Did you grow up with chalkboards or whiteboards?
May 25, 2018 10:57 PM   Subscribe

I find this fascinating that my husband and I grew up with different wall writing technology. What has been your experience?

Me in MT born 1990: went to a private (not fancy) elementary school thru freshman year. We had chalkboards in all the elementary classrooms and only had whiteboards in junior high and high school (only a few classrooms.) My public high school had white boards in most rooms.

Husband in MI born in 1987: went to a richer area public school. He claims he grew up with whiteboards.

I could have SWORN whiteboards weren't the standard until a certain time period. Especially for elementary children. Wikipedia claims that the popularity surged in the 90s but I thought younger kids weren't trusted with markers.

If you're around our age or a teacher who saw these changes - what did you see around the 90s into the early 00s? How often are chalkboards still used?

Brought on by a joke of "clapping the chalk erasers" in MST3K The Violent Years when I asked how much eraser clapping duty sucked and he said he never did it.
posted by Crystalinne to Grab Bag (55 answers total)
WI, born in 1969. Elementary through University, finally graduating in 1992, all public schools - chalkboards.

I went back to school a couple of years ago at a local community college, and by then, they were all whiteboards. I've had profs carry their own pens with them, because the ones in school constantly die out, and aren't replaced often.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:11 PM on May 25, 2018

1981, chalkboards in elementary and middle school, but in the late 90s my old and not wealthy high school was transitioning to whiteboards. Some teachers hated them and would refuse to write on them, others got really into how many colors they could use and would create works of art while we were studying. You knew you had the good classroom if there was a whiteboard.
posted by lepus at 11:26 PM on May 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Born in 1991, went to public schools in Arizona. Never had a single chalkboard, probably because the school I started attending in second grade (1998) had just been built that year and my middle school a few years aferwards, to accommodate AZ's population boom.
posted by mollywas at 11:35 PM on May 25, 2018

Born in 1990, went to good public schools in CT. There was a mix of whiteboards and chalkboards; I always thought chalkboards had higher contrast and were nicer to write on. Towards the end, a few of our more technologically adventurous teachers got 'smartboards', which didn't work very well at all -- they constantly needed calibrating, had low contrast / high lag, printed weirdly scaled pdfs, etc.

I use Jamboards now, and I always think that they are what smartboards wanted to be.
posted by batter_my_heart at 12:12 AM on May 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Born 1982, California. By 4th grade whiteboards were in a lot but not all of my classes. The main building classrooms had a mix with mostly big green chalkboards. The “portable” classrooms only had white boards.
posted by Swisstine at 12:30 AM on May 26, 2018

1982, only chalkboards early on. In the 90s the focus shifted to overhead projectors on those pull down white screens for watching film strips. 2nd half of high school all the chalkboards were replaced with whiteboards but there was a definite split between overhead users (who could now project on the whiteboards) and whiteboard users.

In college it was a mix based on how updated the particular building was. The more modern ones had this setup where professors would write on sheets of paper under a camera and a projector would shine it on to a screen. It made it easy for the teacher to switch to displaying their laptop, dvd player, or other media. Chalkboards were in the more historic buildings that were trying to maintain their charm or whatnot.
posted by simplethings at 12:36 AM on May 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

Born in 1984, WI. Growing up we had chalkboards all the way through elementary, middle, and high school except in one of the more newly-remodelled science rooms in the high school where there were whiteboards. In undergrad we had mostly chalkboards. In grad school the classrooms I taught in switched from chalkboards to whiteboards my first year, at the same time they upgraded from overhead projectors (the kind with the plastic sheets) on carts to a computer console, document camera, and projector that dropped down from the ceiling. The reason we were told was that the dust from the chalk was bad for the computers (same reason the computer labs always had whiteboards).
posted by abeja bicicleta at 3:35 AM on May 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Born 1973, grew up mostly in MI. Chalkboards through college. Teachers who didn’t want to use a chalkboard used an overhead projector.
posted by Kriesa at 3:42 AM on May 26, 2018 [4 favorites]

