Breakthroughs in Educational Technology – From the Humble Blackboard to the Indispensable Smartboard

If you enjoy wandering around the Internet in search of insights into the explosion in the use of technology in traditional classrooms and industrial settings, YouTube should make you feel like the “kid in the candy store.”

On a recent visit, we stumbled across something interesting in a video entitled A Vision of Students Today. A graphic towards the end of the video displayed the following comment about a revolutionary breakthrough in educational technology in the classroom. Here is the quote:

The inventor of the system deserves to be ranked among the best contributors to learning and science, if not the greatest benefactors of mankind.

The author of the statement was an American educator named Josiah Bumstead. The year was 1841. And what was the “system” of which he spoke? The humble blackboard/chalkboard!

One could speculate that as far back as the time of the Ancient Egyptians, a few people responsible for teaching realized the value in using visuals in the classrooms of the day, but the technology simply was not available. Pigments and wall drawings took time.

In that context, consider how revolutionary the advent of the chalkboard was. It freed good teachers from the prison of their lecture notes and allowed them to “think on their feet.”

If you think back over the course of your life to the teachers who inspired you, among them there was surely one or more who were veritable wizards at the chalkboard.

They dazzled us with their enthusiasm and the speed with which they displayed their words of wisdom for all to see. What’s more, from time to time they actually asked for our input. Remember the thrill you felt the first time your own words appeared on the chalkboard? Good teachers knew not to filter what we had to say. They accepted our thoughts and up they went on the board. And great teachers gave us the ultimate thrill – the opportunity to write on the chalkboard ourselves.

It has long been an axiom of educational practice that seeing words as well as hearing them leads to better learning. Today, research on how the brain learns confirms what many have believed for more than one hundred years – active involvement of students in the learning process facilitates learning.

In its day, your own words appearing on a blackboard was a significant facilitator. Brain-based research now tells us colors and sounds enhance visuals even further. Although the cleaner and more visually appealing eraser board long ago replaced the chalkboard, it still lacks the appeal of a well-designed PowerPoint presentation. Or does it?

PowerPoint presentations with the most dazzling graphics and sounds imaginable can still suffer from one major drawback – whose words appear in the presentation? In effect, the implication here is that in at least one aspect, students scribbling their own thoughts on an eraser board is superior to a pre-prepared power point presentation.

And today we have the twenty-first century version of the chalkboard available to us – the Smartboard. In essence, it’s a chalkboard linked to a computer. If you have never heard of one, or seen what they can do, pay a visit to YouTube and be prepared to be amazed.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.