The Disadvantages of Whiteboards in the Classroom

by Elizabeth Brown

Odor

The scratching of chalk against the chalkboard can make a student’s hair stand on end, but chalk has no odor. Dry-erase markers are soft and silent, but they can cause vapors in a classroom and contribute to indoor pollutants. Smaller children who are more vulnerable or those with chemical sensitivities may experience throat or eye irritation after prolonged exposure. Whiteboards also require a special cleanser made with an alcohol solvent, adding to the pungent odor associated with the markers.

Glare

White print against a dark surface makes chalkboards easier to read. Whiteboards’ polished white finish can create a ghostly glare, making it difficult for visually impaired students to discern what is written. Colored markers in red, green and orange are deemed bright and eye-catching, and teachers employ them to enhance the text, but they can actually diminish a student's ability to read what’s written. Black markers work best against the white surface to decrease glare and increase contrast.

Expense

Because dry-erase markers are easy to use and colorful, students and teachers both tend to write more on a whiteboard than on a traditional chalkboard. Therefore, markers wear out more quickly than chalk and must be replaced more often. A package of 10 can cost up to $8, as of 2009. Unlike a stick of chalk's visibly diminishing size, a marker's final hours are not always obvious--a teacher can start her lessons for the day and discover too late that she doesn’t have a working marker.

About the Author

Elizabeth Brown holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Connecticut and a Master of Arts in education from Saint Joseph College in West Hartford, Connecticut. She began writing professionally in 2004 and has published op-eds and letters in the Hartford Courant and other local journals. She is currently a Hartford Public Schools Examiner.