From Chalkboard to Smartboards

Pipestone Flyer



At the turn of the last century nearly every school was equipped with chalkboards. They had replaced the individual slate boards students had previously used. The boards were black in color and became known as blackboards even after the color was changed to green in the 1960’s. For over a century they and a piece of chalk were the major tools teachers used to inform students of new information, remind them of upcoming events, (Who could forget the box in the corner of the chalkboard that told us about upcoming tests or homework assignments?) and of course there was always board work to answer math problems.

By the 1960’s technology began to affect education and slowly change the way information was presented to students. The advent of film, slide projectors, and the overhead even affected the way schools were built. Prior to the 1960’s schools were built where every classroom had windows, but as audio visual equipment became more popular new schools had fewer and fewer windows. By the 1970’s many schools limited windows to the entrances and common areas. When Alberta began to refurbish schools they added atrium like structures but most individual classrooms remained windowless.

When the overhead projector was introduced it had an immediate effect on the way teachers provided information to their students. It was not that the content of lessons had changed but now teachers could provide information to students by looking at them instead of turning their back when writing on a blackboard. This reduced a student’s opportunity to cause discipline problems and increased learning opportunities. 

Dr. Edgar Dale developed what he called the cone of learning which stated that after two weeks we only remember 10 percent of what we read, 20 percent of what we hear, 30 percent of what we see, however we remember 50 percent of what we see and hear. As a result for nearly thirty years the overhead became a key tool teachers used to instruct students.  

In the 1990’s the computer began to make major inroads into schools and by the middle of the decade an Alberta based company had figured out how to apply computer and Internet technology to a white board and the Smart Board was born.

Today a teacher can bring the world to their students. In Biology it is not uncommon for students to watch an amoeba engulf a diatom without the need of microscopes. Students that have difficulty in dissecting can now do it with the use of the smart board without worrying about making a mess.

In Social Studies a teacher can use the smart board to have students watch an archeological dig in China, or talk to an adventurer in Central America, or a politician in Ottawa.  

An English teacher can develop templates to help students write essays, poems, or short stories. Authors, poets, and playwrights can be interviewed right in the classroom.

Today Smart boards are no longer rolled into the classroom on wheels. They have replaced the blackboard and are connected directly to a projector and a computer. They also can be used as a traditional board where one can write on the board, do math skills, and leave messages. 

Unlike the traditional blackboard teachers have to be trained in the use of a Smart Board in order to understand all the capabilities of the board.

To the uninitiated visitor to a modern day classroom the only change one might see is that the color of the blackboard had changed to white. But, if that individual were to sit in on a class in session they would soon realize that the “white” board is no longer something just to write on but a window to the world around us.


It is an Alberta company that first began to manufacture Smart Boards called Smart Technologies 


They currently provide 47% of all smart boards worldwide… 

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