Chalkboards going the way of the dinosaur

Terry Roberts
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

An iconic symbol of education in this province will soon be left in the dust.

By the start of the 2009-10 school year, it will be hard to find a dark green board attached to a classroom wall lined with pieces of chalk and felt erasers.

A push is on to replace chalkboards with whiteboards, a teaching aid that requires erasable markers instead of chalk. In some cases, schools are making the leap to state-of-the-art interactive "Smartboards" that are linked to computers and projectors. Some 200 of these have now been deployed to schools in eastern Newfoundland.

Gabe Caves smacks two chalkboard erasers together, creating a cloud of dust in his Grade 6 classroom at Immaculate Conception school in Colliers. Chalk dust will soon be a thing of the past, as schools in the province make the transition to white boards w

An iconic symbol of education in this province will soon be left in the dust.

By the start of the 2009-10 school year, it will be hard to find a dark green board attached to a classroom wall lined with pieces of chalk and felt erasers.

A push is on to replace chalkboards with whiteboards, a teaching aid that requires erasable markers instead of chalk. In some cases, schools are making the leap to state-of-the-art interactive "Smartboards" that are linked to computers and projectors. Some 200 of these have now been deployed to schools in eastern Newfoundland.

"It's the next big thing in classroom teaching," Dave Furey, a teacher at O'Donel high in Mount Pearl, said last week while instructing his physics class and writing formulas on a wall-mounted Smartboard.

There's a chalkboard in his class, but he rarely uses it.

It's a long way from the days of slate boards, one-room schools and buildings heated by woodstoves. Most educators, students and health experts are breathing a sigh of relief, knowing the dust and mess created by chalk scratching across the board will be eliminated.

It's long overdue and "completely necessary," said Dr. Mary Noseworthy, director of the pediatric respirology unit with Eastern Health. She said it's long been known that chalk dust is an irritant to children's airways and noses.

"It's one of the contributing factors to chronic respiratory symptoms in the pediatric population in our schools," she said.

The move away from chalk is just one component of an expensive program by the provincial government to improve air quality and ensure a clean environment in schools. The transition to whiteboards began in the late 1990s, at a time when money was tight. The transition has become more of a priority in recent years, as a government flush with cash from natural resources pumps millions into the school system.

Eastern School District, which manages 122 schools, will spend roughly $400,000 on the purchase and installation of whiteboards this year alone, said Darrin Pike, director of education. Some 500 chalkboards have been removed, with 800 or so remaining, he said.

"It's cleaner. It's modern. And it allows for better instructional practices," Pike stated.

The Western School District is even farther ahead, having replaced about 80 per cent of 1,100 chalkboards in 72 schools, said Brian Feltham, who's in charge of finance and administration with the district.

But just like during the introduction of computers into schools in the 1980s, the change is not universally welcomed. Some teachers, especially those late in their careers, are not keen to give up their chalkboards. At O'Donel, for example, only 12 teachers on a staff of 38 said they were eager to give up their chalkboards when polled by the administration last year, said school principal Michael Sutton.

"We're having some discussion about it, for sure," Sutton said.

O'Donel is one of those schools slated to lose its chalkboards in the coming months. It will have eight Smartboards by the end of the school year, and Sutton wonders if the money being used on whiteboards would be better spent on these multi-media boards.

"I think it's well-intentioned. Unfortunately, the Smartboard technology certainly seems to be the way to go," Sutton said, adding that "incredible strides" have been made in education in recent years.

Pike agreed that "Smartboards are the future," but at a cost of roughly $2,000 per unit, it will take "a number of years to get them in all the classrooms."

Some retired teachers question the necessity of replacing chalkboards. Doug Butt of Norman's Cove taught French and other courses for 30 years before retiring in 1997. Chalk dust would dry out the skin on his hands, but he never complained and felt it was "part of the workplace." He said students didn't complain and there were no issues with air quality.

"(Removing them is) a good idea, probably. I guess any dust in the lungs is not a good idea," he said.

The province's Auditor General John Noseworthy, criticized the Department of Education last month, stating in his annual report that not enough has been done to inspect for asbestos, replace carpets, monitor air quality consistently and get rid of chalkboards. He said the department should establish procedures to monitor air quality issues.

Burke said fixing air quality problems is a priority for the government and the removal of chalkboards is a small component of that. She acknowledged the province is not basing its decision on scientific evidence, but on the need to provide a clean environment.

