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Chalkboards going the way of the dodo bird

Remember 8-track tapes, leisure suits and Pong, the original video game? If you do, chances are you sat in a classroom where a teacher delivered a lesson scribbling on a chalkboard.

The dusty chalkboard is slipping into obsolescence like those iconic symbols from late 20th-century American culture.

Visit a public school today and you will find a dwindling number of chalkboards in use as a primary instructional tool.

Many have been removed or converted to magnet-friendly bulletin boards. Some have been covered with white dry-erase boards, which accept soluble ink from a kaleidoscopic array of marking pens. A spongy pad easily wipes away the images.

But the newest wave of mass communication in classrooms involves -- what else? -- technology.

With a laptop computer and projector, teachers are using interactive touch screens that provide students the tactile experience of "going to the board" to demonstrate what they know.

A teacher can display a multiple-choice question on a screen with a selection of answers similar to a debit card scanner. Students approach and touch what they think is the correct response. It gives an instant response.

Interactive boards also have a "chalkboard" feature that enables teachers to use a chunky stylus to "write" on the screen. Think giant Etch-A-Sketch.

Gone is the fuss and mess of chalk dust, not to mention worries about allergic reactions.

Out with the old, in with the new means future generations will never experience:

• The fine art of cleaning felt erasers by banging them together or creating chalk-dust graffiti on a brick wall.

• What a locker-room "chalk talk" is by a coach.

• The indignity of writing "I will not talk in class" 100 times.

• The meaning of "starting with a clean slate."

• That teeth-gnashing cliche, "like fingernails on a chalkboard."

If you remember vinyl records, beehive hairdos and rotary-dial phones, chances are you, too, sat in a classroom where a teacher delivered a lesson scribbling on a chalkboard.

So find a newfangled cell phone with a digital or video camera, visit a nearby school and snap an image of a chalkboard for posterity.

They likely won't be around much longer.

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