Wipebooks for Problem Solving in the Classroom


Students solving problems in the classrom

Frank ran across an article a few weeks ago called “Building Thinking Classrooms: Conditions for Problem Solving,” by Peter Liljedahl, out of Simon Fraser University, BC, Canada; Frank quoted it a few times so I decided that I should give it a read. Basically, the author hypothesized, as the name of the article suggests, that modern classroom configurations and activities are not conducive for thinking and problem solving, particularly for subject matter involving mathematics and the sciences.

The article basically surmises that the traditional mechanisms or avenues in place for learning are fundamentally flawed, and to test his theory, the author conducts a series of experiments, A/B testing if you will, using approaches contrary to conventional classroom learning practices. The experiment looked at different variables, but 2 that stood out to me include, (1) group learning v. isolated learning, and (2) the medium or writing surfaces utilized to work out the assigned problem. For example, instead of having students sit in isolation at their desk, they were required to participate on a team to solve a situational problem. And to test the impact of the writing surface itself on problem solving throughput, he had the groups use different surfaces like whiteboards, flipcharts, chalkboards and notepads.

The experiment set out to objectively measure variables like: time to task, participation, interaction, and the overall persistence of students when it comes to understanding, working out, and solving the task assigned. And not surprisingly, the results revealed that whiteboards, or as the author references them, “non-permanent surfaces,” NPS #vnps, decreased the time to task the problem, improved enthusiasm to solve the problem, and increased overall group participation to work together as a team to figure things out.

More amazingly, at the end of the study, 98% of the teachers that initially opted into the study elected to continue to employ NPS’ #vnps in their classrooms. This is a pretty remarkable uptake if you think about. That means 9.8 out of every 10 teachers bought into the whiteboard phenomenon as an enhanced tool for sharing ideas, communicating, and brainstorming. That’s pretty cool.

After reading the study I thought to myself, “I wonder how the Wipebook would do?” as a NPS #vnps medium in a similar classroom experiment and setting. So, I decided, with the help of my amazing 11-year-old daughter (thanks Elsie), and a grade 5 class in Aylmer, Quebec, Canada, to conduct my own little experiment. And again, not surprisingly, the end results were in-line with that proposed in Liljedahl’s article provided above: Kids are more engaged when using a NPS #vnps.

Check out it for yourself in the video below:


Have a good one.