Then and Now: 10 Ways Education Has Changed

Our kids’ experience of school is beginning to look quite different from our own.


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These days we marvel at the technological innovations being used in the classroom. And indeed, with so many new devices available, our kids’ experience of school is beginning to look quite different from our own. But beyond technology, there are other differences. Here are 10 ways your school experience may be different from your child’s.


1. Overhead projectors and filmstrips.

Remember those? Most of us jumped at the chance to be the student chosen to manually move the strip forward at the sound of the tone. We all wished we could be the one writing with squeaky markers on the overhead sheets. Plus, who among us didn’t try at least once to sneak in a quick nap when the classroom darkened? Now computers have taken the place of these audio-visual devices. PowerPoint presentations, digital projectors and videos do the job in our kids’ classrooms.


2. Peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches.

With the prevalence of nut allergies and severity of risks, many schools now ban any peanut or tree nut products within their walls. This means no more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in school lunches, although alternatives, such as sunflower seed spread, are beginning to fill the gap.


3. Chalkboards.

Some classrooms still have one, but most are no longer used for writing. Instead, dry erase boards and computerized SMART boards (interactive white boards) take that role. No more staying after school to help clap erasers!


4. Playing tag during recess.

You read that right. Some schools have placed restrictions on any contact games during the school day, except in gym, due to the risk of injury.


5. Open front doors.

Gone are the days when you could walk right into an elementary school. Because of the potential for violence, many schools have installed security systems that require visitors to be buzzed into the building. Along with these measures have come “lock-down drills,” during which students and teachers practice what to do in the event of a school security breach.


6. Mimeographed papers.

Remember that smell? The days of duplicating via mimeograph machine are a thing of the past. Now teachers use photocopiers and printers for making multiple copies of papers for students.


7. Birthday treats.

No more bringing in smiley-face cookies to celebrate a student’s special day. In an effort to do their part in the battle against childhood obesity, schools have begun forbidding treats, with the exception of requesting foods and/or drinks for sanctioned school celebrations. This means no more homemade cupcakes. Also, some schools no longer allow teachers to use sweets and food as a behavior incentive.


8. Typewriters.

Since middle and high school students no longer use typewriters, they’re being taught “keyboarding” (formerly known as “typing”) at younger and younger ages. Now that there are computer labs in the majority of schools, teachers typically set time aside each week for students to practice their keyboarding skills and learn how to use common computer programs.


9. Fluoride rinse.

Some states still conduct regular fluoride rinse programs in schools. Others have ceased these programs. These days, many municipalities already add fluoride to their water supply, so there is less of a need for fluoride rinse programs.


10. Lunch money.

Thanks to the advent of scanners, many schools are phasing in the use of swipe cards to pay for school lunches. Parents send a check or go online to load the cards, then students use the cards to buy lunch. This is one change that any parent who ever had their lunch money stolen by the school bully can appreciate. It also means no more stolen or lost coins on the way to school.

No matter how much changes about the education system though, one thing remains constant: a child’s need for support and encouragement. Thankfully parents have been and will continue to be there to provide that.


Lara Krupicka, a freelance writer, is surprised how much things have changed since her eldest started elementary school 11 years ago. She has three girls — ages 16, 14, and 11.

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