A little paint and a change of perspective?

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been ruminating on design thinking and classroom design over the last few months.  Kinda ironic that after starting this blog four years ago and focusing on how social media and tablets can extend the impact of the physical classroom (thus the title, “Tearing Down Walls”), that I am now fascinated with tinkering with physical walls and what goes on inside them…

While you can find some schools that are making pretty radical changes in building and classroom design (more on that in a later post), sometimes small changes can have valuable changes in behavior.  Recently, English teacher Ryan Welsh approached me about painting two of his four walls in Idea Paint.  So, we found the paint and had our maintenance staff complete the work over the holidays.


Note the new dry-erase walls over the student’s shoulders

The walls are now dry-erase walls…Ok-so, what?  Ryan describes the changes he noticed within several days of painting two walls with Idea Paint:

First, there is an eye-catching difference between the panels of the room that serve as walls and those panels now covered in Idea Paint.  The clean, white surface provides a visual contrast that sets off the corner of the room as a potentially different kind of space.  Teaching from the corner of the two white board walls creates a sharp point of focus where student attention can be funneled effectively as desired.  Teaching from what would be typically considered the back or side of the room shifts the sense of student and teacher space.  The boundary or line of demarcation between the two kinds of space blurs.  The walls feel more collaborative as a result given the students added willingness to write in a space that hasn’t been claimed or identified as teacher (or teacher permission requisite) space.

Unlike the whiteboards on the opposite wall of the room, these writing surfaces seem less confined given that they take up the entire wall.  Instead of being bound in frames and placed at the traditional front of the room, the white walls provide a more inviting writing surface that students have already used to write up whatever they might like to share with a classroom audience.  The fixed quality of the white wall lends a special sort of credibility to whatever happens to be written there.  Students seem more willing to share their ideas on the board and more willing to respond to one another writing on the wall next to some earlier comment or idea. 

For me, that’s a neat change.  I am intrigued further with how the visible impacts the invisible in the classroom…


Student artwork on Ryan’s new whiteboard walls


4 thoughts on “A little paint and a change of perspective?

  1. My name is Allison Sells and I am a graduate student at the University of South Alabama working toward an alternative masters in Education. I am enrolled in an educational media class EDM510 and have chosen your blog to follow throughout the semster. I will be commenting weekly and posting a summary of what I read in your blog on a tri-weekly basis with the first bost to my blog occuring March 4th. My blog url is: http://sellselizabethedm310.blogspot.com/
    My twitter is @EASELLS36544. I really enjoyed this poist about idea paint. Before reading this I did not know that it even existed. I think that utilizing the walls for student creativity and expression is a great idea. Just as graffiti artist use the walls of buildings and some kids use the walls of their own rooms this gives them freedom to share and expand upon their ideas, the classroom is now their canvas.

  2. Allison,
    Great to hear from you. I am excited for you as you start blogging. This has been a wonderful place for me to reflect and formalize some thoughts over the last few years. Saw that you followed me on Twitter, and I have now followed you.

    I am curious about your Ed media class. What kinds of things are you exploring in class?

  3. Thanks for your interest. Our class focus is learning how to go beyond the walls of our classrooms and use technology to change the way we educate our students. Each of us is assigned to follow 2 teachers chosen by our instructor Dr John Strange and then a third teacher who is chosen by us. After finding your blog in the top 50 blogging teachers list and reading about you, you were my choice. We are creating links with innovative teachers so that we can learn from them and hopefully carry on with our correspondence throughout our teaching careers. We each have a blog of our own with an assignment each week through which we must develop a post and also comment on one of our classmates. Our latest assignment is to investigate various search engines other than Google and make a blog post about our findings and how they may be useful to us as teachers. We will also comment on a post from an undergraduate in the EDM310 class, http://edm310.blogspot.com/.
    While the biggest focus of this class is on blogging, we are also learning to use many of the powerful tools available to us via the internet. We are learning to use Google Drive and will be doing several collaborative projects using sites such as Google Hangouts, Gotothemeeting, and Google Docs. We will also learn to use tools such as Skype, Twitter, Screenr, screenjelly, vodburner, voki, plus many more.
    If you have anymore about this class questions don’t hesitate to ask. I will be glad to answer any questions that I can. For the most complete information contact Dr John Strange. Dr. Strange created this class at USA about 4 years ago and he is the master. There are different links for him listed on the EDM510 class blog site, http://edm510usa.blogspot.com/.

  4. Allison,
    Thanks for the info-sounds like a great class. Thanks also for linking to my blog on yours. I’ve subscribed to yours by email, and I’ll try to keep track of your efforts and support you. I am glad to support you. I was lucky to have a mentor in Canada, Darren Kuropatwa, guide me as I started blogging (we’ve still never met face-to-face).

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