Born in 1980, graduated HS in 1998. Public elementary, middle, and high school, in a wealthier district outside DC. It was an entirely chalkboard experience.
posted by raztaj at 4:17 AM on May 26, 2018

Born in 1976. I remember banging the chalk dust out of erasers in elementary school, and making meter-long poles out of whiteboard markers joined end-to-end in high school. (And then balancing the pole on my nose.)
posted by clawsoon at 5:15 AM on May 26, 2018

Probably depends to some degree on the wealth of your state or school district at the time, and/or the school upgrade schedule they had.
posted by clawsoon at 5:18 AM on May 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

I was born in 1990 and grew up in the Virginia suburbs of DC. Attended private schools from preschool-grade 7, then public school from 8th grade-high school. Always had chalkboards in school. In fact, as a child, I regularly fantasized about getting a whiteboard as it seemed like a special treat. While I was in high school, the school started replacing chalkboards with whiteboards (and smart boards) in a few of the classrooms.
posted by capricorn at 5:24 AM on May 26, 2018

Born in 1967. Never saw a whiteboard in school,. Teachers mostly used transparency projectors to share lecture notes, and chalkboards for the students to do stuff on.
posted by COD at 5:39 AM on May 26, 2018

I was born in 1973, and went to a mix of public and private schools, rich and poor, in Georgia, Missouri, and New Mexico. I saw my first whiteboards in a private high school, 1990. Before that, I had "work study" at a Catholic girls' school for my scholarship, and the worst job was collecting all the chalkboard erasers and running them through the "Little Giant" eraser cleaning machine.
posted by candyland at 5:43 AM on May 26, 2018

1987, rural public school. No white boards in elementary school, started to see them in high school (maybe middle?) but it was still a mix. By the time I graduated, there was some kind of electronic board in the library which may have been a Smart Board, possibly?

I'm in a lot of schools in Providence, RI, which is not a rich district, there are no chalkboards at this point that I've seen in years, at least not in use.
posted by geegollygosh at 6:19 AM on May 26, 2018

Born in 1983, started 1st grade in 1990 and graduated high school in 2001, all public schools in NYC. Chalkboards were used throughout. I don't remember whiteboards specifically being used, but they could have been used occasionally in late high school years. Also in high school years, teachers used projectors and transparencies sometimes.

*Washing off the chalkboards with a sponge was actually a pretty enjoyable job for us in elementary school!
posted by watrlily at 6:23 AM on May 26, 2018

Born between you and your husband. Grew up east coast US. Had chalkboards until high school, then whiteboards in high school.
posted by Night_owl at 6:39 AM on May 26, 2018

Born in 77, attended public schools in the east area of Sacramento, CA. Chalkboards and overhead projectors in grade school; a mixture of chalkboards, projectors, and whiteboards in middle school; and whiteboards and projectors in high school.
posted by elsietheeel at 6:44 AM on May 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

Blackboards...I am old. With chalk.
posted by mermayd at 6:45 AM on May 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

1980 UK mostly - chalkboards through primary (elementary) and secondary (high) school. Some overhead projectors in secondary school.
posted by sedimentary_deer at 7:13 AM on May 26, 2018

My janky high school has whiteboards mounted weirdly on top of blackboards.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 7:14 AM on May 26, 2018

1977 - Germany - chalkboards and later chalkboards and OHPs
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:21 AM on May 26, 2018

1987, everything was chalkboards except for a few rooms in my high school, and I'm pretty sure those were just whiteboard adhesive paper stuck on the old chalkboards. All public schools.

Bonus info: college (private) was mostly whiteboards but not smartboards; grad school (public) was about half whiteboard and half chalkboard; the college where I teach now (public) is still mostly chalkboards, except for the newest building.
posted by pemberkins at 7:25 AM on May 26, 2018

Born in 1985, Alabama (one of th better school districts). I think 100% whiteboards by 1996 or so, though iirc it was the teacher’s call so some old-schoolers kept chalk.

