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.