Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Farewell, Old Friend--Hello, Technology

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!


Lisa Bork said...

My children's schools rolled out the Smartboards slowly over the last couple years, and my kids came home raving about them. They do enable a lot more interactions. Have fun with your new friend :)

G.M. Malliet said...

This is all news to me. Very cool.

Julia Buckley said...

Yes, Lisa--the students can come up and write their ideas and responses on the screen, as well. They can also take tests that are projected on the screen by pressing buttons they hold at their seats.

GM, I knew nothing about them five years ago, but they're the future of education.

G.M. Malliet said...

But can they make that screechy, nails-on-a-chalkboard sound?

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

My kids have SmartBoards in their classes, too. And LOVE them. I remember my teachers when I was a kid...a couple of them were allergic to chalk and it was tough for them! I think the SmartBoard can be a great tool for the classroom.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Never heard of such things, but am not surprised. Technology has boomed in other areas, why not the blackboard. The whole key will be which school can afford them.

Gin, the first thing that came to my mind was that awful sound being banished ... and I was saddened.

Keith Raffel said...

Julia, chalkboard or magicboard, keep on inspiring those adolescent minds!

Kathleen Ernst said...

As I recall, it was a big deal to be chosen as the lucky student who got to leave the classroom, go behind the school, and clap the erasers together to rid them of chalk dust. A very big deal. I'm guessing that probably doesn't excite kids today, though.

M Pax said...

So will the generations growing up become ignorant as to what a chalkboard is?

Maybe not. They still sell them as toys.

Julia Buckley said...

I would never miss the nails on chalkboard sound! Ugh.

Clapping erasers had to be unhealthy,Kathleen. Sort of a distant relation to coal mining.

Elizabeth, I can understand the chalk allergy; mine made me sneeze.

Sue Ann, I'm sure they'll get cheaper as time goes on, just like all techy things.

M Pax, I already feel ancient when I tell students about how I used to have to TYPE my reports and use white-out to correct errors. They can't relate, of course.

And they send me all of their research online, now--even their notecards and source cards.

Alice Loweecey said...

Wow. Impressive.

Julia Buckley said...

It is, Alice!

Oh, and thanks, Keith. I like to think I'm super-inspirational. :)

Cricket McRae said...

Ooh, I want one! Think of all the cool story boarding you could do.
Hearth Cricket

Julia Buckley said...

Yes--it would be really cool to have a personal one.