Dec 21, 2017

Classroom Trends Report: U.S. Teachers Take on Expanding Roles and Responsibilities

by Anne Wujcik, Education Analyst, MDR

Today’s teachers juggle a variety of responsibilities and expanding roles in U.S. schools — from daily instruction, to writing curriculum, to integrating digital resources, to recommending and purchasing classroom instructional materials. In this article, we will discuss the findings of MDR’s latest report, Classroom Trends—Teachers as Buyers of Instructional Materials and Users of Technology, based on a wide range survey of U.S. teachers about:   
  • Their purchasing behaviors and budgets,
  • Factors that are important in deciding what to buy,
  • Types of instructional resources used in classrooms,
  • Teacher models and their use of apps,
  • The growing role in creating their own instructional materials and,
  • Their influence on purchases at the school and district level.

Teachers as Buyers — Purchasing Behaviors and Budgets
Classroom teachers in America’s public schools spend $1.75 billion per year on instructional materials and school supplies from classroom budgets and teacher out-of-pocket expenditures. While schools and districts provide basic supplies and instructional resources, many teachers need additional materials throughout the school year. More than half of the 3.4 million U.S. public school teachers receive an annual classroom budget from their schools. The average is $270 per year, though the most common classroom budget ranges from $101-$250. About 25% have a budget less than $100 and a fortunate 12% receive classroom budgets of more than $500.

Materials Purchased
Teachers purchase a variety of items for their classrooms, ranging from basics like paper, pencils, and art supplies to print supplemental materials and books for the classroom library. More than two-thirds (69%) of teachers are most likely to purchase basic classroom supplies, and half are most likely to purchase print supplemental materials with their school budget. Apps ae increasingly added to the mix of low-cost items purchased with classroom budgets.
Personal Funds
In addition to budgets provided by schools, almost all teachers spend personal funds on classroom materials, on average spending $381 of their own money. A fourth of teachers spend $301-$500 each year and nearly as many (22%) invest more than $500.  With personal funds, almost three-quarters of teachers are most likely to purchase student incentives/rewards, 65% purchase classroom supplies, and 53% are most likely to purchase bulletin board items and print supplemental materials.
Elementary school teachers spend more of their own funds, $424 on average, than middle or high school teachers. In total, the average teacher spends $651 annually on classroom materials and supplies, whether paid for by the school or with his/her own funds. Teachers are more likely to report using classroom budgets to purchase materials directly related to classroom instruction and personal funds for items that benefit the classroom environment but are harder to tie to instructional impact.
Top Five Places to Shop
To purchase instructional materials, teachers generally go to the same places as they do to gather information. The top five sources — retail stores, websites and Internet searches other than Amazon, teacher stores, Amazon, and print catalogs. These are a mix of brick and mortar stores and online retailers, thus indicating that the more established channels continue to be relevant, but that online retailers have grown to almost equal strength. It also suggests that teachers turn to sources that they probably frequent in their personal lives — the Internet and big box stores — to purchase classroom materials.

Teachers as Purchasing Influencers
Aside from the materials they purchase using classroom budgets and personal funds, teachers are seldom the final decision makers for purchases of the instructional materials intended for wide use in district classrooms. They do, however, participate in the purchasing process in a variety of roles. Between 30% to 40% report having some level of influence over the purchase of school supplies, supplemental materials, and textbooks — as either final decision makers or by serving on a purchasing committee. Nearly a quarter are final decision makers for school supplies and 12% for supplemental materials. Another third describe themselves as influencers, who review products. Teachers are most likely to say they have no involvement in the purchase of formative assessment products and instructional technology.

Factors That Influence Teachers’ Buying Decisions
Whether acting on their own behalf or in a larger district role, without question, ease of use is the most important factor. Ensuring any new material is easy to use hastens the time to implement in the classroom, making it better for the teacher and her students. Word-of-mouth has always been an important factor in the school market, so it is no surprise that 75% of teachers rank recommendations by other educators as an important factor in making purchase decisions. Continuing demands for improved student achievement means that schools must also make their best effort to select products that have positive reviews and evaluations, with 75% of educators citing this factor as important. In the same vein, 68% of teachers rank research based as an important factor in purchasing.

