Dry Erase Tables

Posted: June 18, 2012 in low-tech, pedagogy
Tags: , ,

I have used large pieces of whiteboard for student collaboration for a few years now. I have implemented this in both my math classes, as well as the occasional computer science class. I’m a huge fan of this low-tech device and students seem to enjoy it as well. The whiteboards also came at a time when I switched from having individual student desks to having students sit in groups of 3-4 at a table. The tables were more forced upon me due to facilities, but I have embraced them (the whiteboard use helped.) ¬†Student collaboration is really enhanced when they work together in this way.

For a few years now, I have thought about using IdeaPaint on the surface of the entire tables. IdeaPaint is a paint-able product that can be applied to any smooth surface and transform it in to a dry erase surface. Essentially, using IdeaPaint, I was going to have whiteboard tables (although IdeaPaint also comes in a few other colours, including black.) I thought the idea was exciting for a math classroom, and among other things was going to use it to ramp up collaboration end reduce note-taking.  Take some time to dream up your own idea.

Now currently, my tables are awful. ¬†They have wheels and you can’t sit on one side because they have power adapters built in. (They were, however, great for my Computer Engineering class when electricity comes in handy.) ¬†Because of this, I started looking into making my own tables. ¬†This is where IdeaPaint jumped back in to the picture. ¬†If I was building new tables, why not build whiteboard tables? ¬†IdeaPaint now comes in clear. ¬†I thought this might have some interest to have some writing embedded beneath the clear IdeaPaint – like some key words for our school’s Four-Step Problem Solving Model.

I envisioned quarter circle tables each made out of a sheet of 8’x4′ plywood. ¬†They would be able to¬†accommodate¬†four students along the long curve. ¬†This is important because when students are collaborating they need to see things in the same orientation (equations, graphs, etc.) ¬†It also means minimal movement when looking at a projector.



In a perfect world, I’d be able to find a local furniture or cabinet maker to help me build the tables (I can build them, however, it would be nice to have some more¬†experience¬†and better tools on my side. ¬†An offer to help pay for them would be even better, so I guess the actual¬†perfect world.) ¬†Either way, the cost of the tables was not going to be too bad in my mind. ¬†The problem arose when looking at the IdeaPaint.

The tables I plan on building will be quarter-circles, with the top built from an 8’x4′ sheet of plywood. ¬†I figure this has about a 25 square foot surface area. ¬†That means one can of IdeaPaint will finish two




  1. Lisa says:

    I stumbled on this post via a wordpress topic search, and I’m so glad I did. I’ve since started in on your archives, and wanted to leave a quick note of thanks: I appreciate your post on Canvas, and the embedded links you provided (which helped me not only learn a lot, but also get a grasp on some of the politics behind LMS contracts & usage at universities), I can’t wait to pick up The Connected Educator, and I really like the emphasis you put on active learning in your teaching, which this latest post shows quite clearly.

    You know, it’s funny: give a group of people a bunch of coloured pens and something to work through or present their ideas on, and you will be greeted with enthusiasm (even if carefully concealed beneath “I’m too old for this” eye-rolling). This works with adults just as well as it does with kids or young adults. Converting thinking into a tactile, visual and active process is just plain good. Do you ever ask your students to work on the whiteboards in a way that is perhaps not directly related to the course subject (i.e., drawing, free-thought association or concept-mapping, creating narrative through comic-strip-like sequences)?

    • mryantho says:

      Thanks for reading and the kind words. I have done plenty of concept mapping with large whiteboards, especially with my computer science classes. Collaborating face to face in this way is far more engaging when compared to an online group concept mapping software (like LucidChart which I really like.) I think it is just the non-verbal cues they pick up while developing ideas that seems to draw more out of them.

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