"This is not a funding issue, it's a work issue," she said, referring to the demands on maintenance crews.

troberts@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Department of Education

Geographic location: Eastern Newfoundland, Mount Pearl

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • Funky
    July 02, 2010 - 13:35

    Junk food has been gone from all schools in the province for a number of years. Dry-erase markers do not smell. Because something is new and people are excited about it doesn't mean they are jumping on the bandwagon and it doesn't mean they haven't looked at all the pros/cons.

  • Sarah
    July 02, 2010 - 13:33

    Actually, most of the classrooms at MUN make use of white boards or smart technology. If a 17 year old can't understand the difference between the whiteboards and chalkboards, it's highly unlikely that they belong at MUN, or any institute of higher education actually.
    Also, as a senior fourth year student, I've met very few professors who aren't capable of utilizing the technology - the one or two that had difficulty obviously had the benefit of manners in their students, as they certainly didn't wait 20 minutes for assistance (also, there's a number to call for computing support that should be used).
    Additionally, I've never used a dry-erase marker that actually smells - I think you might be confusing them with regular permanent markers. I'd prefer some odour over chalk dust in my lungs anyhow.
    Schools must change with the times. If this wasn't announced, people would complain that chalkboards are still being used, when they have been eliminated from other classrooms in Canada for years. Honestly - let's not complain about such petty things.

  • Peter
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    Same old, same old.. the status quo is to latch on to the latest device or trend without analyzing the new concepts thoroughly.


    I had a high school teacher who explained (his opinion) about the improvement of the green chalkboard over the previous black ones. The glossy blackboards contributed to eye strain was the theory. The matt finish and the green colour of the then newest technology was easier to read when most teachers used the chalk board more often.


    The other commentators make good points. Why introduce markers with volatile inks until the matter of sufficient ventilation has been first established. Then those glossy bright shiny white boards. Only a matter of time before complaints about eye strain are made?


    If the chalk is the problem.. isnt there a better marking medium available so that all of these large green boards dont have to be removed??

  • starr
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    This article is hilarious.
    My husband (now retired teacher) has used a whiteboard for years.
    And the latest thing now is the smartboard, being used in many schools (at least off the island). He's now teaching in another province and the school he's in is using all smartboards.

  • André
    July 02, 2010 - 13:29

    I'm with Why on this one. Why not have the students that are still in schools with 'old-school' black boards arrange a class project that would help raise money for the replacing of the boards to the new white boards and also would teach them about team-work, organization skills, and would teach them that if you work for something hard enough, it can be attained, etc. They would see the results of their work displayed at the very front of every classroom!

    Besides, I remember in high school, some of my teachers would re-write on the board what was already in the text book we were reading, almost as though the teacher simply felt compelled to write something on it. Those boards weren't always used in the most practical ways, regardless of surface color.

  • cmom
    July 02, 2010 - 13:28

    I have been fighting for this for many years now. My child has severe allergies to chalk dust and his specialist told the school board when he started school that they had to replace the chalk boards with white boards in any classroom he was in. This was done from the time he was in Kdg up to now and he is in high school. I only had one issue with a teacher telling him that if he could not be near the chalk board to move to the back of the class. HELLO chalk dust travels and him doing this caused him to go into a major asthma attack and he had to go to the Janeway for treatment. I am glad they are finally seeing the importance of getting rid of the chalk boards

  • wiliam
    July 02, 2010 - 13:28

    chuck you can always debate the for and against for any topic, but in this case the dry erase is going to be the way to go, its just to bad for the kids smelling the markers all day.

  • Chuck
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    Sarah, you say that as a senior fourth student, you have never used a dry erase marker that smells. I can tell you that I have been on many conferences, courses and briefings with these white boards as the presentations medium and I have yet to find a dry erase marker that didn't smell. Also, what about the countless markers that will be thrown out when that are used up or dried out? More waste for our landfills and another drain on our education funding.

  • Why
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    Why not waste some more money this province does not have? I'm sure no one really cares what is used. Why is NL so fast to jump on every new gimmick out there? Try saving your money and putting it into fixing the walls that these boards hang on!

  • Lori
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    I am in my 40's, went to school with chaulkboard's in the classroom, the dust didn't bother any of us...We are all still alive and well!

  • Andre
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    So now when these kids go to MUN, they will be confused in first year as to why the whiteboard is green and why the marker is white and dusty

  • Does it
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    Most of these forums get nothing only Chronic complainers and grumblers. You would be complaining if the goverment were not spending any money. This change will not take away from the childrens learning. Go with the flow, if they see it and use it now it won't be a drastic change in years to come.