Teachers as Curriculum Writers
While teachers have always created their own instructional materials — reformatting bingo boards into phonics games and, more recently, creating videos that help deliver flipped learning — the nature of that exercise is changing. Over the last seven years, as schools and districts transitioned to the Common Core or their state’s chosen standards system, they were challenged to find resources that adequately met their needs. Therefore, they turned inward, resulting in educators becoming curriculum developers. What once was an isolated activity undertaken by individual teachers has become a district-sponsored effort to create curricular content aligned to new standards and attuned to the unique needs of the district’s students.

Classrooms once organized around the print textbook are rapidly making the transition to digital and seeking out more modular content that supports efforts to personalize learning. Textbooks are not disappearing, but in an increasing number of classrooms they are no longer the organizing principle. Teams of teachers are creating the curriculum, searching for aligned resources, Integrating games and apps into instruction and exploring Open Education Resources (OER).

Time Spent Using Teacher-Created Instructional Materials
Teachers, schools, and districts increasingly rely on instructional materials they create themselves. Two- thirds of teachers use — at least once a week — materials that they or other school staff have developed. Nearly as many teachers (62%) use free materials, other than OER, found on the Internet. More than half report using digital instructional materials at least once a week. But textbooks and other more traditional resources continue to be a core component of instruction. Just over half of teachers say that they use commercial materials provided by their school, district, or state at least weekly. Use of Open Educational Resources is more limited, with only 19% of teachers reporting weekly use.

Teachers use locally developed materials more frequently, with 42% of teachers reporting daily use. The remaining resources are each used daily by roughly 25% of teachers, though OER are used daily by only 6% of teachers. Almost half of teachers (47%) surveyed never use OER.

Time Spent on Research
Since teachers are producing their own instructional materials, they spend considerable time on this task. The majority of teachers spend four or more hours per week on each of these tasks: creating instructional resources, and searching for paid and free classroom resources.
In total, teachers spend more than 12 hours each week creating or searching for materials. This is a significant time commitment that positions teachers, schools, and districts as competitors for published products. Publishers need to understand why educators have the need to create their own materials and work with teachers to address their concerns.

Classroom Trends—Teachers as Buyers of Instructional Materials and Users of Technology is part of MDR’s State of the K-12 Market Report 2016 series. This report offers a deep perspective into teachers’ sphere of influence in the classroom and school buying process and their expanding roles and responsibilities in deciding what to develop and purchase. Teachers are most interested in products that are easy to use, have worked for other teachers and have the potential of being effective classroom tools for learning. Ultimately, it is to both the publishers’ and the teachers’ advantage for school suppliers to create curriculum so teachers can focus on teaching to improve student achievement through personalized learning. 

Anne Wujcik has more than 35 years of education research and publishing experience. She is Managing Editor of MDR’s EdNET News and supports MDR’s EdNET Insight market intelligence service. Anne began her career as a classroom teacher at the primary levelMDR is an integrated marketing services agency with unique digital, creative, and branding capabilities. MDR leads the industry in helping clients achieve their business goals by connecting with targeted audiences through research and market intelligence, a world-class school database and these multi-channel digital communities: WeAreTeachers, WeAreParents, School Leaders Now,, and EdNET.

Go Outside to Learn: The Value of Outdoor Learning Environments

By Robin Randall and Loren Johnson

Take them outside to learn! There is ample data that show just stepping outside activates our senses. The human animal evolved in the outdoor environment so it follows our bodies would be biophysically reactive to patterns and signals that the outdoor environment provides. We naturally, unconsciously, react, absorb and relax. Just by stepping outside:

  •    Our attention span increases
  •    Our memory strengthens
  •    Our stress reduces
  •    Our mood improves
  •    Our creativity expands
  •    Our cognitive growth enhances
The outdoors open up endless possibilities. Every place and space we experience offers an opportunity to learn. Every person has the capacity to learn in multiple ways; however, some grow stronger than others due to their experiences, opportunities (or lack of opportunities) and environment. What if our learning environments truly were the third teacher and stimulated learning in diverse methods?  What would that look like?

Benefits of Outdoor Learning
The data is clear. Outdoor learning increases attention span, enhances memory, reduces stress, improves mood and opens the mind to greater creativity. A 2008 study by University of Michigan psychologists found that walking outside or even just looking at pictures of natural settings improves directed attention and the ability to concentrate on a task. Put another way: Nature restores our ability to focus. The same study supported previous experiments showing that being in nature improves memory — by 20 percent when it came to recalling a series of numbers. In The Economics of Biophilia, Terrapin Bright Green documents the impact of life stress among children was significantly less in children with high levels of nature nearby. 

