Monday, August 24, 2009

Banning powerpoint is not enough

Recently, Kim suggested that an SMU dean was not acting correctly by banning technology from the classroom. I’d like to back this dean. In fact, I don’t think he goes far enough.

Powerpoint, podcasts, and filmstrips are just the tip of the Cryogenian iceberg here. If we really want to get back to teaching old-school, there is an equally pernicious development that has to be addressed before a classroom can be truly free of newfangled gimmicks. We need to ban chalk.

Forget about all the arguments over allergies, unfashionable smudges, and unacceptable strontium blanks. The real problem with chalk is that it is too new. How can the effects- and dangers- of a teaching technology be fully appreciated for a device that is a mere 0.07 gigayears old? When I was a kid, those slate blackboards weren’t even slate yet, and the Cretaceous was just a twinkle in a basal therapod’s eye.

Now, I am not a lubbite. I had no complaints about the moon-forming impact, the emergence of continents from the primeval sea, or even plate tectonics revolution. And I’m coming around on this whole oxygenated atmosphere thing. But chalk? Let’s be honest here, folks. For 85% of the Earth’s history, there were no fossils, much less undeformed diagenetically unaltered ones. Cemented coccoliths have no place in the 21st century classroom.


Garry Hayes said...

The only way they'll take my chalk is from my cold dead hands...

A Life Long Scholar said...

Nah, chalk belongs in the classroom--it isn't pretty, like real, crystalline rocks, therefore it is doomed to being useful, since it can't be decorative.

Lockwood said...

If God had intended us to have classrooms and be educated, he would have created them six thousand years ago.

C W Magee said...

Who gives a shit about thousands of years ago! As fas as I'm concerned everything worthwhile ended with the permotriassic extinction. If some people choose to live in an alternate universe that doesn't contain anything that old, then I'll just ignore them. Am I really missing that much?

Anonymous said...

And there is the matter of cellulose! What the hell are plants up to making all that stuff, leaving it lying around for humans to make into paper?

Socrates (or Plato, one of those guys) thought that an abundance of paper for exchanging messages rather than face-to-face dialogue would be the downfall of civilisation. Just don't get me started on electrons! Showing up a few femto-seconds after the big bang and they think they run the place. Sheesh!

C W Magee said...

When did cellulose apprear? I assume it is in the cell walls of some algae, but I honestly don't know.

on-the-rocks said...

Actually the term is "Luddite".

Not having read the reference post, are "dry markers" for "white boards" to be banned, too? I can't think of a single blackboard at our junior college, thus there is no chalk.

The kids these days are missing out on the fun we used to have in elementary school when the teacher would leave the room to go to the office and chalkboard eraser battles would ensue.

I will read the reference article later, (so I am walking unaware into satire?). I have been using Power Point from Day One since I started teaching 8 and 1/2 years ago. Yeah, I can stop anytime I want, I am not addicted.

What does this person suggest we do, stand in front of the classroom and read from the textbook in a Ben Stein monotone?

Sorry, as an avid science photographer, I will not give up Power Point.

on-the-rocks said...

OK, having skimmed the article, my understanding is that he wants the technology to be used by the students before the classroom lecture.

Am I getting it? Other than perhaps an online "scavenger hunt" for articles, blog posts, etc., how might geology/env. science be adapted to such a model?

Another consideration, I am in an exurb of Atlanta in a junior college setting. I don't know if all of my commuting students can get together away from class for group study, etc..

It does sound intriguing (sp.?), though. Or maybe I need another cup of coffee.