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Sunday, September 30, 2012

How Twitter (and IdeaPaint) are transforming my classroom.

This summer I was looking for IDEAS; ways to make learning more engaging, collaborative, hands-on, and student-centered. I was specifically looking for a for new classroom arrangement to facilitate all this.  I found my inspiration via Twitter, and then I found some more inspiration from Twitter. The wealth of knowledge and ideas on Twitter amazes me! All this inspiration led me to IdeaPaint and now my room looks different than it did in May of last year, and I'm pleased about it! If you'd asked me back then what my room would look like today, I wouldn't have guessed it would look like the pictures you see below and the CLASSROOM VIDEO from Thursday, Sept. 27, shown at the end of this blog post!

Here's my Twitter/IdeaPaint story!

This was the arrangement of my room for years. All tables were in the middle of the room in 7 sets of 2 tables each; extra space was segmented around the outside of the room. It's not a complete room picture but you get the idea. I would rearrange occasionally but not for long. Too stale. No room for 'activities.' :)

I read this room arrangement blogpost from Miles MacFarlane (@milesmac) via TWITTER early this summer and I clipped it immediately, June 18th, into my Evernote account. In July I looked up my @milesmac note and committed to giving it a try. My tables are now arranged like the ones in Miles' pictures--around the outside of the room.  Kids can use the whiteboards on the wall or chart paper (since there are only 2 whiteboards)--as collaboration space. Bonus: The middle of the room is now available for 'activities' such as Philosophical Chairs and Socratic Circle and much more, actually.

Then I saw this on TWITTER: a blogpost about Evernote and IDEAPAINT in a classroom. Check out the pictures in the blogpost and watch the video below! 

After watching the video, I wanted IdeaPaint in my classroom. So I did what any resourceful teacher would do. I went to the IdeaPaint website and clicked on Chat. Since my Science funds are already spent, I threw out the question: Can I get some IdeaPaint to TRY out free and then share my story with my district and the world via blogging/tweeting? The answer from IdeaPaint was a YES! Many thanks to the person I chatted with and to Chris Doney, Sales and Operations Manager at IdeaPaint.

Chris sent 100 Sq Ft of IdeaPaint, 8 eraser cloths, 3 bottles of cleaning spray, and 4 boxes of IdeaPaint markers. With 100 Sq Ft, I did the math and I could IdeaPaint all my tables. I described my IdeaPaint plan and reasoning to my principal, Terri Stirlen, and to district operations and maintenance directors. They were curious about it and gave the green light. THANK YOU! The one catch: I would need to find different tables to paint. The Science tables in my room could not be painted due to the special surface on top. They will be used by another Science teacher.

My principal told me to contact Rick Gentry, director of purchasing/warehouse. Rick invited me out to our North Kansas City Schools district warehouse. I met with Rick and picked out 6 eMINTS tables that were simply there in storage. The tables were shipped to New Mark. Mark Hogge, our head custodian and all around great guy, stored them in a hallway until we were ready to paint.
Gray eMINTS tables waiting for IdeaPaint!

My husband came out to school two different days to prime (day 1) and IdeaPaint them (day 2). Thank you, dear! We did all the priming and painting on the dock at school. We lucked out with nice weather. Mixing the IdeaPaint on day 2 was easy. You pour THIS into THAT. Not kidding. Apply the IdeaPaint, then let the tables cure for 4 days!  As Kuzco says in The Emperor's New Groove,  "No Touchy. Nooo Touchy"

50 Sq Ft IdeaPaint Box
(also comes with a roller and a lid opener!)
Stirring This into That!
You pour THIS into THAT!

Tables are now painted and
ready to cure for 4 days inside.

Mark had the tables moved into my room last Wednesday night, all ready for Thurday morning! These two fine ladies volunteered put all the chairs around the tables before school started. They were just fine  being the FIRST students to try out the tables! It WORKED, it ERASED cleanly, and they LIKED IT!

I like the layout/flow of my room with these tables; less clutter. 6 tables instead of 14 smaller ones. Lots of space in the middle to do activities.
The WHITE tables result in a brighter room! I start class with the overhead flourescent lights off; lamps and projector on. What a difference a white, reflective surface makes. IdeaPaint really is a 'bright' idea. :)

The first assignment was collaborative in nature. Since 5 kids sit at many of the tables, I added a 5th job to my usual 4. Each group identified their top rules for the IdeaPaint tables and their top ideas for creative use of the tables. Then they got to individually write down and come up with mnemonic devices to remember the steps of the Scientific Method and the 3 variables in experiments.  It was cool to see the different ways the kids arranged their work and ideas on the tables!

The kids reported at the end of class and in their Science 'Smash' Journals the next day that writing on the tables was helpful, fun, and cool. They couldn't wait to do it again. They thought it was hands-down more effective than if I'd had them use paper. They said they liked sectioning off their area, writing their names, being creative in that large space, and learning from looking at others' work and and listening/speaking with them. I see all sorts of usefulness when we WRITE. Kids WANT to write on these tables. Kids can write/respond on the tables and then peer editors can walk around the room and edit in a different color. I'm just getting started with ideas. I'm curious about how gross motor (writing on big table with whiteboard makers) and fine motor writing (with pencil on paper or typing) impact learning/memory. Is it different? What research could I do on this?!

Here is the slideshow video I made using iPhoto on my MacBook Air. I used an iPhone 4S to shoot all pictures and video. Enjoy!


  1. Chris Duffy - ParentOctober 5, 2012 at 7:25 AM

    LOVE, LOVE it! Thank you for always thinking "out of the box" for our kids' learning and experiences! I saw the Idea Paint Segment on CBS Sunday Morning Show a year or so ago. SO cool! Their story and how much time spent creating a great, affordable product is neat. I'll work on dry erase markers......

  2. Chris--THANK YOU! Your neverending support in the last few years in the form of kind words, supplies, and being there on field trips is amazing. More adults involved in kids' lives leads to opportunities for kids to watch, learn from great role models, and then lead. Thanks again!

  3. Great ideas! How did you get in touch with Chris Doney? I would love a sample to try out....

  4. This would be great for my table. I pull groups of usually 4 students out of their classroom and work on reading skills with them. Can I come into your classroom and see them sometime. I also work in NKC

  5. Steve--I contacted him via this page -->
    Mr. Fredde--email me and we'll figure out a time!! Absolutely.