Back to the books, assignments and test — back to what students do best.

In my neck of the Canadian woods, students went back to school yesterday. Watching the yellow buses drive by, I couldn’t help but wonder how many Eggo Waffles were toasted and brown bag lunches — equip with Dunkaroos — were packed and shipped off.

All the recent ‘Back To School’ advertisements have been making me nostalgic of my grade school days in the 1990’s. From flexible binders and duo tangs by the piles, to cartoon branded pencil cases, Crayola’s classic colors and mini staplers — I’ve been envying the ‘Back To School’ shoppers all week.

In terms of 90’s technology — or lack there of — this nostalgia brings me back to the days of disposable cameras, ICQ, Nintendo, Gameboy, Tamagotchi, portable Walkman and the beginning of the cell phone phenomenon. What was electronically modern in the 90’s seems amateur in 2010. Today kids have digital cameras, social issue games (UNICEF’s Ayiti: The Cost of Life and MTV’s Darfur is Dying), Facebook and iPhones — Facebook on their iPhones. Today, kids today have become frantically digital, and rightfully so.

What object is king of the classroom? Not the ruler anymore, today it’s the computer!

As of 2009 — unimaginable in the 90’s — New York became house to Quest to Learn (Q2L), a school that teaches grade six and seven students via educational games and digital media. Students use Google Earth — a 90’s no-no — “as a tool to explore the regions of ancient Mesopotamia.” In today’s technological classrooms, teachers are fusing the fun of gaming with inquisitive learning in a way we 90’s students had not thought imaginable. Some teachers are even incorporating Blogs into their curriculums! How much cooler can teachers get, seriously!

Why did the teacher wear sunglasses? Because his/her students were so bright! And why were the students so bright? Because they had great technology to help them learn!

Approaching my high school days of the early 2000’s, I’d never have dreamt of an iPad, never mind the cool educational apps such a device could offer. For tomorrow’s astrologers there’s Star Walk, for aspiring scientists there’s Elements and for the globetrotting geographers there’s National Geographic’s World Atlas HD.

When is a blue school book not a blue school book? When it’s read! But can a blue school book still a blue school book when it’s read in an E-format?

Approaching my early University days of the mid 2000’s, another technical gadget I’d not imagined — but would have adored — are the wirelesses reading devices of today, such as Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Chapters/Indigo’s Kobo. Though the sophistication of these digital books surpass grade-schooler’s, I’ve got another comparable 90’s flashback to share… One of my favorite grade school memories was stumbling upon the table of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps book series at the annual book fair, and running my fingers across the bumpy 3D book titles. Now there’s something that can’t be enjoyed via an E-book.

Today’s digital possibilities are endless, and though despite some cynicism, I am in full support of the positive technological paths that are electronically brightening the futures of today’s students. But, there will always be a 90’s-girl part of me — and I’m sure there are many more of me out there — that cheers for the Tweens who prefer cursive writing over typing, playing Pogs over texting and listening to Spice Girls on a bulky portable Walkman over sifting through an iPod’s song list.

But those fearfully nostalgic parts of us can rest assured, as Facebook has digitally documented our favorite 90’s fads, making sure they don’t dust over in light of new technology. Yes, you guessed it — Pogs, Crayola Crayons, ICQ, Tamagotchi, Gameboy, Goosebumps and Dunkaroos — all have their own Facebook Pages. Now there’s a solution that bridges the old with the new!

Happy digital school year to all! And parents, happy digital monitoring

Also on TechChange Main

Hans Rosling at TED Talks (2010)
Liberating Data for Humans with Data Visualizations

In his 2006 TED talk, Hans Rosling used data visualizations to deconstruct his students’ assumptions about the ‘developed’ and ‘developing’...

Blackberrys Banned in UAE because of Data Encryption

The BlackBerry smartphone, launched in 1999 by Research In Motion (RIM), is the quintessential, on-the-go tool for communicating. In 2004...

Alumni Spotlight: Sonja Schmidt on the Technology for M&E Diploma Program

In 2015, TechChange launched the Technology for Monitoring & Evaluation Diploma Program, which combined three TechChange courses (Tech for M&E,...