|My Chalkboard Shopping List.|
But once upon a time, chalkboards were the new technology. The Headmaster of a high school in Scotland invented the chalkboard probably around the turn of the 19th century. However, until they become commonplace in America, classrooms and public education in this country were very different than today, as explained by Steven D. Krause in his scholarly article, "'Among the Greatest Benefactors of Mankind': What the Success of Chalkboards Tells Us about the Future of Computers in the Classroom" :
The description of schools and schooling around 1800 by Paul Saettler in his text The Evolution of American Educational Technology is indeed grim. Before and around 1800, instruction at the elementary and secondary level was more or less individual study; “Developing understanding through inductive group discussions was unknown” (32). Writing instruction seemed to have more to do with making copies of existing texts and "whittling goose-quill pens" (33) than what we might consider "writing instruction" from even a current-traditionalist paradigm. Page 9
By the mid-19th century, chalkboards had become ubiquitous in most American schools:
…It seems to have been an innovation that became synonymous with “schooling.” Even the small schools in rural and westward lands such as Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa had to have a blackboard… So from almost the beginning, the chalkboard seems to have been a technology that was universally accepted, immediately adopted, and widely praised. As quoted in Tyack and Cuban’s book [Tinkering Toward Utopia], Josiah F. Bumstead wrote of blackboards in his 1841 book The Blackboard in the Primary Schools that “the inventor or introducer of the system deserves to be ranked among the best contributors to learning and science, if not among the greatest benefactors of mankind” (121). Page 11
Yet, how quickly chalkboards disappeared from my classrooms in the 1990s, replaced by the identically-functional whiteboards and, most significantly, school computers. Indeed, by high school, I was taking French lessons on computers in our language lab, copying notes from PowerPoint presentations in my U.S. history class, and writing all my essays and research papers with the help of spell and grammar check in Microsoft Word.
The ubiquity of computers in 21st century education forces an important, retrospective question: Is typing better or worse for our brains than handwriting?
Many researches think it's worse, which you can read about here, here, and in this article from the Wall Street Journal:
So perhaps we should revive handwriting and the tools that facilitate it, like the chalkboard. Happily, the popular website Pinterest is leading the Chalkboard Resurrection. Just type "chalkboard" in the search box, and the results will blow you away with their simple creativity and an old-fashioned beauty that even the shiniest whiteboard couldn't match.Using advanced tools such as magnetic resonance imaging, researchers are finding that writing by hand is more than just a way to communicate. The practice helps with learning letters and shapes, can improve idea composition and expression, and may aid fine motor-skill development.It's not just children who benefit. Adults studying new symbols, such as Chinese characters, might enhance recognition by writing the characters by hand, researchers say. Some physicians say handwriting could be a good cognitive exercise for baby boomers working to keep their minds sharp as they age.
Imagine my delight when I found an old, dusty chalkboard sitting by its lonesome in my parents' garage. My mom let me take it and even gave me some unused sidewalk chalk she had stored away. With my new toy at home, I cleaned it off and propped it up against our kitchen counter - and hello new shopping list! Forget the pen and paper; my new-old chalkboard is really a digital tool in disguise. Now we just snap a picture of our Chalkboard Shopping List with our smartphone to produce a digital list to use at the grocery store. So, on behalf of all of us who grew up with you, Chalkboard, welcome to the 21st century.