Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Blackboards and Whiteboards

Back before blackboards there were personal-sized slates. Blackboards on walls or portable stands are one of the oldest visual aids. In 1801 George Baron was using them to teach math at West Point. Over in Edinburgh, Scotland James Pillans even was using colored chalk to teach geography.

The more recently developed whiteboards can provide better contrast for colors. A whiteboard is like an infinite supply of flip chart paper. Most tips in a previous post about flip charts also apply to whiteboards. The main improvement is that the whiteboard can be erased and re-used almost endlessly to make simple points either during your presentation or while answering questions.

Here are some tips about using whiteboards:

1. Do you want to be a “Snow Ninja” and hide at the whiteboard? If not, then don’t wear a white shirt or a dress for your presentation.

2. Always have a spare marker in your briefcase, purse, or pocket. Murphy’s Law says that the one on the tray beneath the whiteboard will be dried out and useless.

3. Talk to the audience, and not to the board. Write a brief point, then turn around and stand beside what you have just written.

4. Unless you like wearing clown makeup, don’t wipe your marker-covered hands either on your face or clothes.

5. Don’t be a board magician. Let the audience read what you have written before you make it disappear. If you show off by writing with your right hand and almost immediately erasing with your left, you can go right to the top of your audience’s enemies list.

Recently I saw a blog post on how the lowly whiteboard is the perfect presentation tool. It talks about using a laptop-sized board for discussion with one other person. The same could have been said for a slate with a wood frame – as is shown above in the painting of Friar Luca Pacioli from around 1500.

There also are digital whiteboards, but they are a whole other story.

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