Posts Tagged ‘collaboration’

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.

WB3

 

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

 

WB1 WB2

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In case you aren’t aware, Google offers schools free access to its Google Apps Suite.  This means your students could have access to Google Mail, Calendar, Chat, and Sites.  Well, they always could, but now it could be part of a domain you control.  For example, if you manage a domain for your school called jameswoodshigh.edu, students could have email addresses like “john.doe@jameswoodshigh.edu” or “mr.smith@jameswoodshigh.”  The back end of the services run on Google’s servers.  I think this could add some streamlined collaboration between students if implemented and directed properly.

Pros:

  1. Easy to manage
  2. Gives great collaboration tools
  3. Ability to control addresses.  Only an administrator can create an address
  4. Ability to allow only “yourdomain.com” addresses to be received by other “yourdomain.com” addresses
  5. Keeps information private, there are nor worries of students accidentally sharing their calendar
  6. Helps prevent cyber-bullying from anonymous addresses

Cons:

  1. Board policy – As far as I can tell, my board states something along the lines that any information saved on, or sent from a board computer is owned by them.  As far as I can tell at my board there is no official policy against this
  2. Maintenance – while IT maintenance is limited because Google takes care of the work, someone still needs to be in charge of creating addresses and groups, and other minor maintenance

Your thoughts?  Please comment! I would appreciate some fresh perspective on this idea as I am thinking of taking it out for a test drive.  Maybe creating an address for each of the students in my class, or just for some students involved in collaborative extra-curricula rs like yearbook, newspaper, student council, etc.  I’ve already heard some mixed opinions from some colleagues.