Erasing the Past, Typing the Future:
Timeline of the Chalkboard
by Jerry Wojenski

1801 Chalkboards arise in U.S. Military schools

One of the first schools to use the large chalkboard was West Point Military Academy in New York.  Mr. George Baron, an instructor at West Point, incorporated chalkboards into his lesson plans, enabling him to teach a large number of pupils.  Prior to the chalkboard, students used handheld slates and teachers would have to tediously write math problems on each of the slates.  Because of the cost and supply of these slates and the difficulty for teachers to work with each student and their slate, classroom sizes were small and limited.  Some chalkboards were as simple as wooden boards painted with a black grit; others were made of porcelain and imported from the United Kingdom; soon, chalkboards made of large slabs of slate were being shipped across America with the growth of the railroad industry.

Related Links:        History and Use of the Blackboard    Univ. of Massachusetts informational page


1853 Chalkboards used widely in school houses across America

Children work at the blackboard in their Lancaster, Pennsylvania, school in 1941.

As the railroad industry expanded, large pieces of slate were becoming more readily accessible to more and more schools.  School houses across America rapidly adopted the chalkboard as it allowed them to educate larger numbers of children and saved teachers from the arduous task of re-writing problems on individual slates.  By the mid-1800's, chalkboards were found in almost every school house and became one of the most important educational tools in early American history.

Related Links:        From Slates to Marker Boards    CNN article


1990 Whiteboards begin to erase the chalkboard from schools

Joanne Anthony uses a whiteboard instead of the traditional chalkboard while teaching an elementary school class at the SouthEast Academy of Scholastic Excellence in Washington.

Businesses have been widely using whiteboards (aka marker boards) since the early 1980s.  In the 1990's whiteboards began appearing in classrooms, but only in small numbers.  By the late 1990's, nearly 21% of all American schools converted from chalkboards to whiteboards.  Teachers, school administrators, and students quickly realized the multiple benefits of whiteboards over the traditional chalkboard.  Chalkboards use chalk as its writing utensil, but since chalk is made of compressed dust it can be harmful to students with dust allergies.  More importantly, now that computers are a part of classrooms, chalk can be harmful to computer equipment since a computers worst enemy is dust.  Whiteboards eliminate the dust and mess, as well as offer more color choices and clearer, more vibrant visual stimulation to students.  While the chalkboard still remains a part of most American classrooms, school designers no longer use chalkboards in their new school designs.

Related Links:        Chalkboards Slowly Erased from Schools  CNN article


2001 SMART boards begin to make their mark on education

Today‚s technology is offering teachers a host of options: E-mail, the Internet, electronic grade books, and course websites. Like the dust from their erasers, even the tried and true chalkboards are beginning to fade away. Teachers can now use "SMART Boards" to deliver lessons. These interactive boards allow teachers to draw, type, surf the Internet, or present lectures with "touch screen" technology. Rather than erasing a lesson from the board, a teacher can print the lesson for the students, providing them with yet another learning resource. In the classroom, a teacher can open student papers from a disk and highlight grammar or punctuation errors. The students can then correct the errors in real time by interacting not only with the technology but also with fellow students and the teacher.

Related Links:        Digital Whiteboards Outsell Traditional Chalkboards     Education Week article
                                 The Interactive Whiteboards as a Force for Pedagogic Change    pdf file--research paper
                                    SMART Technologies, Inc.         SMART company website