Nature supplies social support for children as they interact with others in shared natural spaces. When children become engaged in nature, their neural mechanisms are allowed to rest and recover. Attentional restoration is critical; without it, children will increasingly respond to distracting stimuli, experience greater loss of focus and have difficulty managing tasks. In a pilot study March 2011, psychologists found that students in an Outward Bound course showed a 40 percent boost in frontal-lobe activity, which is linked to creativity, after four days in the backcountry. Enhancing daily routines to support the interface of nature and the outdoors strengthens our awareness.

Curriculum Application
The “outdoor classroom” venue offers applications for curriculum in more affective patterns by shifting the educational focus from secondary to primary sources. Traditional classroom teaching uses textbooks, lectures, video and internet as instructional tools. The outdoor classroom exposes students through direct experience and fosters active, hands-on, inquiry-based learning; experimental teaching methods can engage students in the process as well as the outcomes. Nurturing all intelligences, the outdoor environment inspires learning and connects with those that may not thrive in a traditional classroom including students with learning disabilities.

Immersion in the outdoors makes learning a multi-sensory experience. By engaging the senses of touch, smell, hearing, taste, seeing, students retain an intimate physical memory of activities that are long lasting and synergistic.  E.O. Wilson’s Biophilia Hypothesis reminds us that the human species, having evolved in the natural world, has deeply-rooted need to associate and connect with nature. As a mini-ecosystem, the “outdoor classroom” fosters the use of systems thinking and emphasizes the interconnectedness of all things. Through exposure to the intricate web of life, students come to understand that complex natural and societal systems often require holistic rather than linear solutions.  In seeking a holistic understanding, outdoor learning lends itself to interdisciplinary studies employing multiple academic disciplines.

Global environmental issues are reflected in microcosm and often lead to service learning projects that emphasize social involvement and responsibility. Effectively impacting the educational culture by leading through example, the “outdoor classroom” projects a positive message to the community regarding the value of education. This amenity enhances neighborhoods and blurs the boundaries between academic learning and creative curiosity. Integrating use of outdoor learning into curriculum begins to balance digital learning and starts to cure nature deficit disorder.

Nature Deficit Disorder
Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods, spawned an international movement to reconnect kids and nature.  He coined the term “nature-deficit disorder” to describe the human costs of alienation from nature listing: diminished use of senses, attention difficulties and higher rates of physical and emotional illness. His new book, The Nature Principle, delivers another powerful call to action, this time for families. “The future will belong to the nature smart, those individuals, families, businesses and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.” Students of all ages are at risk; digital learning, social networking, digital gaming and general fascination with technology need balance. Architects and designers can help provide opportunities in school design for “natural” alternatives. 

Environmental Advocacy
In nurturing the naturalistic intelligence and creating more opportunities for outdoor learning, we are effecting change directly and indirectly. Enhancing learning and retention is the direct benefit to the students, creating advocates for the environment is the indirect benefit to our world. Armed with a more intimate knowledge of the environment and appreciation for its value, students are more likely to feel the urgency to change, take action and find solutions. Move forward with optimism, creating learning environments that teach environmental advocacy through thoughtful design.

Designed Environment
There are few places untouched by some form of design. Even what is considered “natural” has been rehabilitated, intentionally designed to look natural. Thoughtful placement of stimuli, a riot of colors and textures, can create a nurturing environment for learning. These stimuli include: plant life, scale of learning, sense of enclosure, music of nature, linguistic reflections, and change in elevation, edible landscape and therapeutic qualities. Strengthening all intelligences through the environment is the goal of the “Outdoor Classroom.”

Plant life
The natural patterns, colors and textures of plant life stimulate the Naturalistic Learner. Education comparing proportions, variety, pollination, native and regional adaption employ plants as primary educators. In the book, Biomimicry; Innovation Inspired by Nature, Janine Benyus describes how nature is a model, measure and mentor. By examining the systems of nature students discover processes to solve human problems, e.g., a solar cell inspired by a leaf’s photosynthesis.