College (large private research) was 100% chalk, even in brand new buildings.
posted by supercres at 7:48 AM on May 26, 2018

Oh I just remembered something that may add another layer to chalk vs. whiteboard...at my last job the conference rooms had whiteboards, but you could only use a specific brand of low-odor marker because several people in the building had chemical sensitivities. That could be why some places, colleges especially, are still using chalk.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:02 AM on May 26, 2018

Born in 1967. Never saw a whiteboard in school,. Teachers mostly used transparency projectors to share lecture notes, and chalkboards for the students to do stuff on.

Born in 1968. Did my last schooling in the mid-90s. Never had anything other than a chalkboard. That said, my dad worked in technology on the east coast in the 80s and 90s and he had whiteboards in his office in the 80s. Here's a photo of them being used in Japan in the late 70s.
posted by jessamyn at 8:24 AM on May 26, 2018

Born in 1986, went to rich public schools in the Chicago suburbs. By the time I was in junior high, they were buying whiteboards rather than chalkboards--my junior high had a couple of classrooms that had recently been converted from other uses that had whiteboards. My high school was the same--they'd added classrooms in the basement (probably in the late 1990s) which had whiteboards, but everything else was chalkboards. My senior year, my math teacher had a smartboard purchased while using up the technology budget. It was mostly a novelty that no one could figure out how to use effectively. Overhead projectors were common throughout. My high school had one or two document cameras(?) that could project a piece of paper rather than a transparency*.

I honestly don't remember seeing a whiteboard in college (UC system), but I suspect some science buildings had them. The way you knew the engineering departments had money was that the chalk holders in their buildings actually had chalk. People in the math department carried their own chalk (and occasionally their own eraser) because you couldn't count on there being chalk in the room. In grad school (large midwestern public university, relatively flush with cash), they had removed chalkboards in favor of whiteboards, but the math department had actively resisted. This had the convenient side effect of other department not wanting to teach in those classrooms, so the math department had de facto control of the classrooms in the building.

*Random linguistic note: I call both the transparencies and the projector "overheads" and had to change that sentence because it read like there was a document camera permanently in some classrooms, rather than one or two that could be checked out.
posted by hoyland at 8:26 AM on May 26, 2018

1988, Chicago-area Catholic schools K-12. We had chalkboards all the way through, and projectors in elementary. I distinctly remember chalkboards even through 2006, as my calc teacher had a chalkboard with a grid marked on it.
posted by quadrilaterals at 8:53 AM on May 26, 2018

Born 1985. Fancy private elementary school and underfunded public high school in NYC both used chalkboards exclusively. I never once saw a whiteboard in a classroom until I got to college in 2003.
posted by thejoshu at 9:02 AM on May 26, 2018

This isn't a question that can be answered specifically, because of exceptions - for example, ten years ago I attended several classes at the Cupertino community college (in the heart of Silicon Valley!) which still had chalkboards in all the classrooms. I hope they've updated, but I wouldn't be surprised if not.

But I've always wondered which is more eco-friendly -- seems chalk's gotta be better than all those unrecyclable dry-erase markers going into the landfill.
posted by Rash at 9:19 AM on May 26, 2018

I went from an elementary school in the 90s that used chalkboards and overhead projectors to a high school where every kid had a laptop and teachers used whiteboards and digital projectors. However I didn't know what a Smartboard was until I started teaching myself.

Now I teach in a 1960s building that has Smartboards mounted over whiteboards that are mounted over chalkboards - seriously.
posted by raspberrE at 9:23 AM on May 26, 2018

1970. Went to American public schools in metro Phoenix, Hahn Germany, Vogelweh Germany, metro Tampa, Jacksonville, and Gainesville, and a white-flight private middle school in metro Tampa. The first time I saw non-chalkboards was at Ed White High School in Jacksonville, which had been designed as some big experiment in... something. Anyhoo, all the non-lab classrooms only had three walls and were open to the corridor, and the walls they had were covered with a fabric-ish material that they would just write on directly. It didn't seem like whiteboard stuff. They also had some sort of weird-ass experimental scheduling system I don't remember? You could practically smell the good intentions.

