Innovative Classroom Technology: The Flipchart

The Flipchart, a 1960’s Teaching Innovation

“Portable, economical, versatile, the flipchart would get many teacher’s votes as the most useful teaching tool. With a little prepartion and imagination a teacher or leader can reinforce visually the idea or story he is trying to communicate.

What is a flipchart? It is simply a series of sheets of paper bound together which can be flipped over, one at a time, to show a series of thoughts, pictures, outline points, questions, cartoons, symbols, or almost anything that helps teach the lesson.

Probably the most popular permanent flipchart is an artist’s large sketch pad, available at art supply stores. Spiral bound and large enough for use with groups, it has good quality durable paper. Felt-tip pens, crayons, heavy pencil or charcoal can be used on it. With some you can even use tempera or water colors.

The want ad section of the newspaper clipped onto an easel with metal clips is an inexpensive, quick flipchart. Make sure the news type is solid across the page and is too small for any of the audience to read. Mark with a dark felt-tip pen.

Sheets of wrapping paper may also be clipped onto an easel or bound to a piece of cardboard with binder rings. Wrapping paper can be cut to size to fit the size of the group. Any felt-tip pen or crayon can be used if the color contrasts enough with the paper.

Loose leaf or unruled spiral bound notebooks may be held horizontally and used with small classes. Several sheets of vrious colored construction paper can be punched and bound with binfder rings for larger groups.  Some felt-tip pens may blur because of the porous paper, but contrasting crayon colors work well, as does white or colored chalk whose tip has been dipped in a little water.”

Source: “Some Variations and Uses of The Flipchart”, The Standard, January 15, 1968

Wow. The flipchart revolutionized education by introducing the idea that a teacher could ‘reinforce visually the ideas or story he (ouch) is trying to communicate’. The homely, homemade flipchart was literally the technological ancestor of the interactive whiteboard and Power Point presentation.

The classrooms at University of Notre Dame are well equipped with the latest classroom technology. While I occasionally make use of an HD Flip camera, there isn’t a flipchart or ‘felt-tip marker’ in sight. Instead, each room  features multiple sliding blackboards, computers, high speed Internet connections, computer projection systems, DVD players and sound, LCD photo projecters, laptop connection. Technology assistance is a phone call away. Lighting is completely adjustable.  Students enjoy wireless access on their own devices in the classroom.

Students of today would find a classroom of the 60’s primitive. I wonder what students forty  years from now will think of our ‘modern’ classrooms? But more than that, I wonder if learning would be enhanced much more by the latest technology than it was by the flipchart in 1968.