The History of Learning Technology in 100 Objects

The 2012 JISC Online conference (#jiscel12) officially kicks off today! But it has already got off in great style with a pre-conference week of activities. Part of this was a really innovative opening session led by Rob Englebright looking at the history of learning technology, which turned out to be a really lively and sparky session, with a huge number of contributions via microphone and text chat.

The idea was simple: Rob had set up a timeline so that people could insert technologies which had really changed their worlds, together with some notes about what was special about these.  While some might have reservations about the focus on technology, it really worked for me.

100 learning technology tools screengrabGadgets (and software) have a way of seeming really important when they are new, and then fading with time. Looking back, it is possible to see what specific features of technologies were special at the time, and why they made a difference. This could help us to view new technology in a more objective light.

Some great examples emerged, ranging from specific gizmos such the Epediascope (yes, truly) and the Sony Mavica, to key advances in software and standards, such as Internet Protocol and the Web. It also took on some which have since merged into the background, such as radio and audio cassette.

In each case, Rob asked the proposer to justify their inclusion, and this led to some really reflective comments on why they had made such a big impression. From such reflections, much can be learned. Including, perhaps, a better understanding of the significance and likely longevity of the current crop of gadgets. Can we recognise a really key change at the point when it occurs, and not be bamboozled by others which look promising, but may not deliver?

There is still plenty of room on the timeline (the limit is 100), and I hope that others will appear. Whatever happens next, all of those who participated will have gained considerable understanding, as well as no little enjoyment. Thanks a lot, Rob.

You can add your own ideas here; and view the timeline here.

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