Conversation Wall: Crowd-Sourcing Inspiration and Observations

Transform some of your walls using chalkboard paint as places to gather ideas and inspiration.

Photo of Elysa Fenenbock
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Carolyn's post about a wall that highlights innovations around the school got me thinking about ways we could use walls.

At IDEO, one of the most delightful and unexpected experiences around the office used to be found in the bathrooms. The bathrooms in the San Francisco office are painted with chalkboard paint and are peppered with questions ranging from light-hearted topics such as 'favorite secret places to explore in SF' to more design-centric topics such as 'reimagine the future of commuting.'  Every few weeks the question on the wall changes, and people have the freedom to asynchronously and anonymously post suggestions and ideas. Visitors and employees alike add to the walls and they always make for interesting reading. The nature of the chalk, and the location, made people feel less precious about suggestions or ideas.

When I need help coming up with new ideas or analogous inspiration I often host a brainstorm or email-storm, but it's often with the same crowd of people; a wall would invite new cross-pollination and collaboration of people that aren't normally in my collaboration circles. 

What if you could use this same idea to crowd-source information, inspiration, and take the temperature of the general mood on certain hot topics? How would the walls in the teachers lounge or bathroom be different from a wall where students were invited to participate?

These Conversation Walls are helpful not only for the brainstorming phase of a challenge but also for gathering inspiration, and observations about how people feel about a topic. As with any design challenge or brainstorm, framing the right questions makes a huge difference in the output. I would try starting with simple playful questions and working up to tougher questions once people are familiar with how the experience works.

Using the familiar chalkboard, in an uncommon way could visually demonstrate and invite peers to collaborate differently.

What if you could ask the same question across all of the walls in your school district? Or share the question with a partner school in another state or country? You could easily snap a photo of the output and see how results differ. Seems like it could be an easy way to gain inspiration and new thinking from beyond your own walls.

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Innovation Wall


Join the conversation:

Photo of George Phillip

I really like this idea too. I think I have the perfect spot in my room too.

Photo of Rolland Chidiac

I really like this idea. It fits in nicely with an idea I have called Bust-It Out. A conversation wall in my classroom would provide students with a place to Bust their ideas out about other people's ideas when we are not able to meet as a group to facilitate our innovative ideas.

Photo of Jennifer Auten

I love this idea! I think a wall in the front office would be an interesting place to gather input from parents/caregivers who don't generally attend PTA meetings. I like the idea of starting with lighter questions and then moving toward tougher ones. It reminds me of using the beginning of the year as a get to know you to build trust toward deeper learning together.

Photo of Moss Pike

I too absolutely love this idea, Elysa, after seeing it in action. Conversation Walls could work very well within schools, where we could invite our communities to come up with the questions and share out on social media (perhaps inviting alumni contributions?). Eager to see some schools give this a try in the coming year!

Also love the email-storm idea! What if we created a Slack channel based on the idea: SlackStorm?

Photo of Emma Scripps

I love the bathroom chalk wall. It'd be so fun to see that more commonly implemented in schools.

Photo of Dan Ryder


I'm completely drawn into this idea of blending the analog and digital to transform how we see learning space. Express through markers and chalk, document through the digital, share by leaving in intention places both online and right there in the space.

It also reminds of the work Brad Ovenell-Carter does with his students at The Mulgrave School in BC.

Photo of Michael Schurr

Elysa, I shared a similar idea about sharing ideas and receiving feedback. I think our ideas would meld really well together!