Friday, March 6, 2015

Bucket Seats: A Classroom Design Brief for #YourEduStory

I went to #TCEA15 last month and was most intrigued by the classroom furniture in the exhibit hall. I know! It's a computer educator conference and I am excited about desks, tables, and chairs.

But you should see these chairs. They're bucket seats with a tabletop that unfolds into place from the side. They have casters (wheels) and a big space for stuff beneath the bucket seat. This design is great if you're like me and have a small room with 32 desks that don't like to move much.

Since this week's #YourEduStory is about classroom design, I thought it was time to share my curiosity for new furniture possibilities and current disdain for traditional desks.

Changing the Set

The bucket seats take up very little space. I've had enough of the large desks that have almost no room for students to put there bags and other stuff. The time and effort it takes to get unsettled and rearrange the classroom during instruction is sometimes not worth it. The bucket seats allow students to stand and move their seat and stuff quickly, which means we could reset the room for each lesson activity.

Although mobility is a plus, it's also a drawback. For some teachers, it will be one more thing they will have to manage, especially when students decide that office chair races in the hallway are the best use of time.

Whatever the classroom looks like, it needs to support immediate changes to activity design, which could mean moving furniture quickly or switching to different types of technology - digital and paper.

Heads Up!

If my students are listening to me or their classmates present a part of the lesson, they often don't need their desktop. They often fold their arms on the desk and lay down their head, which creates another classroom management issue.

With furniture that is mobile and compact, we can change a desk to a chair in seconds. At key moments, teachers can have students unfold there desktops and write a few notes before pausing the writing and resuming the listening furniture orientation for the next presenter.

These might seem like minor details, but it only takes a second for a teenager to distract another and the learning turns on and off, on and off.

The Design Brief

The room has three important features: (1) Mobile furniture, (2) Mobile computing, and (3) Displays that have AirPlay or Miracast mirroring capability.

(1) The furniture can be moved into tightly grouped rows for stadium seating or moved into circles form discussions. Half-circle tables can be grouped into large round workspaces or placed up against the wall for stations and other group activities, leaving the center of the room open for movement.

(2) The room has at minimum one mobile device for every three kids, but should be closer to one for every two. Ten Chromebooks and 10 iPads are ideal because they have different strengths. Tablets are good for make videos and taking pictures, while Chromebooks have more computing power and can run full web versions of learning sites and apps.  

(3) The displays include an interactive short-throw projector that projects to a floor-to-ceiling whiteboard at one end of the room. The room also has two extra large monitors on each side of the room. These monitors can be used by students to display information from their devices. Each monitor can have a different paring code, and in seconds students can share their work and switch between presenters. These displays can also be used to conduct video conferences with other classrooms or anyone, really.

This classroom exists somewhere, and as the technology becomes more affordable and easier to manage, this classroom will exist in many more schools.