Like rock and roll, chalkboards are dead.

Sure, you might find chalkboards (complete with pithy sayings in chalk) popping up as decorative items in homes and businesses. They are also still used in hipster lunch hangouts to advertise the latest organic sandwich specials.

But chalkboards as a method of classroom teaching delivery? Done.

Don’t think the now ubiquitous whiteboard has cemented its place as the classroom wall writing implement of choice. It may also soon die.

Smart boards – aka interactive whiteboards – are now the thing.

Who would want to use a flat, lifeless blackboard or whiteboard, when, with the use of smartboard software, that same board can become a fully interactive, engaging teaching tool?

Once you have the equipment set up, all it takes is a smartboard download of the software and smartboard drivers, and you have an amazing tool to use.

Chalkboards: A Little Trip Down Educational Memory Lane

A chalkboard, also known as a blackboard, is a board that can be written on with chalk. Boards were originally made with slate stone, which was black or dark grey.

The first slate blackboards were manufactured in the 1840s. In the 1960s, the now more well-known green chalkboards came on the market. These were usually made with porcelain enamel on a steel base.

“Chalkboards” can also be made now with a special paint that can simply be put onto a regular wall or any surface that can hold the paint.

While some still prefer an old-fashioned chalkboard to the more modern non-interactive whiteboard, whiteboards started to replace chalkboards in the 1990s. Part of the reason was the concern over chalk dust allergies with children.

Why do some think chalkboards are superior? For one, the chalk can sometimes be more easily removed than the ink used with whiteboards. Chalk is more versatile in terms of drawing lines of various thicknesses. Chalk is also cheaper to replace than whiteboard pens.

The Once Ubiquitous Overhead Projector

Prior to the adoption of whiteboards, however, schools starting in the 1960s utilized overhead projectors. These were a mainstay of classrooms. When the chalkboard wasn’t enough, the overhead projector was used.

This was, in some respects, the interactive whiteboard of the past.

Overhead projectors had a flat bed with light shining through it, almost like a scanner bed. Transparent sheets would be placed on the bed. A vertical arm with the projector device hovered over the bed. Using mirrors, it would reflect the image on the projector bed to the screen or wall.

Overhead projectors made it possible to reuse transparent sheets, or even layer sheets on top of each other. Some sheets were pre-printed with educational materials or diagrams. Others were simply clear plastic, and written on with markers similar to the ones used for whiteboards.

Overhead projectors are still in use but waning. Kids today are much more engaged with newer projection technology, such as 3D projectors.

Enter the Smart Board as an Educational Tool

Interactive whiteboards, aka smart boards, started to enter the educational landscape in the 2000s.

(The term “interactive whiteboard” is the generic term for the boards. The term “smart board” –sometimes spelled “SMART Board” or “smartboard” – is a brand name from the company Smart Technologies. However, like the term band-aid, smartboard may soon become a generic term as well.)

These interactive boards have evolved over the years. The earlier ones used an overhead projector, while newer ones included the display and processing power all within the board itself.

Because they can effectively display anything a computer can display, they have almost unlimited options in terms of what they can present. They are, as their name suggests, highly interactive.

These boards go beyond traditional chalkboards and whiteboards in that students can interact with them directly and get instant feedback from the program. Rather than just being a lecture tool, or a place to write a math answer for everyone to see, the smart board can fully engage students.

The main downside of smartboard technology is that it does require some technical maintenance, much like a computer. There is, of course, the added technical complexity of an external computer or device that may be used to access the board. Smartboard drivers need updating sometimes. And a smart driver updater may not be as easy to use as it should be, depending on the operating system of the connecting computer or laptop.

Will 3D Projectors and Smart Boards Merge Someday?

As classroom technology evolves, new and more exciting ways to engage students will be developed. The chalkboard was revolutionary in its day. It allowed teachers to share information and emphasize points of their lecture by writing information on the spot.

The whiteboard improved upon the chalkboard by making it less dusty and easier to read. Overhead projectors also provided a way for teachers to use diagrams and information to add visual interest to lectures.

Interactive whiteboards up the game through compelling graphics, visuals, and even sound to help engage students. With 3D projectors already popular, will the “chalkboards of the future” be fully interactive 3D holograms? We shall see.

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