Fascinating Moments in the History of Professional Learning and Technology

Professional Growth

The training of teachers has a long and storied history in America. While earlier efforts were a far cry from today’s education programs — not to mention PLCs, online just-in-time learning and cycles of continuous improvement — efforts to help teachers grow in classroom practice predate the Declaration of Independence.

Noteworthy early events include:

  • The first book on teaching in colonial America. Published in German around 1770, Schul-Ordnung (School Management) was written by Christopher Dock in Pennsylvania. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “Dock advocated gentleness and encouragement in the teacher-student relationship. He counseled that discipline should grow from love, and he encouraged teachers to be simple, direct, and understanding, rather than harsh and overbearing.”[i]
  • The first public normal school in Concord, Vermont. Founded by Samuel Read Hall in 1823, the two-year school was formed to train teachers. His salary? $300 — that’s about $7,300 in 2019 dollars.[ii]
  • The first state-wide system for training teachers. In 1837, Massachusetts Secretary of Education Horace Mann took office. He led the Common School Movement to provide funding for education for every child, began a system of normal schools in the state to train teachers and worked especially hard to recruit women into the field.[iii]

As the education landscape continued to evolve at a rapidly increasing pace, technology did as well. The introduction of the viewgraph — a precursor to the overhead projector — during the 1870’s was cutting edge tech.[iv] Less than a century later, the USSR launched Sputnik, sparking the space race and an influx of American spending in education and science. In the 1960’s, the foundations of the modern internet began to be laid.

The threads of education, professional learning and technology continue to twine together, of course. Technology increasingly supports both teacher and student learning, and professional learning is more focused on impacting the classroom and students than ever before.

Countless events have shaped these three connected worlds over the past 400 years. Our timeline explores the interwoven chronology from the first public school in the New World to the Every Student Succeeds Act and beyond.

Explore the Timeline  


[i] The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. (n.d.). Christopher Dock. Retrieved May 14, 2019, from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Christopher-Dock#ref91717
[ii] Samuel Read Hall. (n.d.). Retrieved May 14, 2019, from http://oldstonehousemuseum.org/hall-bio/
[iii] Only a Teacher: Schoolhouse Pioneers: Horace Mann. (n.d.). Retrieved May 14, 2019, from https://www.pbs.org/onlyateacher/horace.html
[iv] Wolf, M. J. (2018). The Routledge Companion to Media Technology and Obsolescence. New York, NY: Routledge.

Ryan Estes

Ryan is managing editor for the global award-winning creative team at Frontline Education. He spends his time writing, podcasting, and creating content for leaders in K-12 education.