Don't remember any whiteboards in college, UVa 1988-1992.

Currently teaching at Big State SUNY designed in the 60s and 70s and built in the 70s and 80s, and it's a real mixed bag whether a classroom will have whiteboard or chalkboard. I would put a lot more weight on "colleges are cheap-ass" than on trying to avoid bothering people with sensitivities.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 9:33 AM on May 26, 2018

Born in 1981, attended decent public schools in Eastern NC. We started getting whiteboards when I was in junior high, though it was never a full shift--as classrooms were renovated or new ones were built, they'd get whiteboards. As a goth kid I was conflicted, because chalkboards ("blackboards" in my region!) were cooler but whiteboards didn't get white dust all over my black clothes.
posted by rhiannonstone at 9:51 AM on May 26, 2018

Born in 1982 and lived in the US until the mid-2000s. My middle school had chalk boards and overhead projectors -- most teachers favored the overhead projectors.

My high school had half and half. My Universities all had whiteboards, I think.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 9:54 AM on May 26, 2018

1982, went to a good public school district in Southern California. There were a few classrooms in my high school with whiteboards, but it was mostly chalkboards and overhead projectors with pull down screens. Same situation at community college in Santa Monica, and the two UC campuses I attended between 2002-07. My classes were all in buildings built in the 60s or earlier.

I took a class at SFSU in 2010 and there were whiteboards. Grad school (2011-2013) was a private art school and there were a few mounted whiteboards, but mostly whiteboard paint.
posted by kiripin at 10:07 AM on May 26, 2018

I graduated from high school in 1990 and college in 1995. I probably? had never seen a whiteboard before college, where all my classrooms had blackboards mounted on the walls but there were sometimes big rolling whiteboards (for which the markers were always missing or dried out) and we all put cheap little whiteboards on our dorm doors.

Overhead projectors were definitely more common alternatives to whiteboards or blackboards in both high school and college.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:30 AM on May 26, 2018

Born 1982 in Portugal: I did not see a whiteboard until I joined HS in the late 90s, where we had whiteboards on the computing classrooms. Some classrooms (mostly those for science classes) had a projection screen rolled on top if a overhead or slide projector was to be requested.
posted by lmfsilva at 10:47 AM on May 26, 2018

Born in '58, graduated college in '80. Always chalkboards in school. FWIW, my own kids, born in the late 80's and early 90's, were all chalkboards in school, too.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:54 AM on May 26, 2018

Born in 1991. Attended public schools in MA through 2004 - I remember them replacing the chalkboards with whiteboards when I was in third or fourth grade - around 2000. The private school in RI I attended from 2004-2009 had a mix.
posted by Seeking Direction at 11:36 AM on May 26, 2018

Born in 1990 in SE Virginia; went to (non-swanky) private schools. I remember lower school (K-7) having only blackboards, and upper school (8-12) have a mix.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 12:07 PM on May 26, 2018

Born in 63 and went as far as art college without ever seeing a whiteboard. First saw one at a family Pictionary party in the mid 90s.
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:22 PM on May 26, 2018

I teach at a community college, built in the early 90s, where a mix of whiteboards and chalkboards abounds. I'm told that the one in the chemistry lab is as old as the building.

I didn't see whiteboards until I went to high school (early 00s). It wasn't universal, though, only the classrooms in a recently-constructed extension had them.
posted by invokeuse at 3:56 PM on May 26, 2018

Born in 1977; elementary school #1 (parochial, well-established, mid '80s) had chalkboards and a rotating class chore schedule for clapping the chalk dust out of the erasers; elementary school #2 + middle school (private, newish and struggling, late 80's to early '90s) had whiteboards. Private high school (mid '90s, swanky) and private college (late '90s, swanky) had a mix of both that corresponded to the age of the respective building, so the fancy new science center classrooms had whiteboards, but the classrooms attached to the science museum on campus did not.

