I’ve heard many people talking about “classrooms of the future,” but is the future really so far away? In today’s age where there is an immediate availability of information and global communication at the touch of a button, is it really that forward thinking to design collaborative educational spaces? Technology has changed our world and subsequently, has changed the way we educate and learn.
The goal of collaborative spaces in education is to make the physical environment conducive to the social and communicative element of learning. Creativity and critical thinking are crucial skills for the next generation and it is our job to provide spaces that facilitate this.
If you frequent our blogs, you’ll notice we talk a lot about “flexibility.” Collaborative spaces are no exception. Furniture in this type of space needs to be flexible so students can work in groups, debate or lecture. For a classroom or lecture hall to be truly collaborative and functional for a multitude of tasks and learning styles, the furniture, including tables and chairs, must be able to grow with the students. Let’s take Irwin Seating tables and chairs as an example. Available with or without swing arm seating, their lecture hall seating can be installed side-to-side to provide adequate spacing between students or to accommodate a tight fit. In addition, their work surfaces offer data and/or power outlets. In a technology driven environment, it is so important for students to have access to laptops and other devices to enhance their learning experience. Furthermore, tablet arms and outlets can even be built into auditorium seating for ultimate functionality (and a little wow factor!).
Adjustable height technology tables are another example of furniture aiding in the creation of a collaborative space. These tables can sit at the perfect height for a student participating in a lecture or they can easily be moved up or down as they work on experiments and other activities. This multi-functional table creates a truly flexible learning space for students. In addition, it can include accessories such as sinks, gases, outlets and data ports.
With a strategy for maximum engagement and increased interest in promoting STEM studies, lab stations have become an important conversation, particularly with regards to an emphasis on group learning. Laboratory tables come in different shapes and sizes to accommodate and facilitate group work. Lab stations can also be accessible from all four sides, allowing students to work in larger groups or combine stations for added functionality.
Another item that has aided in the effort to create collaborative spaces are interactive whiteboards. Interactive whiteboards allow the use of multimedia while still retaining the standard properties of the chalkboards we grew up with. They are functional yet add an element of excitement to the classroom. Any educator that has had to compete with fidget spinners and cell phones will appreciate the flexibility and technological savviness of a smart whiteboard.
Collaborative spaces are so important to the success of education in a technologically driven world. While we mentioned a few furniture pieces that aid in creating the flexibility and engagement that is so imperative, there are still many more options we haven’t touched on.