Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Graveyard

I've been working in the school graveyard. It's a room where old machines go to die once they are replaced by newer/better/faster technology.

In my 28 years of teaching, I've seen many changes in teaching delivery. Gone are the chalkboards.
In fact, I haven't picked up a piece of chalk in over a decade. They were replaced by white marker boards, which are gone now, too, replaced by high tech white boards which you don't even write directly on. I can point to the projected image and my finger becomes the mouse, clicker, and writing utensil. It is so fancy I can take a "wand" and "slate" with me into another part of the building and still be writing on the white board in my room. My kids can take tests with handheld clickers, built like a remote and I can instantly know their scores.

Gone also are these- the purple mimeograph machines.

Anyone who's ever used one will never forget the slight buzz you could get from sniffing the papers while they were still damp from the machine. I press a button on my computer now and any copies I program in are autodelivered to a high speed color laser printer in a corner of my room.

Another one that has gone the way of the T-rex is the globe, once the revolutionary idea of world formation that caused people who supported it to be branded as heretics.

Google Earth, Map Quest, and other programs of the like allow us now to see every nook and crevice of someone's garage in Timbuktu, if they have garages there.

A once proud staple of many classrooms is also making its quiet exit- the overhead projector. Many were the days I left school with multi colored hues on the sides of my hands gained from writing in a rainbow of Vis-aVis markers on the thin plastic rolls.

Those smarty smart boards have negated the need for these heat producing little machines.

Also missing now from libraries are the first things students used to be taught there- the card catalogue.
I worked in a large college library when I was an undergrad, and I used to love the symmetry and order of all those little cards, bursting with information untold about more books than you could read in a lifetime. However, just this morning, I was amazed at how quickly some kindergartners located the books they wanted to check out from a database on one of the many Ipads in the library.

Another bastion of academia that is hanging on by mere fingernails now is the regular textbook. Because they are expensive and bulky, more and more companies are producing e-books, cheaper, easily accessible, and much more current than the stodgy textbook.

Also gone are reel to reel film projectors, VCR's, cassette tape recorders, and even DVD players. Most new films that need to be shown with our curriculum are delivered via live streaming straight to those ever present smart boards.

Gradebooks and lesson plan books have committed hari-kiri at the dishonor brought to them through the databases that now handle record keeping.

So, as I sort through what is still usable and what needs to be discarded in this graveyard, I am reminded that in all this change, some things remain constant. There will always be kids, there will always be a need for them to learn, and there will always be a need for good teaching. At least I hope so.


  1. Yes, the important things will last.
    I didn't know about this new smarty board. Amazing. It is kind of sad to see the libraries change and to know books will soon be a thing of the past. I do like the speed of technology though. I would think it is faster to do homework now and as you pointed out, tests are easier and faster to grade. It was fun to think back on the way things used to be. How life has changed!

  2. I was describing to some of my students how a reel to reel film projector worked, and they thought it was funny and fascinating at the same time. It doesn't seem like it was that long ago we were using them!

  3. Very interesting. I didn't know about the Smarty Board thingy's either. My husband made the comment the other day that technology is going to get rid of teachers all together.

    I certainly hope not.

    We need human contact.
    We need compassion and love, how can technology give that?
    I always pick the regular registers that have people working there to help check me out, instead of those "self checkouts" for that reason. I like that human contact.

  4. Jamie: The Smart Boards can do so much more than I'm even doing with them, and I don't know when I'll ever have the time to learn them to their fullest capabilities.

    Sigh- I'm like you. I would starve without human interaction. The world is depersonalized enough as it is.

  5. This is extremely interesting, Shelly. I've been out of the loop for so long I had no idea that all of these familiar trappings of my school days have been replaced. Some innovations that I never even knew existed have now also been replaced. It's mind boggling to a low-techy like me. I always linked the smells of the classroom to the learning experience. The aroma of new books, mimeograph ink and chalk were trance inducing. They put me in a state of mind to concentrate and absorb information. Sometimes I worry that the world is getting too digital, too sterile, and that it is leeching some of the fun out of life. I miss analog. Thank you for a very informative post, dear Shelly!

