I used to be indecisive…

…but now I'm not so sure

back to the chalkface


After a bit of a lull on the work front, I was back at the chalkface last week, and have lots of work lined up for the next five or six weeks covering for a sick-leave.

I was thinking about the term ‘chalkface’ (which we teachers used to use back in the ‘olden days’ when we taught using blackboards and chalk).  I wonder what the equivalent phrase would be now, given that we are not allowed to use the term ‘blackboard’, even if we had one, and the only chalk that gets used in schools nowadays is in Art lessons?

Instead of blackboards (or chalk boards as we had to call them in a politically correct directive from the Education Department many years ago) we now have Interactive Whiteboards, or SMART boards.  If you are involved in education (or have school age children) you might be familiar with what I am talking about but, if not, I will give a quick description.  The Interactive Whiteboard is a wall mounted white screen which is linked to a computer, and to a ceiling mounted projector.  There is clever software installed on the computer so that it will ‘speak’ to the board and allow the teacher to use it for all sorts of purposes in addition to writing the things we used to use a blackboard for.  This device can do clever things like change from a plain background to a squared one for Maths or have a special lined background for demonstrating handwriting.  You can move things around on it – for example turn shapes round, or match parts of sentences together – you can draw graphs and charts, you can change the colours and sizes of things.  It also links to the internet, or you can use it to show DVDs.

It’s very clever, there is no denying that.  However, and this is where I really miss the old board and chalk, you can’t demonstrate good quality handwriting on it.  Writing on the new interactive boards is done using a special pen on the touchscreen and it doesn’t matter if you lean lightly or heavily the resulting mark on the board is exactly the same so there is no way to show the light upstrokes and heavy downstrokes which are necessary for good handwriting.  Of course, that is depending on the pen being correctly aligned with the board – sometimes you touch the pen to the board only to find that your writing appears several inches to the left or right, so then you have to take the time to ‘Orient’ the board.  Even if you do this before the start of the lesson, some boards can go out of alignment before the lesson is over.  I speak from experience!  You can only hold one pen at a time, and if you want to erase something, you have to put the pen down in its special rest and pick up the eraser otherwise, if you are still holding the pen, the eraser will ‘write’ on the board.  It is all such a time-consuming performance.  A piece of chalk in one hand and a blackboard duster in the other seemed a much more efficient way of working!

Another drawback is the fact that, depending on the arrangement of windows in the classroom, and the possible walls this type of board can be mounted on (solid wall, proximity to power source and computer etc) sometimes the light reflects off it making it very difficult to see the screen.  Blinds have to be closed, seating rearranged – yet more disruption to the lesson.  In order to see the screen sometimes we are working in a very dim room, and I feel the children can’t see their exercise books properly.

And then there are the days when the computer isn’t working – if that’s the case then the SMART board can’t work either (not so smart now eh?)!  Whole lessons planned round using the board have to be shelved.  Or sometimes the computer is working, but the projector isn’t, so nothing appears on the screen.  Grrrrrr.

Can you tell I am not a particular fan of this piece of technology?

But back to my original thought – what is the modern day equivalent of being at the ‘chalkface’?  ‘Interactive-whiteboard face‘ doesn’t have quite the same snappy ring to it.  ‘Technological-nightmare face‘ or ‘Damn-and-blast-this-stupid-thing face‘ might be more accurate!

Anyone have any better ideas?

La nouvelle technologie au service des élèves ...

La nouvelle technologie au service des élèves : Le Smart Board en CM2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


17 thoughts on “back to the chalkface

  1. ‘Back to Facebook’ seems to be the prevailing attitude 🙂

  2. My interactive white board is brand new and it’s great…mostly. I know exactly what you mean about the handwriting. No matter how hard I try it’s not a good look on the big screen. But my screen is non reflective which is great and the pen and duster operate with the same tool so that problem is solved. Every now and then it has a little tantrum and it decides it’s going on strike and then I have to turn everything off and start again but otherwise I love it. The best thing is when a child asks about something and I say “Let’s google it” and we can all see it up there immediately.

    • Perhaps a lot of the problems have been rectified with the newer ones – the ones I use are quite a few years old now. Having the pen and duster on the same tool seems very sensible. I don’t know about boards having tantrums – I certainly feel like having one when things go wrong!!

  3. I love them but only because I get to use them 5 weeks out of the year so they’re still a novelty for me! I agree that it’s a disaster when the technology doesn’t co-operate though! And trying to keep the kids away from the ‘magic pen’ can be a challenge!

  4. How ridiculous…you can’t say blackboard. It’s a board and it’s black…duh!!!!
    Can you still say black in chess?
    Is liquorice purple?
    I must be wearing Afro-American jeans!!!

    • I think we are actually allowed to say blackboard now, but about 30 years ago we had to start calling it a chalk board. I think common sense has now prevailed and yes, we can say black for chess pieces! I love your description of your jeans! 😀

  5. Stupidly politically correct term “chalk board” for “blackboard”… duh, can’t people grow up and not treat everything so black and white? … sorry… should that be: “darkest shade and lightest tint”… (doesn’t sound like an improvement does it?)
    Why not have both? the blackboard for specific tasks or for backup.
    Common sense seems to be slowly going missing as a subject in education these days.

    • I think some years ago political correctiness went mad and the use of the word ‘black’ was banned/frowned upon for lots of things – rubbish sack, coffee without milk in it are two that I can remember. Perhaps a perfect classroom would have both a blackboard and a SMART board – then I could have the best of both worlds! A lot of classrooms have a standard large whiteboard in the rooms too which I always prefer to use if I can!

  6. Yikes… that’s a bit of a palaver to write something on the bl… screen, Elaine. Technology, eh… when it works, it works, but when it doesn’t we long for the good ol’ days!

  7. They are trying to bring in the same technology in France, but it’s still expensive. I read on the BBC site some time ago that apparently some children in the states find it impossible to read hand-written notes left by their parents: school has been computerised, as has communication via text messages. Some states in the US have opted out of written notes completely, favouring typed notes on laptops. We’re raising kids who can’t write. They can read and type, whereas we learned to read and write.
    Why can you say whiteboard if you can’t say blackboard? Political correctness is going too far. I’m going to write to ask “the Black-eyed Peas” to change their stage name.

    • Oh, I do hope we don’t move away from handwritten work here. A piece of work written in good handwriting is so much nicer than typed work. Handwriting in France is a very important part of the education system I believe, so if you went over to only having these SMART boards, that might change things.
      Post your answer when you hear back from the Black-eyed Peas! 😉

  8. Maybe you’ve gone back to the screenface?

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