Sarah Raymond is a writer and artist from Toronto, Ontario. Her young adult novel, Signs of Martha, comes out in spring 2011 with Great Plains Publications. Scroll on down for musings on writing, art and other perils of domestic life. Homemade drawings included.

Monday, January 10, 2011

High School Blackboards These Days

When I subbed at a Toronto high school last week, I witnessed another encounter between old and new technologies. As usual, I wrote the day's date and assignment on the blackboard. White dust sprayed down from my words, clouded the air and smudged my sweater. That's okay. I like chalk--reliably available and free of recharging needs or software updating. And when chalk crashes, it's hardly a disaster.

In walked the grade 12s. Not one but two of them stopped in their tracks before the blackboard. They raised their iphones to eye-level, paused and snapped a photo of the assignment. You heard me. They photographed my blackboard assignment.

I gulped. What was that all about? Laziness? Technological exhibitionism? Or was it efficiency?

I divulged the students' ways to my friends at dinner that evening, at a restaurant. One friend, a mother of a younger child with learning disabilities, raised her glass. Anything to spare her son the angst of handwriting would be a blessing. The other friend was aghast. She made me remember my own long-held classroom ritual of copying an assignment from the board--getting graphically involved with the work ahead. Was the copying ritual meaningful? Or did it bog down the process of learning, I wondered?

The answer doesn't matter. Our mini-debate over dinner won't change a thing. Although many students will continue favouring their trusty blue Bic pens, and a few others, true to form, will shun the work all together, some will take technological opportunities when they arise. And I, brushing chalk from my sweater, say cheers to them.

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