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Long Live the ‘90s: ‘Edtech’ Crazes Every Teacher (and Student) Secretly Wishes Were Still Around

By Jen Curtis     Jul 20, 2017

Long Live the ‘90s: ‘Edtech’ Crazes Every Teacher (and Student) Secretly Wishes Were Still Around


If you’ve ever been tempted to click on one of those ‘90s-nostalgia posts, we really can’t blame you—I mean, who doesn’t want to skim through pictures of Dunkaroos and Capri Suns to find out if they really were a ‘90s kid? But here at EdSurge, we believe the teachers who taught those ‘90s kids deserve a walk down memory lane, too.

So we rounded up the most beloved edtech tools of the ‘90s for your scrolling pleasure, from early internet sensations to the hottest hardware you just had to have. Some of this stuff is probably best left in the past (looking at you, janky floppy disks), but after considering the 2017 alternatives, we’re ready to hunt down a few of these on eBay and start gettin’ jiggy with it like it’s 1997.

Shall we?

Floppy Disks

Although not technically invented in the ‘90s, our backpacks were brimming with these pocket-sized puppies by the end of the decade. You could buy a 50-pack at Price Club, or for a mere 50¢, hit up the school librarian for one. Just pray the slidey metal bit didn’t break off before fifth period or you were screwed.  

2017 Equivalent: Google Drive. USB Flash Drive. Whatever the “cloud” is. Longer lasting, yes, but so much less colorful.

Dry Erase Boards

Chalk boards in the ‘90s? As if! Dry erase boards may be pretty much the same thing minus the dust, but the craze caught on so much you probably still have one in your classroom today. But is it a Lisa Frank dry erase board? That’s what we thought.

2017 Equivalent: We admit SMART Boards and Google’s competing Jamboards are cool. But at thousands of bucks a pop, they’d better come with some adorable stylized puppies surrounded by rainbows or we’re not investing a penny.

iMac G3

The bulbous form. The semi-translucent casing. The plethora of startling yet strangely alluring colors. Students were like moths to a flame. If only one-to-one had been a thing back then...

2017 Equivalent: We’d say MacBook Airs are the modern G3 equivalent, but Chromebooks rule the classroom these days. Cheaper? Undoubtedly. But so sterile, so flat.

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

Geography. Critical thinking skills. Women’s fashion. What couldn’t super-spy Carmen Sandiego teach us? 

2017 Equivalent: Don’t need one! Because where is Carmen Sandiego now? Celebrating her 30th anniversary with a new game. And if that’s not enough, Netflix has a reboot set for 2019. Get it gumshoes. 

Ask Jeeves

Oh Jeeves, why did you forsake us? We know we still have Google and everything, but posing direct questions to you just made so much more sense. And you would never track our data...would you?

2017 Equivalent: If you don’t want to feed the beast there’s always...Yahoo? Bing? Come back, Jeeves. We still need you.

The Oregon Trail

Today, it seems every edtech company out there wants to gamify learning. But we gotta give it up to the OG—the Oregon Trail. Is it really educational if you’re having this much fun rationing food and losing family members to dysentery? Absolutely.

Excuse the Windows XP

2017 Equivalent: Virtual Reality games like Yore VR and Nearpod field trips promise to make experiencing the past more engaging than ever. But while we know tech has come a long way, we still haven’t seen anything that replicates the adrenaline rush that was the Oregon Trail. RIP, Vinny.

TV/VCR on wheels

You knew you were in for an amazing science class when the sub wheeled in this winning combo. Would it be Magic School Bus? Bill Nye the Science Guy? Some lame documentary recorded off the Discovery Channel? Frankly, who cared? Let the inquiry begin.  

2017 Equivalent: Modern teachers are incorporating multimedia on the daily these days, it seems. Is nothing sacred?

Math Blaster

Ah yes, Math Blaster. Who could focus on long division when the thought of practicing your multiplication tables alongside aliens was so tantalizingly close? Not us. 

2017 Equivalent: Most adaptative math programs (IXL Math, Khan Academy, DreamBox) have some gamification element. Are the graphics really that much better, though? We think the above image speaks for itself.

Encarta 95

Internet sminternet. With so much data at your fingertips, why do we even need it? Children and educators alike were getting sucked down the ole Encarta rabbit hole just fine, all by popping in one of four CD-ROMs. Sigh. Nothing gold can stay. 

2017 Equivalent: Wikipedia. Pretty much the entire internet. But with the rise of fake news, we have to wonder, is all that information worth it?

The Overhead Projector

These were actually pretty dull, minus the potential to sneak your fingers in where the teacher wasn’t looking, projected for the world to see.

2017 Equivalent: Most classrooms today have a projector hanging from the ceiling. Easier to use? Perhaps. But so much less potential for shenanigans.

Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing v. Mario Teaches Typing

If you learned to type in the '90s, it was likely thanks to one of these two. We’re not going to try and generalize, but let’s just say if Mavis taught you, your WPM rate is probably still a touch higher. 

2017 Equivalent: These days Typing Instructor ($19.99) is top dog but with plenty of solid online options that are free, we say try ‘em all.

Slap Bracelets

Edtech? Not necessarily. An essential part of the school day? ONLY IF YOU WERE COOL!!! Of course, for those teaching, the memories may not be quite as fond. 

