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iSchool students win contest to turn surfaces into whiteboards

A school that prides itself on being at the cutting edge of innovation is bringing back a standby of the 20th-century classroom.

Students at the iSchool, the Manhattan high school that is a showpiece for the Department of Education’s Innovation Zone, learned today that they won a contest to have the school’s multipurpose room transformed into a giant whiteboard.

Within weeks, they’ll be able to use dry-erase markers to jot down ideas on the walls and tables of the fifth-floor “commons” — an open space that students and teachers use as a lounge, meeting space, study hall, and classroom.

“I’m actually speechless. I have no idea what to say here,” senior Marek Smolenski told Bob Munroe, the CEO of IdeaPaint, which typically outfits office space with surfaces meant to facilitate creative collaboration. The company picked two schools to make over from more than 30 applicants from across the country.

Christina Jenkins, an iSchool teacher who bought IdeaPaint for her classroom with donations last year, said the temporary nature of whiteboard writing encourages ideas to flow more readily. For students who might worry about making mistakes, “paper can be more intimidating,” she said, pointing to a wall in her room where students had jotted down ideas for their senior projects.

Smolenski said students already used the dry-erase tables for brainstorming sessions and peer essay editing in Jenkins’s design and creative thinking classes, which include cartography, comic book design, and disaster relief.

“It’s not ordinary paper,” said Alexis Lamb, one of the students who put together the school’s contest entry video, posted below. “Plus, kids just like writing on the tables, I think.”