I got to play with whiteboards and dry erase markers at my dad's workplace from a fairly young age, though :) Basically the age of "okay, she's not putting everything in her mouth anymore, she knows not to lick the markers ..."
posted by Pandora Kouti at 6:18 PM on May 26, 2018

Born in 1990 in VT, my elementary school was 95% chalkboards, my high school was 95% whiteboards.
posted by Grandysaur at 6:57 PM on May 26, 2018

Guyagonalize teaches physics at a schmancy university and they mostly have chalkboards around. Chalkboards are very, very much the norm for most physics departments.
posted by Diagonalize at 7:05 PM on May 26, 2018

Born in 1980. All-chalkboard elementary, half chalkboard/half whiteboard in every school after that with the occasional overhead projector.
posted by pianoblack at 7:27 PM on May 26, 2018

Born 1975, New zealand. Never saw a whiteboard until high school. Elementary was Catholic school, middle was public.
posted by gaspode at 7:38 PM on May 26, 2018

Born in 1962. The board in the classroom wasn't called a chalkboard, it was called a board, and it was made out of slate. I also had a small sized portable slate with a wooden frame for learning to write. When you wrote on your own slate you used a slate pencil, but when you wrote on the board so that other people could see it that were sitting in the classroom you used chalk which wasn't able to make as fine a line as the slate pencil, but showed up much better over a distance.

Slate pencils were made out of grey stone, a thin rod of stone encase in a paper tube, about half the diameter of a regular pencil. You had to keep peeling the paper back as the slate pencil was worn down. They were either made of soapstone, or a cheaper, crumblier quality of slate. I still have a couple of short slate pencil ends.

The problem with slates is that when you drop them they shatter. My sister's slate was bigger but it was my slate that got dropped, and broken and the pieces were sharp. When I was given a new slate... it wasn't even slate at all, it was masonite painted green, I couldn't use a slate pencil on it as that would scratch the paint. I could only use chalk.

If you wanted to play school you went to one of the buildings we knew of that had slate roofing tiles and hunted around behind the bushes that had been planted around the foundation until you found a nearly intact tile. You simply used a small piece of slate to write on the tile. Cut fingers occasionally occurred. I think now that those bushes were planted around the foundations to help protect people from the falling slates, as getting hit with one sliding off the roof could have done some very serious injuries. The bushes ensured that no one normally went into the falling slate zone.

Chalk erasers, made out of felt were cleaned by holding them out an open window and banging them together. The board was washed every day with water and a rag, usually by some lucky kid who was being given this privilege and stayed late to do it, watched by other unlucky kids who were staying late because they were being "kept in" as a punishment for misbehaviour.

There was a special tool that held multiple pieces of chalk in a row with gaps for drawing lines on the board for children to use like lines on paper.

There was a projector for shining pictures on the wall. Transparencies were used and there was a special sort of greasy soft crayon for writing on the transparency.

The only felt pen around was the Marksalot that smelt rather like gasoline fumes and was used to draw big thick black lines. These were used in my school for drawing on large sheets of brown paper, for example one year every one of the kids took a turn to lie on the paper and the teacher traced them, and then we got to colour and cut out these portraits and they were stuck to the wall in the hall. When I was in mid-elementary school coloured felt pens became available to kids. They were expensive and came in a metal tin with a great art reproduction on the lid. We never got any, but I discovered that when some other kid used up their felt pens and threw them out they could be salvaged by removing the plug on the far end and dribbling a little water inside them. Felt pens had ink that would run, might soak through the paper and was indelible when it set.