2017 Equivalent: These were clearly the fidget spinners of the '90s, without the should-we-shouldn't we debate. 

Well, I guess BuzzFeed was right, the '90s really were great. Alas, Y2K was just around the corner. And along with the new millennium came the promise of so many things to come…

Ah the '90s...gone but not forgotten

Community

Long Live the ‘90s: ‘Edtech’ Crazes Every Teacher (and Student) Secretly Wishes Were Still Around

By Jen Curtis     Jul 20, 2017

Long Live the ‘90s: ‘Edtech’ Crazes Every Teacher (and Student) Secretly Wishes Were Still Around


If you’ve ever been tempted to click on one of those ‘90s-nostalgia posts, we really can’t blame you—I mean, who doesn’t want to skim through pictures of Dunkaroos and Capri Suns to find out if they really were a ‘90s kid? But here at EdSurge, we believe the teachers who taught those ‘90s kids deserve a walk down memory lane, too.

So we rounded up the most beloved edtech tools of the ‘90s for your scrolling pleasure, from early internet sensations to the hottest hardware you just had to have. Some of this stuff is probably best left in the past (looking at you, janky floppy disks), but after considering the 2017 alternatives, we’re ready to hunt down a few of these on eBay and start gettin’ jiggy with it like it’s 1997.

Shall we?

Floppy Disks

Although not technically invented in the ‘90s, our backpacks were brimming with these pocket-sized puppies by the end of the decade. You could buy a 50-pack at Price Club, or for a mere 50¢, hit up the school librarian for one. Just pray the slidey metal bit didn’t break off before fifth period or you were screwed.  

2017 Equivalent: Google Drive. USB Flash Drive. Whatever the “cloud” is. Longer lasting, yes, but so much less colorful.

Dry Erase Boards

Chalk boards in the ‘90s? As if! Dry erase boards may be pretty much the same thing minus the dust, but the craze caught on so much you probably still have one in your classroom today. But is it a Lisa Frank dry erase board? That’s what we thought.

2017 Equivalent: We admit SMART Boards and Google’s competing Jamboards are cool. But at thousands of bucks a pop, they’d better come with some adorable stylized puppies surrounded by rainbows or we’re not investing a penny.

iMac G3

The bulbous form. The semi-translucent casing. The plethora of startling yet strangely alluring colors. Students were like moths to a flame. If only one-to-one had been a thing back then...

2017 Equivalent: We’d say MacBook Airs are the modern G3 equivalent, but Chromebooks rule the classroom these days. Cheaper? Undoubtedly. But so sterile, so flat.

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

Geography. Critical thinking skills. Women’s fashion. What couldn’t super-spy Carmen Sandiego teach us? 

2017 Equivalent: Don’t need one! Because where is Carmen Sandiego now? Celebrating her 30th anniversary with a new game. And if that’s not enough, Netflix has a reboot set for 2019. Get it gumshoes. 

Ask Jeeves

Oh Jeeves, why did you forsake us? We know we still have Google and everything, but posing direct questions to you just made so much more sense. And you would never track our data...would you?

2017 Equivalent: If you don’t want to feed the beast there’s always...Yahoo? Bing? Come back, Jeeves. We still need you.

The Oregon Trail

Today, it seems every edtech company out there wants to gamify learning. But we gotta give it up to the OG—the Oregon Trail. Is it really educational if you’re having this much fun rationing food and losing family members to dysentery? Absolutely.

Excuse the Windows XP

2017 Equivalent: Virtual Reality games like Yore VR and Nearpod field trips promise to make experiencing the past more engaging than ever. But while we know tech has come a long way, we still haven’t seen anything that replicates the adrenaline rush that was the Oregon Trail. RIP, Vinny.

TV/VCR on wheels

You knew you were in for an amazing science class when the sub wheeled in this winning combo. Would it be Magic School Bus? Bill Nye the Science Guy? Some lame documentary recorded off the Discovery Channel? Frankly, who cared? Let the inquiry begin.  

2017 Equivalent: Modern teachers are incorporating multimedia on the daily these days, it seems. Is nothing sacred?

Math Blaster

Ah yes, Math Blaster. Who could focus on long division when the thought of practicing your multiplication tables alongside aliens was so tantalizingly close? Not us. 

2017 Equivalent: Most adaptative math programs (IXL Math, Khan Academy, DreamBox) have some gamification element. Are the graphics really that much better, though? We think the above image speaks for itself.

Encarta 95

Internet sminternet. With so much data at your fingertips, why do we even need it? Children and educators alike were getting sucked down the ole Encarta rabbit hole just fine, all by popping in one of four CD-ROMs. Sigh. Nothing gold can stay. 

2017 Equivalent: Wikipedia. Pretty much the entire internet. But with the rise of fake news, we have to wonder, is all that information worth it?

The Overhead Projector

These were actually pretty dull, minus the potential to sneak your fingers in where the teacher wasn’t looking, projected for the world to see.

2017 Equivalent: Most classrooms today have a projector hanging from the ceiling. Easier to use? Perhaps. But so much less potential for shenanigans.

Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing v. Mario Teaches Typing

If you learned to type in the '90s, it was likely thanks to one of these two. We’re not going to try and generalize, but let’s just say if Mavis taught you, your WPM rate is probably still a touch higher. 

2017 Equivalent: These days Typing Instructor ($19.99) is top dog but with plenty of solid online options that are free, we say try ‘em all.

Slap Bracelets

Edtech? Not necessarily. An essential part of the school day? ONLY IF YOU WERE COOL!!! Of course, for those teaching, the memories may not be quite as fond. 

2017 Equivalent: These were clearly the fidget spinners of the '90s, without the should-we-shouldn't we debate. 

Well, I guess BuzzFeed was right, the '90s really were great. Alas, Y2K was just around the corner. And along with the new millennium came the promise of so many things to come…

Ah the '90s...gone but not forgotten

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