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November 4, 2009 / Ben Chun

Whiteboarding

Like most teachers of abstract ideas, I whiteboard a lot. I also use screen broadcasting to let students see my screen while I mouse, click, type, and talk. It’s important to do both of these things and to switch between them. In fact, I rearranged my classroom to make it natural for me to be close to as many students as possible while moving between my stand-up teacher computer workstation and the whiteboard.

I call that narrow patch of ground between the two halves of the room “the lane” and it’s where I teach from. There’s enough room to walk so I can break up any monotony by moving (because kids eyes will always flick to anything that moves), and I can step back from any student I’m talking with (key strategy) to create space between us that brings other students into the conversation and a volume level that lets anyone hear. Lots of times, those conversations end up with something that needs to be whiteboarded. I go through a couple dozen markers a year in 3-4 colors. Teaching abstract ideas on a whiteboard requires colors. (Note to self: check students for colorblindness.) I had a calculus professor, Alar Toomre, in college who was better at this than most of us will ever be and he did it all in chalk. He brought in his own colored chalk in a wooden box that he carried with him.

That’s what I thought of when I saw these refillable whiteboard markers. Better for the environment, sure, but also way cooler than the disposable Expo markers I’ve used for the past 5 years. Can I justify spending $70 on a set of tools that might make it more enjoyable to do what I do? Or is that silly considering that the school keeps me in an unlimited supply of the disposable stuff? Am I just playing in to consumerism? Or am I defending the environment from toxic waste? I’m tempted to go to the SF Green Festival in a couple weeks just to check these things out.

Whiteboard markers. That’s what teachers think about.

One Comment

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  1. amy.leblanc / Nov 4 2009 5:00 pm

    i think it’s totally logical to spend money on something that you can reuse instead of continually using the disposables that are free. + maybe at some point enough teachers will want the refillables that the school switches and gives you those instead!

    this is very different than the kind of “greensumerism” you nod to, such as buying a new pair of hemp/bamboo yoga pants because they’re “eco friendly” to replace the perfectly good pair of yoga pants you already have, when the really eco thing to do is wear your old pants until they are unusable before buying new ones. in this case, the things you are using are always wearing out; the next time you need new markers, buy the refillables.

    (i have the same thoughts about other office supplies.)

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