I just returned from the EDspaces 2015 show for education furniture. The attendees were largely educators, architects and designers, and resellers seeking to use new furniture concepts to improve learning objectives. Among what I expected to see there, there were also a few surprises. Here are my “cliff” notes from the event if you couldn’t attend:
- Introducing motion into the student’s day. There is significant interest in this topic, most certainly fueled by all the recent research proving the benefit of reducing sedentary time. One of the award winners had a wide range of bicycles, walkers and elliptical mechanisms built into desks—a seemingly good idea, but expensive, complex and space-intensive. Perhaps a good specialty solution. Hat’s off to them for their efforts.
- Standing desk solutions are starting to emerge. Ergotron’s Bob Hill gave an excellent talk surveying the research supporting the value of standing desks, and discussing how the early adopters have achieved success in their schools. The questions being asked by the audience were not exploratory, rather they had detailed questions about how to successfully implement, such as deciding how many chairs need to be planned in a classroom of standing desks. A key point was the need for student-adjustable desks. In a recent article in FastCompany, the principal of Vallecito Elementary says, “Our current favorite desk has some of the things we need, but is cumbersome to adjust and requires an army of parent volunteers to adjust the desks in each classroom to fit each child. This is obviously not scalable across the country. …”
- Collaboration is a top educator priority, but solutions are haphazard. There is clearly a strong desire to provide flexible, re-configurable desk solutions. However, ironically, the most common desks that are touted as collaboration solutions appear to be odd-shaped regular desks. Kidney shaped, trapezoidal, interlocking organic shapes. They look nice, but few are mobile, few allow for height adjustability, and few readily allow the students to reconfigure the classroom quickly. Also there appears to be more attention to color than to performance. The key to developing the ideal collaboration products will be to provide prototypes to innovative educators, and cooperatively work on developing new solutions.
- Cheapo tablet/laptop charging carts…yikes! Among the exhibitors there, there were lots of manufacturers with cheap charging carts with power strips. Some even were made of particle board. Please understand that computing devices and their power bricks give off a lot of heat during charging, and they also can draw enough power to blow a circuit breaker or overheat. At a minimum, these carts can reduce lifetime of your computing devices by overheating them, but more seriously, they can be fire hazards. Buy a safe cart with power management and a metal or flame retarded housing please!! The number of fires allowable in a school is ZERO. Look for UL certification labels.
- Knockoffs. I was surprised to see copies of one of our products and some other top manufacturer’s products. Please don’t buy copies—it takes a lot of research and development to create a ground breaking product.
I am convinced that this is the beginning of a major trend towards standing desks that will improve our student’s health and learning outcomes. Check out emerging research on juststand.org.
By Pete Segar, CEO, Ergotron Inc., President, Nortek Ergonomics and Productivity Solutions