Pencils, Backpacks, and Perspective: Out with the Old, In with the New?

We all know how much education has changed since its inception. The days of the great philosophers teaching nobles are long, long gone. And more recently the chalkboard tablet has been replaced by paper and electronic tablets. The questions remains though – how much of the old do we keep and how much to we get rid of in the quest for a perfect classroom?

I’ve discussed the almost complete removal of chalkboards in classrooms where possible. While I, for one, will not miss the shrill shriek of chalk on chalkboard, it is interesting to note that they were mostly replaced with another still relatively low-tech alternative: the whiteboard. Most classrooms remain whiteboard equipped today, but the rise of the Smart board is notable as well. The Smart board essentially adds potential and flexibility to the otherwise limited white board. But how necessary is it? That depends on who you are really. Personally, I always saw the Smart board as just a cool educational toy, but the possibilities, when it is fully utilized, are remarkable.

Now the bring-your-own-device movement is an entirely different animal. We have gone from individual chalkboard tablets, to individual notebooks, to individual computers. Quite the leap, in my humble opinion. BYOD seems to open up a world of possibilities that the Smart board doesn’t quite achieve. Students are given the capability to look up words they don’t understand, concepts that don’t quite click, or even topic they find particularly interesting. All during a class – in what is an incredible display of efficiency and self-motivated learning. So my verdict on chalkboard tablets and the like? Out with it. The alternatives are exponentially better for students.

Finally, the last staple of the classroom: the desk. From the cold metal ones, to the wood with very little usable space, and even the plastic ones with limited rocking ability (my personal favorite), desks seem an essential part of school.  But recently there has been discussion of doing away with desks altogether, in favor of more open space, couches, etc. Students everywhere would obviously rejoice at the possibility of finally getting out of those uncomfortable chairs, but why should teachers go for it? A lot of arguments have been made for the increased potential for collaboration and for comfort easing the learning process. Personally I’m left with a lot of logistical questions. Like how would tests work? What if I fell asleep on the comfy couch? How much collaboration is inhibited by desks themselves? And yet I get the feeling I would have immensely appreciated my schools doing away with desks.

What do you think about all of this? How much change is necessary? Can we change things too much?