Scale of learning
Absorption and retention of information can depend on the venue of delivery and whether the experience is individual or shared. Variety of scales and proportions offers both intentional and spontaneous opportunities. Intrapersonal learners may prefer individual reflection or small group learning, while interpersonal social learners need the discussion and feedback of a larger group.

Sense of Enclosure
Protection from the elements, quality of natural light, framing a view or vista, and create a sense of enclosure that can encourage learning. Designing places intentionally which delight in shape and orientation inspire inquiry.

Music of Nature
Listening to surroundings, fully using our senses improves our cognitive capacity. Designing space with attention to acoustical stimuli broadens our palette to include water features and bird habitats and human laughter. Providing places to sit and listen to the symphony of natural sounds can help clear and focus the mind.

Linguistic Reflection
Didactic landscapes provide literal educational opportunities through reading the labels of specimens or narratives descriptions. Poetry, quotes and dedications inspire reflection and contemplation. A quiet place to sit and read can nurture the naturalistic linguistic learners in our midst.

Change in Elevation
Movement through the landscape, changing levels forces a different perspective on learning. Stairs, ramps, bridges, tree houses, and site walls change our point of view. Challenge a transition to become a teaching device and motivate the body kinesthetic and natural intelligences.

Edible Landscape
“People think of the mind as being located in the head, but the latest findings in physiology suggest that the mind doesn’t really dwell in the brain but travels the whole body on caravans of enzyme, busily making sense of the compound wonders we catalogue as touch, taste, smell, hearing, and vision,” write Diane Ackerman in her book, A Natural History of the Senses. Understanding where our food comes from, what plants need to grow and thrive, how to organically solve pest problems, when to plant and harvest, is knowledge pivotal for human survival.

Therapeutic Qualities
Research confirms that direct contact with nature increases mental health and psychological and spiritual development. Benefits include stress reduction, a sense of coherence and belonging, improved self-confidence and self-discipline, and a broader sense of community. Connecting the exterior with the interior through views, paving patterns, colors and textures, enhances learning and health.

No limits
What is the definition of an “outdoor classroom”? Simply a place outside that invites learning; it could be anywhere our imaginations take us. What if every indoor classroom had a correlating outdoor classroom? Of course there are real limits; budget, schedule, location, terrain, climate, storm water management, access, technology and material limits. Proceed with optimism, and share the scientific data that documents the value of learning outdoors. Be inspired to create your own curriculum and definition of what is an “outdoor classroom.”

Go Outside to Learn! Nurturing the learner in all of us will improve our ability to see things clearly and digest information more effectively. This knowledge sparks application, translating the abstract into action. So research, ponder, present, apply, analyze, improve and then apply again.  If we have the knowledge and we don’t apply that knowledge to action we are negligent. Outdoor learning environments, often an afterthought in design projects, are a key ingredient in programming educational facilities. So get outside today with a new perspective, breathe deeply and take the path less traveled, as Robert Frost wrote, it will make all the difference! 


Robin Randall, AIA, LEED AP BD+C
Robin Randall is Vice President and Director of PreK-12 Education at Legat Architects. For over 30 years, Robin has designed and planned award-winning educational facilities ranging from early learning centers to high schools, as well as specialty learning environments. Her designs push the boundaries of sustainability by emphasizing student and building performance. Robin earned a Fulbright Scholarship to Denmark in 1990 and continues her academic pursuits today as a guest juror at Ball State and Judson Universities, as well as a presenter at regional, national, and international conferences.

Loren Johnson, LEED AP BD+C
As a project designer and Associate at Legat Architects, Loren specializes in the artful solving of such design problems. He has tackled theoretical, practical, and systemic solutions at various scales. Loren is a periodic guest writer for architectural publications and applies his critical skills toward design competitions. Loren holds a Bachelor of Arts in Architectural Studies degree and a Master of Architecture degree with a focus in Ecological Design from Judson University in Elgin. Upon graduation, he was awarded the ARCC King Medal for Architectural Research as well as the Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence.

Nov 10, 2017

EDspaces 2017 Keynotes & Exhibits Draw Large Crowds & News Coverage

Click to view highlights
EDspaces 2017 brought together more than 2,000 leaders from across the education sector for a three-day conference and expo to push past boundaries 
and help schools and colleges work for all students. Growth was illustrated by record attendance with twice as many architects and designers as last year and a 15% increase in attendance by educational institutions. In addition, 100 more exhibit booths were sold compared to 2016 with 53 companies exhibiting for the first time.

