward came with the rollout of the first iMac, in every imaginable color. It was frustratingly slow, especially on dial-up internet. Browsing the web occurred at a merely a fraction of today’s speeds and the hot browser of the time was Netscape Navigator (what happened to that!?). Computer crashes were frequent and devastating. From then on, technology continued to move at the speed of light, seemingly every year there was a new system that was bigger, faster and more powerful than the last.
And now we find ourselves here, in 2016, where even computers are being phased out from the daily lives of students. Apple iPads and tablet computers have replaced their big boxy predecessors and are even being used in class as a textbook replacement. Wikipedia has proven a superior substitute for the Encyclopedia Britannica or Encarta CDs that were slow and cumbersome in the day (heaven forbid we remember going to the library and looking something up in a book). Come to think of it, many new computers and tablets do not even have a CD ROM drive anymore. My point in all this expands far beyond the classroom, as it has affected nearly everyone that lived during the tech revolution from the 80’s to the present. Prior to the introduction of the computer, things were mainly done via paper and pencil, a technique that spanned centuries. If you think about it, there is really only a small population of people who will ever be able to relate to the 3.5 inch floppy disk, the frustrations of getting kicked offline using dial-up internet, Netscape Navigator or MS DOS. I’m happy to say that I’m one of them, even if it was only for a short while.