Sunday, 9 December 2012

Creating Collaborative Spaces in the Library Using IdeaPaint

My library colleague @grahamwhisen put forward the suggestion that we turn some of the tables in our school library into whiteboards. Say what? How?

There is a product called IdeaPaint. The company website describes IdeaPaint as a material that "lets you create a usable, interactive space on practically any surface at work, school or home. IdeaPaint puts collaboration and interaction at your fingertips."

The Process

The IdeaPaint website provides an instructional video, as well as written "Help" to get you on your way. As you can see, everything is simply labelled. I do recommend that the first thing you do is make sure you have all the necessary materials ready because once you open This and That, you only have about an hour and a half to apply all the paint before it starts to solidify.

Easy Instructions
To start, recruit students to help with the sanding to get the job done quickly. Wax on, wax off.

After sanding, thoroughly clean the grit off of the tables and let dry. Apply the base; use up the whole can by doing multiple layers. Having a thick base makes a big difference in the final product.

Applying the base
After the base dries, apply the top coat. Remember that IdeaPaint needs at least four days to cure. We kept our tables behind the circulation desk until they were ready to use.

Shiny top coat

First Observations

Because we had been preparing the tables in view of staff and students, there were many questions about what the heck we were doing. Also, seeing the work being done created a sense of anticipation. As soon as we put the tables out, students began to work on them.

Figuring out physics
On the first day, we left markers and erasers on the tables to allow students to explore using the whiteboard surface on their own. Some students worked out math and physics equations. Others doodled and played tic tac toe. There were yet others who merely liked to touch the surface of the tables.


Lessons Learned 

The first lesson is to not take any short cuts. For example, because the base was so sticky, we thought we didn't need to tape the sides of the tables for the top paint layer.

It was interesting to note that these drips only seemed to bother our college and workplace students. They teased us a little bit, but they also had a ton of suggestions on how to remedy what we had done. Also, concerns about keeping the caps with the markers offered one student the opportunity to teach us a creative solution.

Student know-how
After our first day of free exploration, we found we had to start signing out the equipment; we had inappropriate pictures drawn on one table and erasers stolen. We have since bought packs of markers and erasers, put them in barcoded ziploc bags, and now sign them out to students. This solution has worked well.

I also find it helpful to work with the students and model appropriate uses for the whiteboard tables. A teacher-librarian can show them how the tables can be used for learning purposes, such as brainstorming, group work and visualization.

Student reaction? They'd like to see ALL tables in the school covered in IdeaPaint.

For more information, check out the IdeaPaint website and video:


  1. Thanks so much for this post. Looking at the price of the product I can see that it would fit within the category of some of the smaller grants that educators can apply for. Another idea is for an after school club or activity to take on the raising of funds for a project within their school.

    1. Thank you for reading and your wonderful suggestion for small grant projects: the creation of collaborative spaces!