Click to view news coverage


An actively-engaged committee of EDmarket leadership, American Institute of Architects Committee on Architecture for Education and U.S. Green Building Council’s Center for Green Schools leaders, and local dealers and architects in Kansas City planned a powerful education program featuring over 40 educational sessions, two impressive plenary session speakers (Sir Ken Robinson and Google’s Jaime Casap), and six tour site locations. Experts in the design community shared new research and trend data while educators and planners demonstrated their first-hand experience and needs for modern facility design that can affect positive change in the classroom. 

EDmarket fielded competitive classroom design at EDspaces; a first for the event, with evaluation managed by a diverse program and planning committee. Classrooms are an extension of learning, allowing participants to experience how the environment facilities education at every level. Visit EDspaces classrooms online for more information about this year's winners:

• Demco, Inc.
• Moseley Architects
• Scott Rice Office Works/DLR Group/VS
• School Outfitters
• Susan Gladden Interiors

EDspaces attendees experienced the latest in educational furniture, fixtures, and equipment from nearly top manufacturers with the latest innovations for students and teachers with new products introduced by 78% of the exhibiting companies. Highlighting cutting-edge products, the 2017 EDspaces Innovation Awards featured hot new products for the classroom, visit us on line for more details. Juried by members of International Interior Design Association (IIDA), and covered by Learning by Design magazine, winners were announced at the Thursday Plenary session with the Best of Competition honors awarded to CEF-Custom Educational Furnishings for The Edison Table. Category winners included:

Flooring: Moraine by Milliken & Company

Equipment: TechGuard Connect Charging Lockers by Bretford Manufacturing Inc.

Furniture: The Edison Table by CEF-Custom Educational Furnishings

Furniture: Vidget 3-in-1 Flexible Seating System™ by Viggi Corp.

Seating: Virco C2M 4-Leg Chair by Virco, Inc.

Seating: HowdaHUG® Seats by Howda Designz, LLC

Also honored with the 
David McCurrach Distinguished Service Award: Gregory Cooney, co-owner of the Frank Cooney Company, for his long-term commitment to the industry and EDmarket.

Exhibitors gave generously at the conclusion of the event by donating 16.5 twenty-five foot truckloads of brand-new educational furnishings, equipment and fixtures to benefit Kansas City Public Schools.
USGBC Central Plains and Center for Green Schools coordinated the donations in support of their mission to transform all schools into sustainable and healthy places to live, learn, work and play.  

Attendees a fun all-industry EDfest Party at The College Basketball Experience where they could participate in free-throw drill, explore the history of the game, and network with fellow key players in the education market.

Future EDspaces
Mark your calendar for next year’s event: November 7-9, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. 
We're evolving this conference each year to encourage networking and give participants a chance to forge lifelong professional connections throughout the education sector and experience new product innovations. Consider submitting a presentation an joining us:

October 23-25, 2019 Milwaukee, WI
November 11-13, 2020 Charlotte, NC
November 3-5, 2021 Pittsburgh, PA
November 2-4, 2022 Portland, OR

Nov 8, 2017

The Potential Impact of Emerging Technologies on Teaching and Learning

What is on the five-year horizon for schools? Which trends and technology developments will drive educational change? What are the critical challenges and how can we strategize solutions? These questions regarding technology adoption and educational change steered the discussions of 61 experts to produce the NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: 2017 K–12 Edition, in partnership with the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) and made possible by mindSpark Learning.

