Don’t clean the whiteboard

In the previous post, I talked about classroom archaeology: the concept that we leave behind evidence of the learning that goes on in our classroom for others to find, and since people will see this evidence whether we like it or not, we should leave some useful artefacts on purpose.

This post is about one simple idea I have for an archaeological artefact we can leave behind: a full whiteboard.

Your typical university classroom is woefully bare — there is little or no evidence that learning has happened in them at all, letalone what learning it actually was. In general we don’t have topical posters to inspire questions in our students, we don’t have a list of this semester’s topics marked to show where we’re up to, and we don’t put the students’ work on the wall for people to see. The main reason for this bareness is that the classrooms we teach in don’t “belong” to us — everyone shares them and classes traipse in and out of them all day.

And this is precisely why I think the full blackboard is such a great idea! If you leave on the blackboard what you did in your class, then the next person who uses it can see what learning was going on there. If they are from a different discipline, then they might just get a kick out of knowing that your topic is actually taught at your university. (Indeed, just yesterday a lecturer in Media expressed this exact opinion about seening Physics on the whiteboard when he enters his lectures. And I myself enjoy walking through Hub Central and seeing the intricate diagrams and calculations left behind on the whiteboards by the students studying overnight.) Not only this, but if you have the good fortune to have no-one else use the blackboard between now and your next class, your own students will have the benefit of seeing right there what you did last time.

Now I know that it is many a teacher’s pet peeve to enter a classroom to be faced with a “dirty” whiteboard, but I think the benefits far outweigh a little bit of annoyance. And anyway, if everyone did this, you’d just clean the whiteboard at the beginning rather than the end of the class, and so everyone would still doing the same amount of cleaning overall wouldn’t they? (Possibly less cleaning if you think about it, because if you don’t plan to use the whiteboard at all, you won’t have to clean it!)

So in the spirit of having a healthy sense of classroom archaeology, please: don’t clean your whiteboard!

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