I get more questions about the whiteboard paint than perhaps anything else in or related to my classroom, and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to respond to this. It begins like this: I posted a DonorsChoose project for 100 sq ft of IdeaPaint for my classroom in February 2011. I tell myself now that it was inspired by a comics class I'd taught a few weeks earlier, where I'd spread butcher paper out over my tables and left it there for as long as it would last. Another version is that I must have seen whiteboard tables somewhere else, and wanted to copy the idea. Either way, the project was funded thanks to family and friends, and I covered my tables with IdeaPaint (the best stuff, I've heard) over spring break 2011.
To answer the questions I hear most often:
The amazing stuff - It's incredible to suddenly see these surfaces give life to ideas that may not have had a way of escaping before. We see doodling, games, comics, questions, and brainstorming appear unprompted. I think the temporary nature of the medium makes it less intimidating, meaning that it may be easier to make mistakes or experiment on these surfaces than on "permanent" ones. It also gives us a different way of explaining ourselves; I can't count the number of times that I'll have a conversation with someone who reaches over to grab and marker and illustrate a point. Check out Room 402 on Flickr for pictures.
Logistics - Since last April, I've more or less had dry erase markers out all the time. We've run through ~200 (?) markers in the past year, which inspired my second funded DonorsChoose project. Buy the low-odor ones. We haven't figured out a good tool for erasing; conventional erasers got dirty, so I now leave colorful microfiber cloths out. (I tried socks, and my kids protested.) I end up washing them once or twice a month. I ask everyone to protect the surfaces by using placemats (which I also keep out all the time) when using computers. See below.
Durability/erasability - Erasing the ink is actually quite easy. The surface is glassy smooth, and it'll come off with a damp cloth. The paint has chipped in a few places, but I applied it myself (IdeaPaint advises professional help) and the tables are heavily used (~125 kids/day, all day). We use laptops all the time, and I think the placemats help. I used to stress over chips or stains (it's a design classroom; we use Sharpies and paint), but have gotten over that.
The Distraction Factor - Some teachers might struggle with the having-markers-out-at-all-times arrangement. I tend to believe that doodling is useful. The number of times I remember seeing something offensive written on the tables = 1.
* * * * * And then the hallways. Midway through the fall, Alexis approached me about wanting to cover other surfaces around the iSchool with IdeaPaint. I mentioned that the company happened to be running a makeover contest, so she put an application video together - and won. Check out the story and video here. So, IdeaPaint installed 500 sq ft in public hall spaces around the school in November, and those surfaces are now used daily. Documentation of the project can be found here.
To respond to the "What if hallways were dry erase walls?" question: The kids mostly love it, though a number of them expressed reservations before it was installed. It requires a lot more work than I had anticipated - monitoring throughout the day, dealing with the marker situation, washing the eraser/cloths, inventing "prompts," and wiping the walls daily. It's used differently than the tables in my classroom, with more public messages and less time spent on drawing them. Going forward, I/we clearly need to figure out a way of distributing the work I described earlier to students. My own hope was that we'd see collaborative games or provocative questions emerge naturally there, but the reality is that we've seen the most compelling bits when there have been some suggested constraints in place (an aquarium scene, "What do you fear?," literary quotes, etc.). It'll evolve as we all explore what's possible.
*Aside from the contest itself, IdeaPaint has been generous with its support of these projects at the iSchool. They now offer a number of different colors + a low-odor version as well. I suggest PRO. Look out for deals + their 360 Makeover contest.