An active learning environment has no room for passive furniture. Today's learners require new dynamics.
Clusters - Unimpeded Access - Learning Zones – Movement
This blog dives into what makes a classroom a GREAT classroom for learning. The driving force behind the composition and layout of the 21st century classroom is collaborative learning - a student-centered learning model where the teacher is a manager and facilitator – not solely a lecturer. Let us take a look at how the 21st century schools are using these four pillars to change the way students learn.
Students work alone, in pairs or in small groups throughout the day. So desks need to be capable of forming compact pods or other groups. Research shows groups of four to five students work best. Collaborative learning is not about immobile students facing forward and listening to the “sage on the stage.” Rather, the teacher is a manager and facilitator of fluid learning pods, not solely a lecturer. For that to work, the classroom must have collaborative-friendly furnishings.
The Center for Teaching and Learning at UNC Charlotte advocates lightweight, movable and re-configurable furniture that can accommodate both a traditional classroom setting and work groups of various sizes. The Center also suggests:
- Chairs on wheels to enable easy navigation
- Carpet to enable easy navigation of furniture
- Accessible power and data outlets
- A room size that allows for easy reconfiguration during activities
Smith System, a K-12 classroom furniture manufacturer, offers a robust range of portable, re-configurable desks, chairs, storage and power devices. Steve Pryor with Smith System says collaborative-friendly furnishings are essential to make the learning concept work well.
The classroom of the future will be a place where technology, furniture, and the student intersect. If trends in classroom design continue, future classrooms may be quite similar to the blended learning classroom at Boody Jr. High. It will be a collaborative, multi-use environment, featuring flexible desks, chairs and tables, with the curriculum and furnishings designed to the student.
The increased use of artificial intelligence, algorithms and computers will further shape classrooms. This means that connectivity via technology furniture will become an essential aspect of classroom design; the furniture should complement the use of technology, and the technology should enhance the experience of using the furniture.
When DeSoto Independent School District in Texas decided to change its approach to secondary education, it rethought not only the curriculum structure, but also the learning environment.
As the vision committee of students, teachers, parents and community members discussed the new classroom designs, the impact and importance of furniture on the classroom experience came into the spotlight. The committee laid out what it wanted in furnishings: design to enable collaborative learning, durable to withstand heavy use from teenagers, flexible to allow learning anytime and anywhere, and professional-looking to set a mature tone.
The vision committee had a chance to review and test school furniture options from a variety of companies – moving tables, sitting in chairs, even standing on desktops. The quality, flexibility and durability of Smith System school furniture shone, especially when paired with the company’s willingness to collaborate and customize its products.
Smith System’s UXL Tables were selected for the College and Career Academies’ computer labs, while Flex Computer Stations allowed students to work individually or in pairs in classrooms. Customized Cascade Lectern Carts were the right combination of teaching tool and podium for increased lesson flexibility. Arc Desks matched the individual and collaborative learning goals in the district’s vision; the design of Intuit Chairs encouraged student attention and provided ergonomic support, and the built-in handholds allowed for portability throughout the classroom.
Since the updates, more than 100 new students from private schools and other districts have applied to study at DeSoto High School’s College and Career Academies. Smith System’s furniture solutions have enhanced teachers’ lesson plans, and instilled a sense of school pride in students. With a fresh look and fresh perspective, the new learning environment is helping students be prepared for what meets them after graduation day.
Most teachers know the health benefits of providing sit-stand desks in K-12 classrooms. Foremost, students have more energy to learn. But there’s another benefit that’s elbowing its way to the front of the line.
For newcomers, sit-stand desks are just as they sound. The desktop is on a column that each individual student can easily and quickly adjust to the desired height. These ergonomically smart “floating” desks let students walk into class, instantly adjust their desk to their seating choice (or just stand), and get to work.
Some students may choose a low height and pair their desk with a standard chair. Some may raise it and sit on an exercise ball or stackable oodle stool. Others may choose the full height and stand or lean on the surface, with one foot casually propped on the desk’s base. Regardless, materials and digital devices are always at eye level.
The most important aspect is that the student, not the teacher, can intuitively personalize the desk on demand. Ideally, that happens with the quick tap of a hand lever to reach the perfect height.
Sit-stand desks are part of the growing flexible-seating movement. Its premise is allowing students to choose where they work, their bodily position (sit, kneel, stand, lean, etc.), and degree of movement (still, rocking, fidgeting) that helps them learn best. Teachers/schools simply provide the options and guidance to make it work.
The goal is to create the ultimate flexible learning classroom by giving students some degree of choice and control over their environment; students are in charge of how they learn on any day. The benefit is the holy grail of educators: empowered students who, in turn, become engaged, productive students.
Case in point: Research done with adults by Craig Knight, a British organizational psychologist, concluded that “empowered offices” – in which workers can choose their conditions – can increase productivity by 25 percent.
What Science Says
The notion that sit-stand desks are good for us physically began in the workplace. Today, health experts widely agree that most of us should sit less, especially at work, which explains why sit-stand desks are no longer an anomaly in that adult setting.
While there hasn’t been a ton of research on the effectiveness of standing desks on children, early studies are promising, experts say. Learn more on how to select sit stand desks.
Teaching Students to Collaborate https://smithsystem.com/smithfiles/2014/09/03/teaching-students-collaborate/ via @SmithSystem The content of this blog comes from Smith System.
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FPi is a 22 year-old locally owned commercial furniture dealership that has been serving middle Tennessee and the southeast for over 22 years. In 2004, we spun off our installation department and FiS was formed. Owned and operated by Bob Culp, FiS has been FPi’s aligned installation partner for the last 14 years. FPi just completed a move of its own building out a new 6,000sf Kimball Showroom in Nashville’s Design District. As a Kimball Select Dealer, FPi has earned and enjoys a partnership with Kimball that offers the latest in commercial furniture integrated with technology and marketing resources available in the furniture industry.
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