Ah, the whiteboard. The surface of choice for the budding innovator, whether you are in a first grade classroom, your garage, or in a shiny Silicon Valley office. Sorry chalkboard, that ghostly white residue that got on everything and is a proven irritant for asthma? It just ain’t flying anymore. The whiteboard, in all its its erasable glory, has become the new surface for visual thinking, whether you’re jotting down group meeting notes or sketching out a prototype with friends.
In this post we’ll share some tips, tricks, and creative uses of whiteboards that we’ve collected from learning spaces around the country. Let’s get to it!
Create Fluidity, Motion, and Free Expression
On the surface (pun intended!), the whiteboard allows students and teachers to share thoughts with one another visually without the pressure of permanence. Write, draw, erase, write, draw, erase… the ease of jotting down thoughts as they come encourages a sense of play and exploration. This gets even more fun with different colored markers! (For an amazing student-designed hack to prevent losing your marker caps, check out our last blog on organization).
Fluidity and motion are important when brainstorming — you don’t want to disrupt the flow of ideas! When students have a dedicated space to brainstorm and sketch socially, they may feel more comfortable and confident in sharing their ideas. We’ve learned from our time at the Harvard Innovation Lab that it’s these informal moments you want to design for: when you are just chatting with a friend and there’s a whiteboard surface nearby where you can cook up the next brilliant idea! Whiteboards are the new napkins.
We love the colors and symbols on this whiteboard wall from the Khan Lab School, which is beautifully designed but still has a down-to-earth, hand-drawn feel. This helps make certain topics feel approachable and allows students to add their own stories and thoughts. A whiteboard is never permanent; concepts and ideas are never quite finalized and there is always room for edits. This, of course, all depends on the teaching principles in the room. If students aren’t given the markers or time to sketch out ideas, whiteboard walls can feel as static as painted walls.
But don’t forget — capture those ideas! Whiteboards are impermanent, so remember to grab that snapshot before erasing, and file it away in a system that works best for you classroom. There are even services out there like (un)whiteboard and snapclean.me that will improve your image…for free!
Think Outside the Wall
Now, let’s release the poor whiteboard from its traditional home of a wall. Ideally, whiteboard surfaces can serve multiple functions!
These cabinets from High Tech High Media Arts are a room2learn favorite. We all know that wall space is precious and often sparse. These multifunctional cabinets were specifically designed to store both objects and ideas. Don’t have the budget for a custom-made cabinet? You can easily DIY this project by covering your existing cabinets with dry-erase self-adhesive stickers or whiteboard paint.
We also love the various shapes and sizes whiteboards now come in. Easy ingredients for an adaptable classroom!
These small whiteboard tablets can act as dividers and personal brainstorming surface for students to use during solo-work time. Take them down, and you get collaborative learning or larger work surfaces. Multi-functionality, in all its glory.
If you’ve got room to move (like our Content + Community Manager Michelle does here), a whiteboard on wheels might fit your needs. At the Harvard i-lab, these movable mini-walls can divide up large spaces, which works wonders for an open floor plan. Use one as a simple divider or multiple to create a semi-private cove. When the room2learn team has design challenges or a group discussion, we use these instead of flip charts — no more carrying around big pads of paper!
Lastly, but absolutely not least, have fun! We love the life this Kindergarten teacher gave to their classroom whiteboard. We can only imagine the stories, games, and learning moments this character inspired!
How do you have fun with whiteboards? We want to hear about it!! Share with fellow edu-innovators on www.room2learn.org and Tweet us at @HackClassrooms!