The most transformative tool in the modern classroom

The most transformative piece of technology in the American classroom is the nearly 200-year-old blackboard, Steven Krause argues in the Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association.

When the blackboard first appeared in the early 19th century, most classrooms featured a single teacher instructing hundreds of students at a time, writes Krause, an English professor at Eastern Michigan University. Blackboards allowed teachers to demonstrate a problem to a large class at once and reduced their need to buy paper and ink for each student, he adds.

The blackboard was able to revolutionize American education because it improved the work teachers were already doing, Krause argues. The humble blackboard's widespread success offers lessons on how educators adopt technology even today, Livia Gershon writes in a post about Krause's article for JSTOR.

When Krause's article was published in the early 2000s, most educators were unsure how computers would fit into the classroom, Gershon writes. But as the cost of computers have declined, more and more teachers have found ways to bring computers into the classroom, she adds.

In recent years, pilot innovations, including active learning redesigns, iPad initiatives, and more have rolled out across North American universities, writes Jeff Martin, a senior consultant at EAB.

Read more: Why don't more faculty members adopt learning innovations

At the same time, it's true that innovations remain exceptional on most campus. Academic leaders only see a minority of their instructors adopt non-traditional pedagogies. For many faculty members, the risks of a failed instructional experiment far outweigh the reward, Martin writes.

To make it more practical for faculty to adopt new learning tools, some provosts are offering incentives that reward faculty for learning innovations, he adds. The University of Michigan, for example, is revising tenure guidelines to better reward high-quality instructors (Gershon, JSTOR, 1/5).

3 ways to incentivize learning innovations

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