  6. As I have a sister and sister-in-law in the classroom I'm aware of the changes going on in there. I do wish they'd keep the globes though. I loved spinning them and actually seeing the round lovely Earth. Was hard to keep up with the constant changes in names of different countries though!
    Def food for thought and we called the 'Required' library course in college to learn the card catalog... (we all had to take as Freshmen), 'Books n' Berries'! Hah!


  7. Excellent post, of course, but you forgot paddles, which went out about a quarter century ago, but which provided an excellent education to many, including muself on many an occasion.

    Also yardsticks, which served the same purpose with a brisk stroke of the knuckles, administered as tough love by an observant and caring teacher.

    Of course, back then the worst thing a kid could do in class was chew gum. The reason this was so bad has escaped me. Today, it seems wearing a shirt with an American flag on it is the worst thing. Sigh....

  8. Shady: If I ever smell paste (which stores don't sell anymore) it instantly takes me back to an elementary school classroom. I still love the new book smell, but so many of those smells have disappeared, too. Sad!

  9. Sush: After my time in the library, I could teach card catalogue backwards and forwards. Another archaic skill. Books and Berries- hhahahahahahaha!!!!!

  10. Clint: In Texas, it's still legal to paddle in the schools, but most don't anymore. I still remember the collection of paddles my 8th grade teacher had- an array of differently crafted ones. Although I never got it, plenty others in my class did, and he'd line them up, lean them over his desk and move down the line, swinging. That would never fly in this day and age.

  11. It's funny to think of all those pieces of equipment that were so necessary when I was in school, and people barely know what they are now. And I well remember the smell of those mimeographed papers - whew!

  12. Karen: And they're all still in working order...just not needed anymore. It makes me feel a little sad-

  13. My gosh, it was a walk down memory lane with you describing all these things, Shelly. I remember washing chalk boards and clicking the erasers together to clean them. I remember that mimeograph machine and getting purple ink on my hands (worked as teacher aide so helped run copies). And the rest, overhead projectors, etc. So much as changed over the years, but you are right, kids still need to learn and there is still a need for dedicated teachers who want to teach them! I always think teaching is one of the hardest jobs and often the least compensated for all the efforts you guys have to do!


  14. I am proud to say that sometimes I kick it old school and use the overhead projector.

  15. Oh, Dear Shelly.
    I would be stunned for these changes if I could be able to visit school ☆☆☆
    Yes, I remember the nice feeling of the Globe rolling imaging how the earth can be like.
    There must be always pros and cons. I wonder how we can leave our kids some feeling of touching things like you said the papers from mimeograph machines or freshly opened smell of the book!!!
    Love and Lots of Hugs to you, Orchid*

  16. Betty: I think that mimeograph smell is one I will never, ever forget. And, how wonderful you were a teacher's aide. They are really the unsung heroes of the school. Thank you!

  17. Missed Periods: Good for you! I tried to keep a globe, but it disappeared from my room. Sigh.

  18. Orchid: You are right- there are great advantages to having these technological wonders in the classroom. They can do so many things the kids love. I do miss some of the old things, too. Thank you, my sweet friend, for stopping by!

  19. Hi Shelly, I used to fantasize about being a teacher and writing on a chalkboard. I was extremely disappointed that those are now archeological artifacts. My solution was to make a chalk board for our homeschool. I write on it as often as I can!

  20. kneesandpaws: I loved writing on a chalkboard. I think I shall still get me one after I retire!

  21. Shelly you brought back many memories for me this saturday morning as I have been in office machines since 1980 and have spend many hours working on mimeographs & duplicators. Back then a copier was just a huge, heavy machine that did one thing, you press the go button and a copy came out. Now they are also scanners, filing cabinets, you can email from them, save onto thumb drives and so much more. I still have a very heavy microscope I bought at a school auction over 20 years ago for almost nothing. Thanks for the memories.

  22. Odie: I really am going to miss some of these things- it's amazing how quickly they can leave the scene.


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