by Julia Buckley
My old blackboard, covered with lovely student projects and the detritus of teaching.
In January I bid adieu to my 90-year-old blackboard. In its place I got the tech-savvy SmartBoard (or 'interactive white board'), which is something of a classroom miracle. Gone are the chalk, the erasers, the heavy layers of dust on the ledge, the gross and sludgy bucket I had to fill each day to wash the board. Don't get me wrong; I loved writing on my chalkboard, and I was one of the rare people who could write a chalk sentence in a straight line.
Evidence of the chalky ledge.
But the Smartboard can do so much more that all schools will go to them eventually, as soon as they can afford them. Anything drawn on the Smartboard can be saved, since the board interacts with the classroom computer. So if I write good notes and fear that I won't remember them for a class later in the day, I can save them and bring them up for the next class. I can also e-mail them or save them for a future time.
I can embed You-Tube and other online videos into my presentations. If I'm teaching a Japanese novel and they've never heard of a samisen? Voila. I tap the screen and there is a lovely Geisha playing her instrument.
I can project Powerpoint images in my class notes. If I'm talking about Shakespeare and jotting down notes about Elizabethan Drama, I can touch a button on my whiteboard to bring up a visual of the Globe Theatre. Much better than the days when I might have tried to draw it myself (my students would attest that my drawings are . . . amusing).
Oh, and if a teacher has sloppy handwriting that students can read, she can touch the SmartBoard and turn the written text it into Times New Roman, or the font of her choice. Magic. You should have heard the teachers ooohing and ahhhhing at the product demonstration. We were hooked.
I loved my old blackboard; it was beautiful, with wood inlay dating to the early 20th Century. Sadly, though, after a few weeks of SmartBoard I doubt I'll ever look back. Such is the fast-moving world.
And THIS is the Smart Board!