Saturday, January 1, 2011

Back to the future

With all the clitter clatter of folks rushing to toss out last week's toys for the new and improved 2.0 version, here are a few things now obsolete, but well worth bringing back:

1) Chalk
You cannot draw well with markers; it's even harder to draw with an interactive whiteboard. Subtlety matters. While a 256 color Powerpoint of a beating animated heart garners plenty of woo factor,

It's cheap! A dozen chalk sticks will run you less than a dollar; the same number of erasable markers costs a magnitude more.

It's therapeutic--snapping a piece of chalk in two satisfies the amygdala. Try breaking a marker in two. If things get really bad, you can eat the chalk as an emergency substitute for TUMS.

2) Overhear projectors
Using an overhead projector well requires a strong grasp of the material you are presenting. It has the added bonus of allowing you to face your students, your visage lit up eerily like a bad scary movie.

An overhead projector is a great source of light for biology teachers--I still dig one out when I want to show that chlorophyll fluoresces, or to test light's effects on oxygen production in plants.

(I won't even get into my talent for shadow puppets....)

3) Analog clocks
I still have no idea why they left--an analog clock gives more information than the digital variety, hands down. I guess you could argue that they cost a smidgen more--I do have to invest in a new battery every 3 or 4 years--but even I can spare a dollar or so a year.

I do not hold onto the old for old times' sake. I hold onto tools that work well, until replaced by something that works at least as well, everything else being equal.

Spending a lot on an interactive whiteboard does not make you smart, only your wallet.

Don't eat the chalk. Really.
Einstein photo from Seattle Weekly here.


Jenny said...

For young children chalkboards are fabulous for learning to write letters and numbers. There is slight resistance on a chalkboard that whiteboards lack. I will admit to preferring whiteboards for most things (I can't stand the chalk dust) but keep a few chalkboards around as well.

Your school doesn't have analog clocks? That astounds me. We have them in every classroom and around the halls. Learning to tell time on an analog clock gives a better understanding of lengths of time (as one can clearly see how time passes).

I'm not convinced about the overhead projector though!

doyle said...

Dear Jenny,

I may have the only analog clock in the building--it's a rescue given to me by my supervisor. She knew I'd be interested.

(I wouldn't be convinced about the overhead, either, unless I taught biology, and even then it's more valuable as a light source than anything else.)

I'm thrilled to hear chalk is still being used.

Mr. David M. Beyer said...

If you are using an interactive whiteboard as a chalkboard, then you are indeed wasting it.
They have different purposes, and one is not a replacement for the other.

doyle said...

Dear Mr. David M. Breyer,

Oh, I agree--so why did the chalkboard disappear?

If there's only enough space for one, where was the discussion about which can be used more effectively for the sorts of things we're trying to accomplish in the classroom?

My biggest concern is that we really don't have a handle on just what we're doing or why we're doing it. If we did, then maybe there'd be a discussion before the chalkboards disappeared completely.

I love diving into new technologies--I love new toys. I love shiny new gadgets, and fun and cheerful noises. Replacing tools simply because of the woo factor does not sit well with me. We have amusement parks for that.

Mr. David M. Beyer said...

I just read what I wrote before and I believe I came off as an ass. Sorry about that -- my point was similar to the one you just made, but it was poorly stated. I'm fortunate enough to have a room where I have both, so I get to use them for different purposes. If others are losing their big, easy-to-use, cheap chalkboard space for a small, significant-learning-curve, expensive chalkboard, they're losing an important classroom tool.

doyle said...

Dear David M. Beyer,

It was with not inconsiderable relief that I read your last letter--moments after posting my response, I realized that I acted like an ass in my response.

I would love to have both, and just realized there's no reason why I can't.

You're right about the learning curve, though I think I'm a good way through that. Sometimes my curmudgeonliness and the maddening shadows cast by my left-handedness make my reviews of IWB unfair.

(I'd probably complain about chalk, too, if i had to work with it every day....)

Mr. David M. Beyer said...

I hear your main point as this: the best tool for the job is the one to use. I'm right with you on that, and analog tools are still often the right tool for the job.

Teaching is a second career for me; I was a software designer beforehand. The technology aspect comes easily to me. Using it effectively does not.

I find it easier to organize my thoughts using a computer, then just making a file I can show using the IWB and having that guide the direct instruction of the lesson. But that's also something I have to be careful about.

Sometimes I find that it would have been easier to just put in on the chalkboard.

The Science Goddess said...

For 16 of my 17 years in the classroom, I had chalkboards. There was something wonderful about the creative possibilities.

I miss the chalkboard. I miss the way the chalk smelled...and the smears across my clothing from the dust in the chalk tray.

If/When I return to the classroom, I will be sad not to have my slate and calcium friends.