On our new “whitewalls” in English
Ironically, the most popular technological tool introduced to the English department this year is, in concept at least, as old as civilisation itself – and as tempting as an unguarded drum kit: it’s a floor to ceiling wall (aren’t all walls?) turned into a whiteboard.
Students and teachers have responded with a crypto-anarchic enthusiasm, as though graffiting were suddenly allowed. It’s led to large-scale, aggressively visible, wide-screed collaboration; blizzards of quotation exercises; lesson planning in an unthreateningly scruffy and editable way (wipe it off! use a different colour!). It’s the antithesis of a the clipped and pruned folders-within-folders, look-at-my-neat-links aesthetic of the digital age. This is mass scrawl. Kids are as happy to get out of their seats and play the teacher with a squeaky whiteboard pen as we were when we were 10 years old.
The outcomes are massive in every way: what could have been 20 mins slightly inert ‘planning’ or ‘discussing an idea’ has suddenly become a lurid, vibrant, kinetic, Pollock-esque snapshot of thought / debate / evidence. It’s process-as-product in the most liberating of ways. You step back and then rush forward again to sort, swipe, select and signpost. At the end, someone takes photos, loads them onto a Shared Google Drive before the tabula is rasa-ed leaving not a rack behind and the next lot come in. Even more excitingly, however, is walking into the room when it’s still there : it’s like stepping into a genius’s head.
The students are as proud as punch with what they have achieved and the teacher has usually managed to simply sit there and watch the kids slide down the long inky slide to happiness (and a spot of learning).