Six key trends, six significant challenges, and six developments in educational technology profiled in this report are poised to impact teaching, learning, and creative inquiry in K–12 education. The three sections of this report constitute a reference and technology planning guide for educators, school education leaders, administrators, policymakers, and technologists. These highlights capture the big picture themes of educational change that underpin the 18 topics:
1)      Advancing progressive learning approaches requires cultural transformation. Schools must be structured to promote the exchange of fresh ideas and identify successful models with a lens toward sustainability — especially in light of inevitable leadership changes.
2)      Learners are creators. The advent of makerspaces, classroom configurations that enable active learning, and the inclusion of coding and robotics are providing students with ample opportunities to create and experiment in ways that spur complex thinking. Students are already designing their own solutions to real-world challenges.
3)      Inter- and multidisciplinary learning breaks down silos. School curricula are increasingly making clear connections between subjects like science and humanities, and engineering and art, demonstrating to students that a well-rounded perspective and skill set are vital to real-world success.
4)      The widespread use of technology does not translate into equal learner achievement. Technology is an enabler but does not alone compensate for gaps in student engagement and performance attributable to socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, and gender.
5)      Continuously measuring learning is essential to better understanding learners’ needs. Analytics technologies are providing teachers, schools, and districts with both individual and holistic views of student learning, informing strategies for serving at-risk and gifted populations.
6)      Fluency in the digital realm is more than just understanding how to use technology. Learning must go beyond gaining isolated technology skills toward generating a deep understanding of digital environments, enabling intuitive adaptation to new contexts and co-creation of content with others.
7)      Authentic learning is not a trend — it is a necessity. Hands-on experiences that enable students to learn by doing cultivate self-awareness and self-reliance while piquing curiosity. Virtual reality and makerspaces are just two vehicles for stimulating these immersive opportunities.
8)      There is no replacement for good teaching — the role is just evolving. No matter how useful and pervasive technology is, students will always need guides, mentors, and coaches to help them navigate projects, generate meaning, and develop lifelong learning habits. School cultures must encourage, reward, and scale effective teaching practices.
9)      Schools are prioritizing computational thinking in the curriculum. Developing skills that enable learners to use computers to gather data, break it down into smaller parts, and analyze patterns will be an increasing necessity to succeed in our digital world. While coding is one aspect of this idea, even those not pursuing computer science jobs will need these skills to work with their future colleagues.
10)   Learning spaces must reflect new approaches in education. The pervasiveness of active learning pedagogies is requiring a shift in how learning environments are being designed. Emerging technologies such as making, mixed reality, and the Internet of Things are requiring more flexible and connected plans.

About the report: This NMC Horizon Report series charts the five-year impact of innovative practices and technologies for K–12 education (primary and secondary education) across the globe. With more than 15 years of research and publications, the NMC Horizon Project can be regarded as education’s longest running exploration of emerging technology trends and uptake.

Download a complimentary copy of the NMC/CoSN Horizon Report report.

Reconfiguring the Classroom for Healthy and Successful Learners

By Bob Hill, Ergotron

As Millennials pour into the workforce, they’re bringing a renewed sense of collaboration and flexibility. And these young professionals expect their work spaces to keep up. Simultaneously, next generation learners are walking into the classroom for the first time, and these students also desire flexibility to meet their individual needs. One-to-one device initiatives and personalized learning tools work to address these trends, but districts often overlook the physical components that facilitate the best 21st century learning experience.

The classroom sets the foundation for innovative learning, and that goes beyond the qualifications of the teacher or the breadth of the curriculum. Classroom furniture, including student desks, must keep pace with technology and students’ varied learning styles to support their overall well-being, ultimately leading to greater engagement and academic success.

An undeniable link between health, engagement and academics

Walk into an average classroom, and you’re likely to see most students just where you expect them to be — sitting. But this seemingly normal aspect of today’s school system puts students at a learning disadvantage. After just 30 minutes of sitting, students’ metabolism slows, blood circulation decreases, good cholesterol drops and blood sugar rises. Students lose focus the longer they sit, making them less likely to engage. Their desks become a barrier to learning.

Elementary school students benefit from movement-based activities already integrated into the school day, as well as physical education and recess. As they transition to middle school and high school, however, static classroom time replaces physical activity. This familiar “sit and get” model of education doesn’t serve today’s learners, physically or mentally.

This is where taking a fresh look at classroom furniture comes into discussion. One option? Replacing stationary desks with mobile sit-stand desks. Through regular sit-stand motion throughout the class day, students achieve this non-disruptive, low-level physical activity that counteracts the negatives of sitting. Students have greater metabolic health, including higher heart rate and greater oxygen and nutrient transport. They also burn more calories and maintain insulin effectiveness.[1] This is a key step in establishing healthier habits earlier in life. With more than one-third (35.1%) of adults over the age of 20 in the United States classified as obese,[2] educators, not employers, play a key role in combatting this trend before students even enter the workforce.

