The latest in making school computers more mobile is Dell’s Mobile Computing Cart, which can hold up to 30 14-inch systems. It’s only slightly larger than a classroom desk and despite weighing nearly 200-pounds, has a handle that makes it easy to roll from room to room. It has power built-in so that when they’re not being used, the systems can be charging as well as remain connected with optional wired networking. And, when the last bell rings, the cart can be locked up. The cart sells for between $1,900 and $2,800.
While a standing desk can be a better way to learn, just about every piece of school furniture requires kids (and teachers) to sit in the classroom. Not Safco’s AlphaBetter Desk, which can be set for between 26- and 42-inches above the floor. It has two shelves as well as a footrest and can be ordered with a matching stool. The desk is durable and available in a variety of colors.
No kid can be expected to sit still all day and Smith’s Flavors Noodle chair means they don’t have it. That’s because the plastic chair flexes and moves as the sitter squirms and shifts, yet provides the support needed to promote back health. The frame is made of 18-gauge chrome-plated steel and the seating material can be ordered in any of 18 colors, from chocolate to cerulean. The chair costs $155.
Think all school furniture is hard, stiff and uncomfortable? Bretford’s Motiv Sofas are not only soft and comfy, but have optional power outlets and a small table that flips up to hold a notebook, tablet or keyboard. They are available in 58- and 78-inch lengths and in a variety of finishes and fabrics.
Demco’s Jonti Craft Thrifty Rainbow Accents workstation not only comes in 8 colors and has a 22.5-inch keyboard tray, but it costs less than $300. Made of 5/8-inch thick particleboard with a colorful laminate surface the workstation has locking casters and an optional place to stash a full tower PC.
Look around a district’s classrooms and there’s a good chance you’ll see a wide variety of chairs and desks that come from different eras of schooling. The problem is that few are particularly well suited to the efficient use of computers and none can easily be adjusted to accommodate different size kids. How times have changed. Over the past several weeks, I’ve seen four cool and innovative pieces of school furniture that can not only make learning easier and more natural but can be adjusted so that the smallest first grader and the largest high-schools senior can comfortably learn.
Don’t let its beautiful natural bamboo surface fool you, NextDesk’s Terra table is serious about learning. Its sturdy aluminum frame has a chain-driven motor drive inside the legs that move the desktop up and down from 24- to 50.5-inches high. There’re microprocessor-controlled up and down switches with three memory presets for different size students. The 63- by 31.5-inch desk costs $1,500 and you can add an optional power strip.
Being adjustable is what Populas’s family of Equity Bi-Level Workstations is all about. The tables can work with a variety of kids and grown-ups, even students in wheelchairs. The work tables have two surfaces, one for the notebook or computer screen and another lower one for the keyboard and mouse. The good news is that both are adjustable with a simple hand crank that can independently adjust the two surfaces up and down. Available in a variety of plastic laminates and wood veneers, the 48- by 16-inch table costs $962.
Forget everything you know about classroom furniture because Versatables’ Edison Electric Table will astound with its flexibility. The ADA-compliant table can move up and down as much as 26-inches, making it a traditional table or a standing desk, depending on the situation. The key is that the tabletop is on a track that has an electric motor to quickly move it up and down to the desired height. The table starts at $829 for a 36- by 24-inch surface.
Small students count for as much as large ones with CTA’s Kids Adjustable Activity Table for iPad. Able to adjust to three different heights: 4-, 11- or 20-inches, the table holds the slate securely on an easel that can be removed or flipped over to create a large flat work surface. It has a clear plastic screen to protect the pad. It’s available for $50.
Libraries are about much more than just books these days, and Bretford’s Library 2.0 furniture family can make it not only a place to read, but also to do research or work on a collaborative project. Sure, you can have an old-school library with uncomfortable oak chairs and tables, but Library 2.0 emphasizes comfort and the ability to plug in a computer or tablet just about anywhere. For instance, the Explore Teaming Table is perfect for a small group putting together a joint project with enough room for five kids, a monitor and power outlets for their computers. The company has a new library specification guide to help outfit a library for today and tomorrow.
Not every piece of furniture in the classroom has to be a desk or chair. Lakeshore’s Comfy Corner Listening Center is a 41- by 41-inch padded square that can be nestled into the corner of any classroom for kids to comfortably sit and quietly read, listen to recorded music or go through a worksheet. The $279 pad is made of washable vinyl and includes a wooden rack for CDs and electronics.
If the goal is to have a class that sits still, you may be missing the point, according to Smith System. The company’s classroom chairs promote movement for better breathing and concentration – and hopefully, better learning. It’s called the Graduated Movement Concept and it has been designed like the bucket seat on a car, not only for comfort and to provide support but to let kids flex their muscles and move around without fighting with the chair. Smith’s Plato, Intuit and Flavors seats do all this and come in 17 colors.
Most schools still use design elements that date from the 1920s and 30s at best, making the classroom a staid place that’s not exactly conducive to 21-st century learning. Bretford has a Discovery Guide that is meant to help schools reinvent education, or at least the furniture that students and teachers use every day. The guide uses the Edu2.0 furniture items to transform a school into a place flexible enough to be reconfigured to support a variety of educational techniques.