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École des Beaux-Arts
The charrette was the original Hackathon; a short period of intense design development by architectural students aimed at developing design solutions in the form of models and renderings. These designs would be judged in competition against one another based on those artifacts. Now encompassing a much different process, today the term charrette is commonly used to refer to an urban planning process that brings together designers and community partners.

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Pencil Sharpener

Alcott mfg. co., Chicago ill.
Planetary sharpeners, cylindrical sharpeners and helical cylindrical cutters – all names for the pencil sharpener that has graced classrooms for over a century. Olcott Climax Pencil Sharpeners where first sold in 1904. The the cutting mechanism has remained the same as improvements were made to waste management and the economy of material used … in other words they got cheaper. unfortunately, difficulty identifying Alcott mfg. co.’s means the people who made it wait to be celebrated. (Beach 1905)


James Pillans
Invented by James Pillans, headmaster of Old High School in Edinburgh, Scotland, the chalkboard was a solution to the problem of affordably writing and rewriting at class room scale. Before that momentous day in 1801, erasable writing solutions were only in the hands of individuals.

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Anthony Hoare
Quicksort is a clever, efficient (and pretty unintuitive) algorithm for sorting arrays into ascending or descending order. Hoare published it in 1961, and it is still widely used.

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Average Man (Kid)

Adolphe Quetelet
“Where all the children are above average” – to crib storyteller Garrison Keillor. So much of our quantifying our children depends on the invention of the arithmetic mean or average. The sum of a set of numbers divided by the total count of numbers goes back to astronomers’ efforts to remove errors from measurements of true north. But Quetelet gets the credit because he named the method while he took full advantage of it in application to social statistics. We also have Quetelet to thank for the BMI or Body Mass Index. (Rose 2016)

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Normal Schools

Jean-Baptiste de La Salle
A normal school is a school created to train high school graduates to be teachers. Its purpose is to establish teaching standards or norms, hence its name. Most such schools are now called teachers’ colleges.

In 1685, Jean-Baptiste de La Salle, founder of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, founded what is generally considered the first normal school, the École Normale, in Reims.

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Wolfram-Alpha Search Engine

Stephen Wolfram & Wolfram Research
Released in 2009, WolframAlpha can be thought of as the Wikipedia sibling nobody knows about. billed as an answer engine it pulls together artificial intelligence, everyday knowledge and media. We are not certain how many teachers and students use it in their practice. However, it a fantastic tool that more classrooms should be aware of. Stephen Wolfram is a “British scientist known for his work in computer science, mathematics and in theoretical physics.” ( 2014)
If you have never seen it take a look. WolframAlpha

Post-it notes

Arthur Fry
and Spencer Silver
Spencer Silver developed a somewhat weak glue in 1968 for 3M, but no one had figured out what to do with it. Arthur Fry, also at 3M, had the bright idea to use it on little slips of paper that would stick, but not too much.

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Ockham’s Razor

William of Ockham
“Less But Better” – Dieter Rams We usually think of the keep-it-simple principle of Ockham’s Razor as a rule of thumb for coming up with explanations but it truly applies to both the arts and sciences. William of Ockham was a Franciscan friar in the 1300’s who is said to have taken advantage of the principle for use in logic, as a result, his name was lent to the principle. The link to his writing however can no longer be found. (Lidwell 2003)

Gym Class

Greeks and Germans and Neurophysiologists
In Ancient Greece, the first gyms were places where athletes trained for public games. In Germany the gymnasium was organized to achieve high level cognitive function. In the labs of neurophysiologists exercise improves cognition of mice and humans, young and old. What happens when we remove movement from the curriculum? What happens when all movement is virtual? (McMorris, 2009)

Here is an article with some food for thought

School Cursive

Donald Thurber
There are so many forms of cursive some good some less so. Let us hold off on merits. When I say cursive what I’m talking about is that innocent, some how American looking lettering that we see in school. OK this is admittedly a personal choice but you Know the letters I’m talking about – loopy and black printed over turquoise rules. That cursive, called D’Nealian Script was a 1978 creation of Donald Thurber. (Graham 1993/94) Its competitor, for lack of a better word, is the earlier script Zaner-Bloser.

As reported by 59 percent of elementary school teachers still teach cursive.

Standardized Tests

Alfred Binet (1857– 1911)

If you are familiar with the research of the sinologist Joseph Neeham it will come as no surprise that imperial china was the original source of this invention. Like so many inventions, China developed technology after technology before anyone else. Movable type and the book are two examples, more on those inventions later. The psychologist Alfred Binet developed the I.Q. test in 1905 leading the way to the College Board’s Scholastic Aptitude Test in 1926 before Everett Franklin Lindquist introduced the ACT in 1959. (Time 2009)

From the Washington post: “Here’s the very first SAT, from 1926. Can you pass it?”

Josef Albers

A major innovator, Albers (1888-1976) impact was first felt at the educationally game changing Bauhaus in his native Germany and then Black Mountain and Yale. His influence extends to every part of our built environment through his students of design and artist including the painter Robert Rauschenberg and fellow educators including architect John Hejduk.

The World Wide Web

Tim Berners-Lee
According to Wikipedia, “… [Berners-Lee] published a more formal proposal on 12 November 1990 to build a “Hypertext project” called “WorldWideWeb” (one word) as a “web” of “hypertext documents” to be viewed by “browsers” using a client–server architecture … “

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Jules Duboscq
The overhead projector was invented during the 1870s by French optician Jules Duboscq. It was an instrument that could project images onto a perpendicular surface from a flat surface. This expensive piece of machinery was originally used by law enforcement agencies, and the U.S. Army. It was not until the early 1960s that it began to be widely used in schools and businesses.

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PISA test

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School Bus

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Harkness Table

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Charles Willson Peale