Researchers have found that integrating sit-stand furniture into the classroom leads to greater classroom engagement, on-task behavior and greater academic performance.[3]  Students regularly improve on regular assessments like quizzes and tests, as well as full-year learning evaluations that measure overall progress, and students notice the difference.

“You feel more energetic and you pay much better attention when you’re standing up,” said Jose, a ninth grader at Dr. Kirk Lewis Career & Technical High School in Houston, Texas.
Physical activity doesn’t have to just come from an elective physical education class. Instead, students can remain in class, regularly switch between sitting and standing and improve their overall well-being and academic performance. With more attentive students, teachers can build on lesson plans with supplementary course material that leads to better academic outcomes for students. And when focus wanes, students intuitively know it’s time to stand.

“All teachers pride ourselves on being able to know who our students are. If we’ve been sitting and everybody starts to get a little flat, it’s time to stand up,” said Jason Rhodes, a ninth-grade teacher at Dr. Kirk Lewis Career & Technical High School.

Flexible classroom spaces lead to greater personalization

Integrating regular movement into the classroom not only supports students’ health and academic outcomes – it promotes personalized learning. Teachers must accommodate different kinds of learners, but with out-of-the-box classroom furniture, they’re limited by time and resources to adjust.
As our digital world continues to evolve, learning spaces need to also evolve to promote collaboration and flexibility. 

Many districts are already adopting new teaching methodologies to approach education in a new way for today’s learners. In flipped classrooms where students tackle detailed “homework” assignments, learning spaces need to be instantly adaptable to move from whole-class instruction to collaborative groups to individual student-teacher work sessions. Sit-stand desks help teachers meet students where they are at, addressing their individual learning styles more effectively. Raising or lowering the sit-stand desk allows students to learn in the way that feels most natural to them.

“These desks are a part of personalized learning because they give students freedom to be more comfortable, more focused and attentive,” said Alex Brahm, a World History, World Religions, Theory of Knowledge teacher at Lamar High School in Houston, TX

And with flexible classroom furniture, teachers can easily reconfigure the classroom for group collaboration, peer-to-peer work or one-on-one instruction. It no longer takes dedicated time to drag heavy desks into new formations that only work for one learning style. Teachers can easily experiment with new approaches and continuously innovate in the classroom without the constraints of traditional classroom furniture. As they move away from a lecture-style format, they take on the role of a facilitator working to meet both individual and group needs. 

“There’s never a moment when the actual physical space gets in the way of learning the material,” Monica Escobar, a fifth grade teacher at Alexandria Country Day School in Alexandria, VA, said after implementing LearnFit desks.

Funding can serve as a barrier for some districts, but with a single investment facilities and operations leaders have one solution for students and staff, reducing the number of costly orders and the management of multiple kinds of classroom furniture. It’s a standardized solution that’s also flexible, encouraging teachers to broaden their teaching approach and allowing students to take control of their learning environment.

Stand up for new learning possibilities

Transforming a static, traditional classroom into a learning environment infused with movement opens doors to renewed health and academic success for students. No longer contained in an environment that has a negative impact on their bodies and well-being, students will be more engaged and ready to take on new academic challenges.

Equipped with tools like sit-stand desks, school leaders can provide the non-disruptive activity that both students and teachers need to succeed. This single investment pays off in innovative teaching strategies, assessment scores, engagement rates and overall student well-being. These desks also impact other departments in the school because with endless combinations of classroom formats available without facility involvement, facilities staff can focus on other concerns instead of directing efforts toward fulfilling individual furniture requests.

The next wave of technological advances will keep coming, bringing with it new opportunities and challenges. But the fact remains, movement matters for students, and flexible classroom furniture like sit-stand desks can convert student workspaces to be healthy and personalized for their best learning environment.

Bob Hill is the Healthcare and Education Manager for Ergotron. He works with schools and healthcare facilities around the globe to build greater awareness of the importance of active learnstyles and workstyles. He helps build ergonomic work environments that support the health and wellbeing of employees, caregivers, teachers and students in their diverse workflow and workstyle requirements.

