The Impact of Blackboards on Education

A blackboard is an educational tool that everyone is familiar with. Blackboards entered classrooms throughout North America in 1801 (Swinnerton, 2005). It became a standard tool in a classroom setting and for good reason. The blackboards were, and still are, used to aid teachers and instructors in providing learning material in an effective manner, as well as, providing students with learning experiences. This essay examines the impact of the blackboard on education and how the use of blackboards within education, was one of the most impactful technologies created to assist learning.

The creation and implementation of the blackboard into classrooms was a smooth process and was widely accepted throughout the different levels of education. “Looking at blackboard inscriptions formed a crucial part of children’s instruction and school experience” (Wylie, 2012). This was due to the technology being so effective within the educational spectrum. With the low cost and easy implementation, educators were eager to use this technological tool. “When I think of the signifier “school”, I automatically picture the teacher (usually a smiling young woman) standing in front of, pointing at, or writing on a chalkboard” (Krause, 2000, p. 9). The blackboard was such a normal tool, that it became a symbol for the world school, learning and education. Instructor manuals included drawings of how to use the blackboard and what to put on the blackboard for the students, drafting instructional design using this technological tool of blackboards (Wylie, 2012).

The blackboard provided a tool to instructors to enhance the learning experience of their students. Josiah F. Bumstead wrote in 1841 in his book titled 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” (Krause, 2000, p. 11). This tool allowed instructors to present information and engage students to answer questions, assist with the key points or learnings, and to provide generalized feedback to students. Students are actively engaged with the lessons by handling and dissecting the information that is being presented to them (Wylie, 2012). This changed learning from passive to active. In the late nineteenth century, in England, manuals were published to describe to teachers when to use a blackboard in teaching, but also how to use it (Wylie, 2012). These manuals provided teachers a blueprint, or instructional design to optimize the learning for students and keep engagement. The blackboard became a visual aid for teachers.

The Lancasterian method prescribed particular ways for the classroom to be setup in order to allow instructors to teach and work with a large group, versus individualized instruction (Gershon, 2017). “The blackboard offered an inexpensive and efficient way to make lessons visible to large audiences of students” (Wylie, 2012). This technology allowed teachers to work through problems or concerns with their students. An unknown writer was quoted referring to the blackboard as “the MIRROR reflecting the workings, character and quality of the individual mind” (Krause, 2000, p. 11). This visible representation can allow instructors feedback as a class.  “You can look around the class and if you see confusion or people not being happy, it’s easy if you have a blackboard to explain” (Hendry, 2015). Receiving nonverbal feedback while standing in front of the class and having a tool to address the class as one audience, is a tool that didn’t exist. Infact, it has been said that this tool, cannot be replaced. Technology may have made small changes or adaptation to the original blackboard, mostly cosmetic changes, the actual concept of the blackboard hasn’t changed since inception (Hendry, 2015).

This blackboard technology has proven that the concept for learning and education cannot be improved upon. Technology has now seen the innovation of the integrated whiteboard (IWB). This technology has been quoted as the second most revolutionary instructional technology, with the first most revolutionary technology being the blackboard (Mal, 2010, p. 134). This technological innovation works similar to a blackboard, describing the ability to teach to the audience with information from a computer being linked to a large white screen. As each of the authors has confirmed, the concept of the blackboard is something that, even after 200 years, is just as relevant today as it was in 1801.

The authors cited, Wylie, Krause, Gerson, Hendry and Mal, all used empirical research to support their articles. The cited sources were all from Europe or the United States, which shows a narrow scope of information, possibly showing that the information is not for global or worldwide use. A similar issue throughout the articles, is that there are lots of sources being cited, but no data from the studies where the sources got their information; simply using quotes to support the quotes. In some cases, there were limited sources being used, making the article seem more like an opinion versus a well supported article. In one case, there were no citations for the quotes, which makes the validity of the interview and support seem questionable. In general, strength could have been added to these articles by incorporating study data and adding depth to the support or sources used. Although there are pitfalls within the articles used, it is clear that each of the articles point to the same conclusion.

The blackboard was a tool used in demonstrating and creating the idealized teacher. This normal item of a classroom, has become imperative to teaching and providing relevant instruction. The blackboard enhanced teaching styles, improving instructional design methods.   Although this technology is old, it works. Even with technological advancements happening everyday, the technologies are really an advancement on something that is already working, the blackboard, which is why the blackboard continues to be the most impactful technology within education.

References:

Swinnerton, J. (2005). The history of Britain companion (p. 128). London: Robson.

Wylie, C.D. (2012). Teaching manuals and the blackboard: accessing historical classroom

practices. History of Education 41(2), 257-272, DOI: 10.1080/0046760X.2011.584573

Krause, S. (2000). “Among the Greatest Benefactors of Mankind”: What the Success of

Chalkboards Tells Us about the Future of Computers in the Classroom. The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association, 33(2), 6-16. doi:10.2307/1315198

Gershon, L. (2017, December 21). How Blackboards Transformed American Education | JSTOR

Daily. Retrieved October 1, 2019, from https://daily.jstor.org/how-blackboards-transformed-american-education/

Hendry, C. (2015, December 21). Chalkboard teaching in the age of technology. Retrieved from

Chalkboard teaching in the age of technology

Lee, Mal (2010) ‘Interactive whiteboards and schooling: the context’, Technology, Pedagogy and

Education, 19: 2, 133 — 141. doi:10.1080/1475939X.2010.491215

2 thoughts to “The Impact of Blackboards on Education”

  1. Great article! I was thinking about my own blackboard use in the classroom, and how it really has the lowest barriers to access (for both the teacher and the student) for sighted students. Chalk is cheap and abundant, and doesn’t stop working the way that dry erase markers or computers (connected to Smart Boards) might. The institution I work in has all 3 of these options (blackboard, whiteboard, Smart Board), and I find myself most comfortable with the blackboard when in front of students. I’d like to understand the Smart Boards better, but there has not been the Pro-D opportunities or other instruction to make that a more integrative experience – currently I use it as a glorified blackboard (without necessarily using it to its fullest capacity, with video, snap-to shapes, etc.).
    I wonder if my learning to use the SmartBoards would give more opportunity to ensure that our non-sighted students would have better access to the work? Thanks for giving me something to research and think about.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment!
      I find myself gravitating to the blackboard/whiteboard as well. We have a camera and projector set-up, but event the students requested that I write on the board instead. They said they find it easier to follow along. I do teach accounting, so for the formulas, it is much easier being able to write-them out.
      That’s too bad that you haven’t had the opportunity to learn on the the technology! The University where I teach does tech PD sessions before each semester begins. I find them so helpful! I nice little review 🙂
      That’s a great though! I hadn’t thought about how the SmartBoards might impact non-sighted students. Please let me know where you get with your research.

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