I became a truant from school at the end of grade six, so about 1973 but the schools I was meant to be attending still had slate boards, I believe. The first non slate chalkboard I ever saw was when I started post secondary at about the age of twenty-three. I am not sure where I saw my first white board but it was very close to the same time- I had a white board on the wall in my apartment a couple of years later.
posted by Jane the Brown at 8:54 PM on May 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

Born 1978, 1-12 schooling in Canada, undergrad in Iowa, masters and doctorate in Canada.

Never saw a whiteboard (until my industrial posdoc).

Blackboards all the way, overhead projectors started coming into play around grade 5/ late '80s.

There were those 5' tall stands with those big pads of paper throughout.

In (small private liberal arts) college, it was a mix of overheads and chalkboards because the buildings were old and the chalkboards had been there since forever. I had one philosophy prof who's thing was to be constantly covered in chalk dust and leaving a trail of chalk dust wherever he goes.

Powerpoint (with projectors) started being a common thing in the late 1990s.

Powerpoint (with high def screens) started getting popular in the mid 20teens.

In grad school we used dry erase markers and our windows.

At work now, we have pptx with HD screens, a legacy projector, and whiteboards.
posted by porpoise at 2:12 PM on May 27, 2018

Born in 1990; all schooling in suburban Portland, Oregon metro. 'Good' private grade school, through sixth grade: chalkboards. I vaguely remember outdoor eraser clapping, and also a small, noisy eraser cleaning machine in one classroom. (Different) private middle school: definitely some whiteboards, but I'm thinking at least eighth grade had a whiteboard on one end of the classroom and a chalkboard on the other. Public high school: whiteboards.

I remember slide carousels for the overhead projector in grade school, and transparencies throughout primary school. The transparencies and slides were projected onto pull-down screens. There may have been a new document camera in one or two high school classes.

+1 to the holder for five pieces of chalk: that was used to draw staffs in my grade school music classes.
posted by Carouselle at 5:31 PM on May 27, 2018

Born in 1990, schooling in upstate New York. Private schools through high school - 100% chalk boards. Starting 2007, went to public community college and university - 100% white boards.
posted by Urban Winter at 6:14 PM on May 27, 2018

Born in 1980, graduated in 1998, attended public schools in a rural Oregon school district (but not that rural; next district over was a big urban one). Chalkboards all the way. My teachers loved transparency projectors too. I also seem to remember mostly chalkboards in college — at a private liberal arts school in Portland.
posted by liet at 9:12 PM on May 27, 2018

Born in '84 in VT, graduated high school in 2005. I feel like I knew what a whiteboard was by high school, but essentially all my classrooms had chalkboards until college, and even then I remember it being either chalkboards or PowerPoint for the first part. The exceptions were labs and the Computer Science building. We did have those "leave a note!" whiteboards on our doors. The first time I used whiteboards more than I used chalkboards was graduate school (and even then, I typically used chalk when TAing).

I definitely still think of whiteboards as unreliable novelties compared to blackboards: stuff is always drying on them, the pens never work or go missing, etc. The only reason whiteboards make any sense to me is the dust factor, which makes them tidier for offices and labs. My perhaps unfair impression of a K-12 school having all whiteboards is "that school is crazy bougie and probably gives their students laptops or something" but I concede times have probably changed.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:56 AM on May 28, 2018

Oh, and projectors are still way more common than HD screens in places I've worked, but that's starting to change a bit.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:58 AM on May 28, 2018

Born in 1987, military kid, so I moved around to a bunch of different schools in Hawaii/various parts of the south. My experience was mostly chalkboards in K-6 and whiteboards in 9-12.

HOWEVER: when I was in middle school in Mississippi, we had these very odd grey boards that were like a hybrid. Teachers could write on them with chalk OR dry erase markers. It was WILD. Granted, the chalk didn't have as good a contrast due to the white-on-grey look and the dry erase markers had a tendency to leave excessive ghosting behind unless they were cleared off pretty quickly, so they were kind of the worst of both worlds. Probably why they didn't seem to catch on more places. Still, it was pretty different!
posted by helloimjennsco at 10:32 AM on May 29, 2018

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