Chalkboards vs. Whiteboards

February 15, 2005

Occasionally my students express a longing for dry erase boards. This usually occurs when the chalk skips away from the slate-like-surface to throw a harpy squeal into the classroom air. At such times they will ask me, "Why don't you just use markers?" I give a cryptic response. I tell them that if they knew what I knew they wouldn't be so quick to embrace the shiny new technology of dry-erase.* 

And what is it that I know about dry erase boards that they may not?
  • I know that dry erase boards also produce dust, but it is a dust of mysterious chemical constituents.
  • I know that they also squeak like chalkboards. In fact, they squeak more often, but with less intensity.
  • I know that the pungent scent of the markers can only be improved upon by the use of odiferous alcohol or acetone (the recommended cleaning agents of such boards).
I know that markers are not capable of creating the subtle tones and textural presence of an image like this:

Lascaux, France— A Prehistoric Pictograph 
Chalkboard drawing for the 8th grade study of Beauty and Aesthetics

I also know that the dark tones of the traditional chalkboard grant colors a radiance they cannot possess on the white board. The blackness of the chalkboard floats color while the blistering absence of color on the coated melamine of a white board bleaches out the radiance of any red, yellow, or blue put atop it.

Only with a chalkboard can I create a geometric construction that pulses with vibrant color:

The Flowering Circle from the Six Circle Form
Chalkboard drawing for the 6th grade study of Artistic Geometry

With a white board I have little more than a tabula rasa repository for chemical ink: blank, and potentially toxic.

*I know what I know because I only had white boards at my first school.


Hannah said...

"First, we burn all of the white boards."

Jeffrey T. Baker said...

No, you don't want to do that. Unless of course carcinogens were part of your lesson plans that day.