Me and my blackboard

11th March 2005 at 00:00
Have we seen the demise of the blackboard? Phil Revell marks an era of change

The blackboard was invented by James Pillans, a Scot, in the early nineteenth century. He also invented coloured chalk.

My guide to obscure Scots who invented things does not say whether he was a teacher, or whether he could slide his nail across his new invention and make a horrible, scratchy noise.

Blackboards revolutionised teaching. Up until that point most teachers would group children in a circle.

Posh classrooms had bench seating and in these the lesson was delivered from a podium similar to the one that George Bush leans on when making a speech.

Blackboards led to pictures and diagrams. They produced new disciplinary possibilities as teachers learned how to ping a piece of chalk off a miscreant's forehead at 25 paces.

Now, after long and honourable service, Pillans' invention is disappearing.

The trend began in the Seventies with the whiteboard, but the new interactive whiteboards threaten to finish the old technology off altogether. IWBs aren't fond of chalkdust, you see.

The TES thought we would mark the change by asking three teachers (see right) to celebrate their static visual display device or whatever you would like to call a board.

Holly Staniford Grange Primary, Notts

I've been here for three years; it was my first school after training at Sheffield.

I teach a mixed age group, Years 4 and 5. In my classroom I have an ordinary whiteboard and an interactive whiteboard which arrived in September.

My day-to-day planning really relies on the board. It's always on.

I use it for group work and whole class work. It's really good. It helps me cater for all the different learning styles; it's very visual and the touch-sensitive interactivity is good for the kinaesthetic style of learning.

We did a presentation about the tsunami disaster and were able to use pictures, video and internet websites for information. You can save the whole lesson, so if your timing goes awry you can pick up next time where you left off.

The biggest use is for the children to come up to the front and work with it; moving text around or playing a maths game. They love it.

Roy Watson Davies Blacksea School For Girls, Kent Secondary modern 11-18? I've been here 13 years; I'm an advanced skills history teacher.

When the new teaching block was built I specifically asked for blackboards to be put into my classroom. I really like using them.

Physically using the chalk is so much more satisfying. When I do a diagram, a medieval village for example, it adds physicality to the teaching. It's just not the same to press a button and see the diagram straight away.

I sometimes use an interactive whiteboard, but I also think that ICT is a travelling circus, does the technology sometimes detract from the learning? Part of my decision to go with blackboards was that I wanted to show that you don't have to be a whizzkid with gadgets to teach a good lesson.

And you can't whack an interactive whiteboard marker pen against the board to get the pupils' attention in the same way that you can with a board rubber.

Les Seymour Grange Primary, Notts

I've been teaching for 31 years, for most of that time I've used blackboards, but in my Year 6 classroom now I have an ordinary whiteboard flanked by two blackboards.

I sometimes use a data projector with my whiteboard, but it's not a full interactive board. The whiteboard has improved my handwriting. The whiteboard pens are better for me; it's easier to rub out mistakes, you can do it with your fingers and they don't create as much dust. Children find the whiteboard easier too.

You have to watch out for indelible marker pens. But you can get rid of the marks by writing over the top with an ordinary wipe-off marker, that seems to work.

I do sometimes use the blackboards, for things that don't need to be rubbed off quickly, like the date, or the week's spellings.

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