The Writing on the Wall

As a child I had a small blackboard, it was only really A4 size and it didn’t even have a wooden frame.

I spent hours on that blackboard.

I was mesmerized by the different chalks, some were really soft and would give a grainy effect to your writing, others were harder and offered a smooth, narrow line. This was in the days when the only font I had heard of was the place where babies were christened. I would play ‘teachers’ and try and mimic the flow of that yellow undulating manuscript I saw each day at school.

Then the white boards came. The chalk stub ends lay forlorn and discarded at the back of stockrooms, the board rubbers were no longer hurled as weapons against inattention and the rates of childhood asthma seemed to increase as we were no longer immune to clouds of dust. Perhaps this was the turning point when classrooms started to evolve from Victorian practices. Somehow, however, those whiteboard pens just didn’t cut it and the handwriting became a slippery scrawl.

Fast forward a few years and those lowly blackboards that educated the world have become serious pieces of kit with a matching budget. The aging cynic in me wonders, if despite this evolution and transformation of the humble board, we haven’t been all that keen to evolve at the same pace and we find comfort in using this technological beast in much the same way as we did the blackboard; the cosy fireplace at the heart of the class as if the learning ought to centre around it; a commercial power point flickering out it’s embers of knowledge; and no handwriting at all.

Perhaps there is some balance to be sought in all of this – now, in this strange new world of covid where half of the class are with you whilst the rest tune in from home, I find that my mac, ipad and a few trusty apps are most definitely my modern day box of chalk, but the board isn’t the fireplace of the learning and we can still model handwriting on our tablets. Just like the Victorians did on their slates.

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