[1] BBC Magazine. (2013). Calorie burner: How much better is standing up than sitting? BBC Magazine. Retrieved from news/magazine-24532996.
[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Obesity and Overweight. Retrieved from
[3] Benden, M., Blake, J., Dornhecker, M., Zhao, H., and Wendel, M. (2015). The Effect of Stand-biased Desks on Academic Engagement: An Exploratory Study. International Journal of Health Promotion and Education. Retrieved from

Oct 18, 2017

Future Classroom: Simple, Flexible...and Affordable

By Dan Case, 
Associate Director of Academic Technology at Carroll College

What We Know...

Classroom design influences levels of interaction, enthusiasm, and engagement. These aspects and active learning improve retention for all students, no matter what level of education they are pursuing.

A study from the National Training Laboratories in 2000 found that only about 5 percent of the information delivered through a lecture was retained. Compare that with retention rates at 50 percent for a discussion group and 70 percent for practice by doing. Even higher, at 80 percent, was retention of students teaching others. In the modern classroom, technology is ubiquitous, changing the learning landscape and demanding a learning style that is active and learner-centered. For the past five years, Carroll College in Helena, MT, has been modifying and perfecting a high tech flexible classroom that can be used in multiple ways with lots of technology possibilities for very low cost.

In recent years, educators are noticing a shift in teaching and its link to educational environments: active learning classrooms and the resources they require. Teachers are beginning to focus less on what they do and more on what the student does. They are keenly aware of what motivates students and how much time and energy each student gives to the learning process. Student involvement has become the main area of concern for teachers which is supported by teaching resources and techniques.

This is where classroom design can help to develop skills for future life and work, and where self-directed learning and collaborative problem solving are essential skills for success. Communication skills, diversity, critical thinking and problem solving, interpersonal skills, learning to learn, and personal responsibility are the focus of many educational institutions preparing students for the future.

After field testing and modifying the classroom design and function for 5 years, the team at Carroll College has expanded the concept that showcases collaboration options, flexible seating and configuration, wireless connectivity and multiple display devices that don’t get in the way of learning. Criteria were developed to encapsulate the following mantra for classroom design:

It has to be simple...flexible...and cost-effective. 
It's meant to be a collaborative, project-based environment.
There is no teacher station. It's simple, moveable, and even works well without technology.

Lessons Learned
1. Students love to have horizontal and vertical work spaces. Whiteboard paint has been a huge hit. We also realized that the cloud is the way things are going to go, and this type of environment lends itself to collaboration in the cloud.

2. Wireless Connectivity is key to the success of the room. Because all of the projectors have been placed on the network, students and teachers can easily mirror any PC, Mac or Chromebook to any (and up to 4) projectors at once. This free software has eliminated the need for elaborate, expensive switching devices, multiple dongles and adapters and the distraction of cords everywhere. 

3. Design can increase levels of student and faculty interaction through formal and informal means. When teachers can move around the room freely and easily connect with the students then the level of interaction improves significantly. Students who have a high level of interaction with their teachers are more likely to express satisfaction overall with their educational experience, resulting in better the outcomes. Also, comfortable classrooms—physically and psychologically— promote a sense of well-being, keep minds focused, and limit distractions.

About The Center for Innovation in Technology (CITE)
CITE stands for "The Center for Innovation in Technology," a collaborative workspace housed in Carroll College's Corette Library. The CITE is dedicated to exploring new ways to use technology to improve the delivery of education for 21st century students.  The CITE is also a place where students and professors can learn new techniques and new technologies to incorporate into their academic pursuits.  Staffed with two full-time academic technology specialists, Carroll College students and professors are able to take advantage of experienced mentors when undertaking a project that requires an unfamiliar technology.  Staff will assist students and faculty in producing high-quality digital projects without losing focus on the discipline-specific learning those projects are meant to support.

About Dan Case

Associate Director of Academic Technology at Carroll and the mind behind the Sandbox classroom.  A Carroll graduate, Dan has a variety of experience in academics and technology. He is a certified Extron A/V Specialist, a regular presenter on "getting out from behind the desk" at national conferences, and an all-around nice guy. Being able to design classrooms with both an AV/IT background and 20 years of teaching experience gives him a unique perspective on design and practicality. With a background in Political Science, skiing, burrito rolling and graphic design, Dan jumped into the web world and IT in the mid 90’s and hasn’t looked back. He has been teaching in Higher Ed for the past 22 years and now look at classroom design from a holistic view of pedagogy, technology and physical environment.