Chalk and board teaching has no substitute

Some of us feel that the more “fancy” graphics a class has, the better the learning. But, if that were true, Hollywood movies would be our greatest classes. We don’t even remember what happened in the movie after a couple of months. After a couple of years, we might not even remember that we watched a particular movie.

Classes are meant to be engaging, that does not mean that they hold your attention. Obviously, a good class would hold your attention, but it would do much more than that. It would make you an active participant. If the teacher is not participating in the learning process, how can the students?

Chalk and board teaching gives the opportunity for both the teacher and the student to participate in the learning process. Learning is as much about the process as much is it about the end result. Or rather, learning is all about the process. How much do we remember after a couple of years from a particular course, even if we were very sincere in the course? So, it is all about learning the process of learning.

When a teacher solves a question on the board in real time, it gives the opportunity to students to learn the process of learning. They learn how to tackle a problem in real time. It gives them the opportunity to involve themselves in the solution. It gives them the opportunity to exercise their problem solving muscles and the same time see the same muscles of the teacher in action.

When I was a student, I would feel very disappointed whenever I would see any teacher come into the first class with a laptop. My first reaction was, “I am not going to learn anything in this course.” I got very good grades in most of those courses, but I don’t remember learning much in those courses. They were “useless” for all practical purposes.

Some people might argue the use of graphics helps people visualize things which is not possible without powerpoint. But, I think our brains are the biggest tool that we have and visualization done by our “imagination” has much longer lasting effects than any external visualization that we may see. Again, I would like to draw the attention of the reader to the example of Hollywood movies. Books are much more intellectually stimulating and leave a much longer impression than any Hollywood movies with all the CGI and unparalleled visualizations.

Teaching should be with the goal of creating long-lasting impressions about the subject. Unfortunately, the most commonly touted visualization techniques are very poor in creating those impressions. Chalk and board gives the longest lasting impressions when the engagement from both sides happens in real time.

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