The Archaeology of Teaching
June 10, 2015 8:38 PM   Subscribe

Workers renovating Emerson High School in Oklahoma City recently discovered slate blackboards, still complete with chalked lessons and drawings, which had been covered up by the installation of new boards in early December, 1917. An additional photogallery (and autoplaying video) can be found here (slightly different versions of that page here and here).
posted by Rumple (26 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
That's awesome
posted by CrazyLemonade at 8:46 PM on June 10, 2015


Can anyone explain the math wheel?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:50 PM on June 10, 2015


This is fantastic. I'm really amazed at how well chalk stays preserved over time, if left to itself.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:51 PM on June 10, 2015


Can anyone explain the math wheel?

I saw a discussion on this recently that theorized that instead of a mnemonic device to help learn multiplication, it was perhaps set up to help students practice in a way that didn't just lean on the rote memory of a times table. Point to a number, perhaps along the random sequence of the circle, and ask for the result when multiplied by 2, 3, 4, etc.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:58 PM on June 10, 2015


That's great; a real nice little window on the fairly recent past. Something to appreciate, but also something to shiver at as well. What will educators in 2113 say on finding an interactive whiteboard attached to a PC? Will they be able to access it? Would they laugh at how primitive and clunky it is, or will it still be comparable to what they use daily?
posted by The Zeroth Law at 9:14 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hey, kids who can actually write. Some younger folk these days have to print like a preschooler.
posted by Justinian at 9:35 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why are there a bunch of different versions of the same story with the same pictures on the same website? That's just bad content management, NewsOK.
posted by Justinian at 9:36 PM on June 10, 2015


What will educators in 2113 say on finding an interactive whiteboard attached to a PC?

If they come to my former classroom, they could marvel at the mindlessness of a millennial teacher who continued to use whiteboard markers on her very expensive Prometheum board despite repeated warnings from students and supervisors. πŸ‘πŸ»
posted by Hermione Granger at 11:15 PM on June 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


Some younger folk these days have to print like a preschooler.

I am 35. I gave up trying to write cursive in college. It's a giant pain in the ass.

The kids on your lawn are old, dude.
posted by flaterik at 11:18 PM on June 10, 2015 [30 favorites]


I fell in love with these pictures. I was more impressed with the chalk drawings than the handwriting, good penmanship still being something that is reasonably common among the literate in my current part of the world. Cursive is extremely useful when you have to write large amounts of text by hand. There are large parts of the world where that is still very much a necessary skill.
posted by bardophile at 1:26 AM on June 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Anyone know why the "moveable" do (as shown on the music blackboard's A major scale) solfege was taught in America, but less so in Europe, where, I am told, the "fixed" do system remained dominant? Looks like this has been a thing for a long time.
posted by thelonius at 2:51 AM on June 11, 2015


That happened here here, too (image 12 and 13 of the image gallery -- a list of student's names with red or yellow dots beside them, perhaps an attendance record?).
posted by Mogur at 4:42 AM on June 11, 2015


Slates. Why does it have to be slates?
posted by clvrmnky at 4:58 AM on June 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


So, they refresh and upgrade their classrooms regularly - once a century?
posted by Segundus at 5:08 AM on June 11, 2015


Surprisingly, the lesson about the Pilgrims is almost verbatim the way I learned the story about the Pilgrims in kindergarten, sixty-seven years later, from a printed book with big pictures. I remember the little children in Dutch dress and the grownups frowning at them and everything.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:22 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


What will educators in 2113 say on finding an interactive whiteboard attached to a PC when they go to move a slate blackboard from 2065...?
posted by maniabug at 8:47 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]



I am 35. I gave up trying to write cursive in college. It's a giant pain in the ass.

The kids on your lawn are old, dude.
posted by flaterik at 1:18 AM on June 11


What?!? No way! Cursive is much faster than printing. You don't have to lift your pen off the paper after every single freaking letter.
posted by MexicanYenta at 10:07 AM on June 11, 2015


What?!? No way! Cursive is much faster than printing. You don't have to lift your pen off the paper after every single freaking letter.

Are you saying this from experience or because it's how you were taught? I ask because I write very, very fast when printing; faster than anyone in any classes I had who wrote in cursive. It goes both ways: when your pen/pencil's on the paper for a whole word, you're making movements you wouldn't otherwise. If your printing is efficient (for lack of a better word), you get the hang of smooth movements between letters. And not every letter has to be separated.

Note that I was also influenced by two drafter-designer parents who actually learned to do engineering lettering by hand. This was in the days just before AutoCAD came onto the scene. While I don't print like an engineer, my handwriting is very much influenced by it, and when I want authoritative punch, I go the all-caps technical script route. (It works like a charm, even nowadays.)
posted by fraula at 11:41 AM on June 11, 2015


I'm hoping this wasn't a high school around the time of the slate board lessons.
posted by discopolo at 1:37 PM on June 11, 2015


β€œIt was so eerie because the colors were so vibrant it looked like it was drawn the same day,” she told The Oklahoman.

Maybe it was.

But in any case, what is absolutely fascinating is that the technology hasn't changed one bit over the course of 100 years. It seems to be basically the same chalk and the same blackboards ... Until they started to install "interactive whiteboards that use touch detection for user input".
posted by sour cream at 2:13 PM on June 11, 2015


I tried really hard* to get blackboards inside of whiteboards in my office at my last job but sadly it never happened.

*By which I mean I frequently mentioned how much I wanted them and hoped they would magically appear with no further effort
posted by flaterik at 2:30 PM on June 11, 2015


I love blackboards and use them all the time when teaching. I use all the gadgets as well of course, but nothing beats a blackboard for building up a problem and a solution in real time without revealing the ending, so the process can be understood.

And in that respect, whiteboards solved a problem which didn't exist. I hate them. I swear they are a disposable-razor style loss leader for the magic marker industry.
posted by Rumple at 4:23 PM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hmm. A bunch of teachers who have fewer respiratory problems now that they aren't inhaling chalk dust all the time don't agree with the idea of whiteboards solving a non-existent problem.
posted by bardophile at 11:34 AM on June 14, 2015


Because they're high as kites from the fumes coming off the whiteboard markers?

I dunno, I actually very rarely see whiteboards in classrooms. Sometimes in small seminar rooms or boardrooms. I think they're a more corporate thing maybe where people don't want chalk dust on their suits. The teacher and faculty unions around here are fairly strong and the work safety culture is well developed. I'd be surprised to find there was an unaddressed health issue with chalk.
posted by Rumple at 6:46 AM on June 15, 2015


Makes sense. I'm talking about my school in Pakistan, where whiteboards have been a very popular change.
posted by bardophile at 7:16 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am 35. I gave up trying to write cursive in college. It's a giant pain in the ass.

I stopped writing in "purely" cursive a long time ago, but mainly for aesthetic reasons. I think cursive looks pretty vintage, but not in a good way, like it hasn't held up well when most people use it. I use a combination between printing and cursive that blends some letters together to make it more quick to use, but I haven't found any tasks that require such an increase in speed that I'd gain that much more from using it. Note taking doesn't really happen much by hand any more.

That being said, I'm all for learning good penmanship in general, and I think it's important for kids to learn to have the manual dexterity to pull it off. I'm just not sure that cursive and good penmanship go hand-in-hand.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:16 AM on June 15, 2015


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