The Evolution of Learning: How Technology Changed Everything


It’s hard to believe how much has changed over the last 2 decades thanks to advances in technology. If I wanted to find out who the first woman in space was back in the 90s, I’d have had to leave my house (most people didn’t have the internet at home yet), visit the library, find a book on the topic and actually use my eye balls: Yawn! These days, learning is as simple as: “OK Google! Who was the first woman in space?”… We don’t even have to lift a finger.

As developments in technology accelerate and the needs of a population change, so does the way in which we learn. For example; does anyone remember the V-tech Powerpad? It was essentially a jazzed-up calculator with a QWERTY keyboard. I remember my granddad trawling the various Liverpool Argos stores to find me one for Christmas as they’d sold out everywhere because they were so popular. Aside from the Atari 2600 console, the V-tech Powerpad was as technological as my childhood got. I felt like one of the hackers from the X-Files; acing spelling and geography tests on that tiny LCD screen. In the 90s, ensuring children understood the concept of computers from a young age was increasingly important. Kids these days would likely scoff at my attempt as they whip out their tablet, iPhone and laptop.

Learning in school

School has come a long way from chalk boards, ink wells and the cane *GULP*. My 90s education consisted of overhead projectors, massive CRT TV’s on wheels showing Channel 4 Schools, and in a moment of educational tech-madness, Teddy Ruxpin: A story telling mechanical bear that our teacher would sometimes bring in but would always fail to work.

In the 80s the BBC launched an in-school programme called The BBC Computer Literacy Project. They gave BBC branded Acorn computers to schools around the UK to ensure children learned IT. I remember there being just two in my school and hardly ever getting a turn as everyone wanted to play the BBC micro games.

These days the focus in schools has shifted from teaching kids to use computers (they’re seemingly born with that knowledge now) to actually building their own systems. The BBC recently ran another computer literacy programme called “Make it Digital”. 11 year olds around the country were given mini computers to practice their coding skills.

Methods of teaching have changed too with each pupil now using a laptop or iPad as well as books and pens as part of blended learning: A combination of new and traditional methods. Lessons are given on digital smartboards instead of blackboards, and some lessons are taught long-distance via Skype-like programmes.

Learning in the workplace

Learning doesn’t stop when you leave education and start a job. No siree! My granddad told me how much simpler training was in his youth. People were often taught on-the-job, winging it until they perfected their art. This kind of training would be impossible for many large businesses nowadays who have thousands of employees and require a high standard of training from all of them. That’s where training providers such as GP Strategies come in. These organisations develop solutions to ensure every employee is able to perform to their best ability.

Self learning

Teaching yourself used to be a much slower process. Again, we’d plod off to the library and seek out the best books they had on offer. Or maybe we’d wait for educational TV shows or buy a VHS. Now, providing you’ve got the motivation you can learn anything online and often for free.

Youtube changed everything! From fixing a PC to learning to knit, cook, or brushing up on history; it’s all there. Many universities even upload entire lectures: Learn Evolution with Richard Dawkins in Liverpool university, or swot up on Astronomy with Niel Degrasse Tyson at the Washington university. We’re spoiled, really.

Educational mobile apps have taken it a step further by providing feedback and grading without the need for a teacher. Some of my favourites are Duolingo – A free language app, EdX which provides courses in computer science amongst other topics, and SAT Score: An app that helps students prepare for exams.

Artificial Intelligence – To infinity and beyond!

Humans being humans, we’re not satisfied being the smartest species on the planet. We’ve only gone and created something potentially smarter than we could ever be: Machine learning. That is, artificial intelligence that doesn’t need programming and instead learns from it’s own experience. These super-smart robots are already helping us with daily life; keeping our homes ticketing over and answering questions, and are set to help save lives and explore the universe. That is if they don’t go all Age of Ultron on us and destroy the planet before hand. Let’s hope not, eh?

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