Wednesday, April 1, 2015

MyChalkboard by Bill Cerbin

Does this ever happen to you? As you are PowerPointing your way through class, you realize your prepared slides do not depict the best way to tell the story. The topics seem out of order and the bullet points are not what you want to discuss, but they are locked into place. What are your options? Stick to the script, resulting in a bad story. Or, show the slides and talk about something else, resulting in two versions of the story that will confuse students.

There is at least one other option—use a chalkboard. With a chalkboard you have almost unlimited flexibility. You can first think about what you want to say, say it, and then add relevant text and graphics to highlight important ideas. Or you can think about what you want to say, add relevant text and graphics, and then talk about it. Either way, you start with a clean slate and there is no “next slide” dictating what you must do or say.

In addition to this flexibility, chalkboards support several effective pedagogical practices. They help reduce students’ cognitive load. As teachers slow down to write on the board, students have time to actually think about the subject matter, not just transcribe it frantically. Chalkboards also support interactive learning; students’ ideas can be included on the board and incorporated into the lesson. A particularly compelling use of chalkboards is a form of “lecture capture,” in which the teacher records the entire lesson on the board. The goals are to show the progression and flow of the lesson, incorporate student thinking and reflections, and connect the parts into a well-formed, coherent whole to help build student understanding. [This practice is used widely in Japan where teachers study “Bansho,” or board writing; see examples of Bansho 1 and 2].

MyChalkboard is cost effective and dependable. They never fail. The chalkboards in 103 Cowley Hall are probably 30-40 years old and work like new. And, there is low maintenance; no annoying updates to install. All you need is a damp cloth.

Chalkboards do have limitations. For instance, you won’t be able to make text spin around or fly in and out of view. But you can create your own graphics with a chalkboard [See examples 1 and 2]. With a little practice most teachers can produce legible text and graphics without making that cringe-inducing noise with the chalk on the board. And, a chalkboard is forgiving. If you do make a mistake, simply erase and redo—instantly.

Best of all, chalkboard allows you to devote class preparation time to what is most important, planning what and how to teach without fussing with slides or worrying about how to use the technology and what to do if it doesn’t work.

Submitted by Bill Cerbin, Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning