Thursday, September 30, 2004

Did Myers Really Just Say That?

P.Z Myers of Pharyngula is one of the best science bloggers in the business. His is the first site I check out every morning when I do my daily round-up of news sites and blogs, and I always feel like I come away learning something new.

So how is it possible that someone so smart has actually concluded that those awful, white, dry-erase boards are superior to good, old-fashioned chalk on slate:

Eh. I don’t have a lot of sympathy. There is a tactile difference to chalk and dry erase markers, but I think it’s largely more a matter of familiarity and personal comfort and obstinate resistance to change that’s fueling the opposition, not anything necessary to teaching. And math in particular—it’s strings of symbols on a surface. Dry erase markers produce higher contrast, bolder lines; I would think that they would be superior to chalk, once the instructor gets used to them. I can use either, and tend to favor video projection, anyway.

I can't believe Myers would actually write something so absurd. He must have had a guest blogger sitting in for the day.

Chalkboards are superior in every conceivable way to dry-erase boards. Dry-erase boards are usually way too small and can not be erased with your hand. The markers dry up after about two uses and they fade out on you if you try to draw a long, straight line. Geometric figures are far easier to draw with chalk than with markers. It's a lot easier to wash chalk dust off your hands than that skanky marker residue. Dry-erase erasers get filthy pretty quickly and are impossible to clean. Chalk gives you more control over thickness and emphasis when you're writing. Chalk makes a pleasing clacking noise it makes contact with the board. Dry-erase markers smell bad and get you high. As for higher contrast, bolder lines; please. On Bizarro world, maybe. Here on planet Earth white chalk on black slate provides plenty of contrast.

And math is just strings of symbols on a surface? Yeah, and biology's just a matter of reading the book and memorizing lots of jargon.

I invite Myers to spend one term teaching multivariable calculus on a dry-erase board. The first time he tries to do one of those miserable multiple integral problems (the ones that begin: Find the volume of the first octant part of the solid bounded by the cylinders...) he'll come to his senses.

And video projection? Freakin' video projection?? Seriously.


At 10:12 PM, Blogger PZ Myers said...

You want something to go "clack"? Get some freakin' castanets, man. Tap shoes. Think how much better those integrals will go over with the students if you're doing the flamenco while you're at it.

At 4:29 PM, Blogger Jason said...

Frankly, if I really thought it would make the students a little more enthusiastic about evaluating integrals, I would happily do the flamenco!

At 6:29 AM, Anonymous Henry Nicholas said...

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