  • Chris
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    White boards are great! I cannot say that I have smelled any odor from the markers... not like the smell from whiteout. Chalk is great but my biggest complaint would be that it dries out the eyes and if you spend 7 hours around it, it can be uncomfortable. Some students do react to it!!

  • David
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    Iconic symbol of education in this province ? Chalkboards are hardly unique to this province.

  • Pitzy
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    When I was a kid, our blackboards were green.

  • kc
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    Hey JK, come out from the darkness. The junk has been gone for at least 3 years in the city. not sure about rural nl.

  • Chuck
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    I would prefer the mess of chaulk dust over the smell of dry erase markers any day! How many people will complain of nausea and headaches from smelling that all day long?

  • W
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    That is great, too bad post secondary doesn't follow. As a student at MUN they still use chalk boards in many classes. They have ,ulti-media systems in some classes however most professors are unable to use them due to the professor being stuck in the dark ages . I once watched a professor fiddle with one for 20 mins (of a 50 min lecture) before another student took pity and set it up for him. Nad these guys are supposed to be Ph D's. It was quite amusing in a sad way.

  • JK
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    They say they want a better enviroment in the schools. So did they get rid of the junk food?

  • Willy
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    My four year old granddaughter uses a grease pencil on a board at home and i don't have a problem with it . I have seen kids use chalkboards at home, and while it's cute , their clothes and hands get covered in dust and then somebody gives them a cookie or something, and the dirty fingers go straight to the mouth . It's the same as sanding drywall mud with a dust mask . Remember the old days when people thought agent orange was harmless . They even had volunteers drink the stuff on national TV , to prove that it wasn't dangerous if it were to enter the human body . We all know where that study went . They're still fighting the lawsuits today . We need to breathe to live , but geez lets try to control what we take into our lungs . I'm even scared to Far# now if someone's walking behind me .

  • Steve
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    Just like Crayola markers, you can get scent free markers for white boards that are non toxic as well chuck.

  • Robert
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    JK: Kids have a choice whether or not to put junk food in their mouths. Not so with breathing dust all day.

  • Funky
    July 01, 2010 - 20:25

    Junk food has been gone from all schools in the province for a number of years. Dry-erase markers do not smell. Because something is new and people are excited about it doesn't mean they are jumping on the bandwagon and it doesn't mean they haven't looked at all the pros/cons.

  • Sarah
    July 01, 2010 - 20:22

    Actually, most of the classrooms at MUN make use of white boards or smart technology. If a 17 year old can't understand the difference between the whiteboards and chalkboards, it's highly unlikely that they belong at MUN, or any institute of higher education actually.
    Also, as a senior fourth year student, I've met very few professors who aren't capable of utilizing the technology - the one or two that had difficulty obviously had the benefit of manners in their students, as they certainly didn't wait 20 minutes for assistance (also, there's a number to call for computing support that should be used).
    Additionally, I've never used a dry-erase marker that actually smells - I think you might be confusing them with regular permanent markers. I'd prefer some odour over chalk dust in my lungs anyhow.
    Schools must change with the times. If this wasn't announced, people would complain that chalkboards are still being used, when they have been eliminated from other classrooms in Canada for years. Honestly - let's not complain about such petty things.

  • Peter
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    Same old, same old.. the status quo is to latch on to the latest device or trend without analyzing the new concepts thoroughly.


    I had a high school teacher who explained (his opinion) about the improvement of the green chalkboard over the previous black ones. The glossy blackboards contributed to eye strain was the theory. The matt finish and the green colour of the then newest technology was easier to read when most teachers used the chalk board more often.


    The other commentators make good points. Why introduce markers with volatile inks until the matter of sufficient ventilation has been first established. Then those glossy bright shiny white boards. Only a matter of time before complaints about eye strain are made?


    If the chalk is the problem.. isnt there a better marking medium available so that all of these large green boards dont have to be removed??

  • starr
    July 01, 2010 - 20:18

    This article is hilarious.
    My husband (now retired teacher) has used a whiteboard for years.
    And the latest thing now is the smartboard, being used in many schools (at least off the island). He's now teaching in another province and the school he's in is using all smartboards.

  • André
    July 01, 2010 - 20:16

    I'm with Why on this one. Why not have the students that are still in schools with 'old-school' black boards arrange a class project that would help raise money for the replacing of the boards to the new white boards and also would teach them about team-work, organization skills, and would teach them that if you work for something hard enough, it can be attained, etc. They would see the results of their work displayed at the very front of every classroom!

