While it may seem like a trivial difference between the teaching in different cultures, the use of visual aides is actually a major difference in the way the classrooms are conducted, especially seen between the United States and the Japanese cultures of teaching. The US prefers the use of overhead projectors in classrooms, while the Japanese prefer the use of chalkboards, or now I would assume whiteboards. It is interesting to note that in almost every US classroom, both of these options are available, while in Japanese classrooms, an overhead projector itself is very uncommon. But what can this tell us about the styles of teaching?
The overhead projector, document camera, and computer projector are among some of the common visual aides in the US classroom nowadays. Technologically, they are years past a chalkboard, but in my opinion they are overused especially when teaching lessons. It does not allow for any deviation in a class. You are to follow exactly what you have selected to present or show students and it is not used in a very meaningful way, only to present concepts as opposed to explore them. This plays a major role in the US script, because that is exactly what teachers do: present. They present vocab and solution strategies without building much meaning or understanding behind the mathematics. They don’t really allow for students to make connections between topics they learned at different points of a class. All of the information covered in class is scattered between note pages or a packet, and makes it difficult for students to see connections or other solution methods.
The chalk board, or white board, is a tool that is in every classroom. It is simple. It allows you to write something down and erase it later. This gives you great flexibility throughout a lesson, and also allows you to try different strategies and point out misconceptions in those strategies or connections to other solution strategies. Each class can be different, with different thoughts and topics and misconceptions. It also can provide a record of topics covered or solution methods that were discovered during class. This can allow students to make valuable connections between methods without having to flip through pages or recall strictly from memory. All of the material presented is right in front of the students for them to use as they see fit.
This chapter has caused me to reexamine the use of visual aides in my classroom. It has made me ask myself, “is this really beneficial to the students?” and “is there a better way to present this material to the students?”