From Note Books to Net Books: Isn’t it time to abandon the black board?

Writing notes

 I have a six-year old friend who entered grade one last September.  This was the beginning of his second year in primary school.  I was going through my friend’s book bag (which I thought was quite big and heavy for a six-year old) when I came across a 100 page hard cover note book.  I asked my friend what was he doing with this big “note book” in his bag. He responded, “Miss say we have to bring it to write notes”. Write notes? At six?

Here is another situation that plays itself out over and over on a daily basis.  Almost every time I enter a classroom, I meet the black board filled with “notes”.  Invariably, I have to give the students a few minutes of my period to “write down” the notes that Miss or Sir left for them. And, as you may well appreciate, all 80 square feet of the black board is emblazoned with “notes” from left to right and top to bottom.

It is therefore no wonder that the typical teen-ager finds school to be excruciatingly boring.  After all, they are made to sit for hours and copy badly written “notes” from a black board.  Alternatively, they must listen and write as Miss or Sir “call notes”.  Unfortunately for the children of the 21st century; the children of the education revolution; “notes calling” and “notes writing” still remain as significant instructional strategies for too many teachers.

As a student, I found “notes calling” and “notes writing” to be painfully monotonous. I simply could not keep up.  I often waited eagerly for my teacher to pause and offer some “explanation” of his or her  “notes”.  In fact, I even developed the technique of deliberately asking a slew of questions to delay the resumption of “notes calling” or “notes writing”. It did not always work though! With the urgency of covering the material foremost in their minds, my teachers would stop the questioning and stick to their notes!

As a teacher of history and social studies, two subjects notorious for “notes”, I choose not to “dictate notes”.  I never did and I never will.  Furthermore, I use the black board sparingly. In fact despite Charles Best’s excellent tutoring at the SVG Teachers College, I never learnt to apply the effective uses of the black board in my classroom!

 

We are now in the digital age and all that it implies.  I prefer to refer to these times as the post black board era.  Today, there are countless effective alternatives to “calling” and “copying” notes.  Yet, the practice is still so ubiquitous in our school system.  That is why I am calling on the SVG Teachers Union to conduct a series PD workshops on the theme: Making the Black Board Obsolete-  Interesting Alternatives for Engaging Students with Educational Material.

In the meantime, I feel it for those six-year olds like my young friend who have to lug a bag of hard cover note books to and from school and who must sit and copy copious notes from the black board or as Miss dictates. Perhaps, all of this would be eliminated when every child and every teacher are in posession of the digital tools to make teaching and learning engaging, exciting and enlightening in this the digital age.

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3 responses

  1. Phillip Jackson | Reply

    Filling the class period with writing notes on blackboards or dictating for students to copy will not be solved by netbooks or whiteboards or electronic tablets. The notes mentality is reflective of an ill-prepared teacher who lacks a deep understanding and engagemet of the subject matter. Infact going digital will only entrench this problem as the ill-prepared teacher will cut and paste other persons work to share with their students. So going digital with this sort of teachers will be going from bad to worse.

    1. I agree with you Phillip. I did not suggest in any way that going digtal is the answer. I suggest that there must be “alternative interesting ways” to engage students. I have not yet listed any. In fact, I have been teaching for nearly 30 years and I have not been calling or writing up “notes”. The digital tools can only enhance what I do.

      Back to your salient point, a bad teacher will be a bad teacher even in an exciting digital environment!

  2. Dahlia Williams | Reply

    This has been a source of contention where I work. Some say give notes and some say don’t. Basically, i prefer it if we allow the children the opportunity to explore the concepts through hands on activities, nature walks, just basically exploring the environment, lots of art work and creative activities. My fingers ache writing up the notes, and I am so sorry for the little ones who have to write them afterwards. I think we really need to revamp our methods of delivery. I also think the administrative staff needs to give leeway to creativity and innovation from teachers who are in the classroom and have analyzed the needs of the students.

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