    Besides, I remember in high school, some of my teachers would re-write on the board what was already in the text book we were reading, almost as though the teacher simply felt compelled to write something on it. Those boards weren't always used in the most practical ways, regardless of surface color.

  • cmom
    July 01, 2010 - 20:16

    I have been fighting for this for many years now. My child has severe allergies to chalk dust and his specialist told the school board when he started school that they had to replace the chalk boards with white boards in any classroom he was in. This was done from the time he was in Kdg up to now and he is in high school. I only had one issue with a teacher telling him that if he could not be near the chalk board to move to the back of the class. HELLO chalk dust travels and him doing this caused him to go into a major asthma attack and he had to go to the Janeway for treatment. I am glad they are finally seeing the importance of getting rid of the chalk boards

  • wiliam
    July 01, 2010 - 20:16

    chuck you can always debate the for and against for any topic, but in this case the dry erase is going to be the way to go, its just to bad for the kids smelling the markers all day.

  • Chuck
    July 01, 2010 - 20:15

    Sarah, you say that as a senior fourth student, you have never used a dry erase marker that smells. I can tell you that I have been on many conferences, courses and briefings with these white boards as the presentations medium and I have yet to find a dry erase marker that didn't smell. Also, what about the countless markers that will be thrown out when that are used up or dried out? More waste for our landfills and another drain on our education funding.

  • Why
    July 01, 2010 - 20:12

    Why not waste some more money this province does not have? I'm sure no one really cares what is used. Why is NL so fast to jump on every new gimmick out there? Try saving your money and putting it into fixing the walls that these boards hang on!

  • Lori
    July 01, 2010 - 20:10

    I am in my 40's, went to school with chaulkboard's in the classroom, the dust didn't bother any of us...We are all still alive and well!

  • Andre
    July 01, 2010 - 20:09

    So now when these kids go to MUN, they will be confused in first year as to why the whiteboard is green and why the marker is white and dusty

  • Does it
    July 01, 2010 - 20:05

    Most of these forums get nothing only Chronic complainers and grumblers. You would be complaining if the goverment were not spending any money. This change will not take away from the childrens learning. Go with the flow, if they see it and use it now it won't be a drastic change in years to come.

  • Chris
    July 01, 2010 - 20:04

    White boards are great! I cannot say that I have smelled any odor from the markers... not like the smell from whiteout. Chalk is great but my biggest complaint would be that it dries out the eyes and if you spend 7 hours around it, it can be uncomfortable. Some students do react to it!!

  • David
    July 01, 2010 - 20:02

    Iconic symbol of education in this province ? Chalkboards are hardly unique to this province.

  • Pitzy
    July 01, 2010 - 20:01

    When I was a kid, our blackboards were green.

  • kc
    July 01, 2010 - 20:00

    Hey JK, come out from the darkness. The junk has been gone for at least 3 years in the city. not sure about rural nl.

  • Chuck
    July 01, 2010 - 19:57

    I would prefer the mess of chaulk dust over the smell of dry erase markers any day! How many people will complain of nausea and headaches from smelling that all day long?

  • W
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    That is great, too bad post secondary doesn't follow. As a student at MUN they still use chalk boards in many classes. They have ,ulti-media systems in some classes however most professors are unable to use them due to the professor being stuck in the dark ages . I once watched a professor fiddle with one for 20 mins (of a 50 min lecture) before another student took pity and set it up for him. Nad these guys are supposed to be Ph D's. It was quite amusing in a sad way.

  • JK
    July 01, 2010 - 19:54

    They say they want a better enviroment in the schools. So did they get rid of the junk food?

  • Willy
    July 01, 2010 - 19:51

    My four year old granddaughter uses a grease pencil on a board at home and i don't have a problem with it . I have seen kids use chalkboards at home, and while it's cute , their clothes and hands get covered in dust and then somebody gives them a cookie or something, and the dirty fingers go straight to the mouth . It's the same as sanding drywall mud with a dust mask . Remember the old days when people thought agent orange was harmless . They even had volunteers drink the stuff on national TV , to prove that it wasn't dangerous if it were to enter the human body . We all know where that study went . They're still fighting the lawsuits today . We need to breathe to live , but geez lets try to control what we take into our lungs . I'm even scared to Far# now if someone's walking behind me .

  • Steve
    July 01, 2010 - 19:50

    Just like Crayola markers, you can get scent free markers for white boards that are non toxic as well chuck.

  • Robert
    July 01, 2010 - 19:50

    JK: Kids have a choice whether or not to put junk food in their mouths. Not so with breathing dust all day.