Collaborative Desks Encourage 21st Century Learning

Schools around the country are embracing collaborative learning in the classroom. Schools located in Naperville, Illinois, and Ann Arbor, Michigan are embracing 21st century education by creating a learning environment that encourages collaboration.

Hundreds of elementary schools across the country are moving away from the lecture-style desk layout of ordered rows to grouped seating. Collaborative desks are used to form pods, which allow groups of up to eight students the ability to gather together and work as a team.

Collaborative Desks

These desks are uniquely designed with tops that are shaped in a way that seamlessly fit together to form groups that allow optimal student interaction and collaboration. There are several desktop shapes to choose from, including triangle, crest, trapezoid, diamond, cloud and even fish shaped desks. The unique desk shapes and layouts they form create a comfortable work space for both individuals and groups. However, there is more to consider than just the shape when constructing collaborative desks.

Since these desks are meant to be moved around several times a day, they must be easy enough for young students to move on their own. To meet this demand, most collaborative desks have the option to add casters (wheels). Smith System, one of the leading manufacturers of collaborative desks, offers a variety of ways to encourage collaborative learning through innovative research and development of durable products that implement a 21st Century classroom. Smith System uses an engineering feature known as structural framing to add durability and longevity to their lines of collaborative desks. According to Smith System, structural framing involves reinforcing the legs “with a steel crosspiece to evenly distribute and support the weight of the desktop. This reinforcement also keeps the legs from moving independently from each other, which reduces the stress on the legs when the desk is moved.” These desks are available in a two sizes: single-student and two-student.

Single-student desks 

Single-student desks give students the ability to work comfortably in their own personal space both independently and grouped together when needed. As we mentioned, each work space is meant to be moved throughout the day, so the material is lightweight but sturdy enough to handle the bumps and bangs of an elementary classroom. Casters are also available on almost all collaborative desks for easier mobility.

Two-student desks 

For classrooms that thrive on continuous collaborative learning, two-student desks provide a shared work space for two students to work together and exchange ideas through the day, with the ability to still cluster together into a larger group setting when needed. When standing independently, several of the two student desks are suitable to fit two people on each side, fitting four people around one desk, which can be a great space saver. Some single-student and two-student collaborative desks can be mix and matched to cluster together, as shown in the picture below (top right configuration).

Chat Chairs

Chat chairs and multimedia tables 

Classrooms are also moving toward activity-centered areas where groups of students go to work on a specific subject, such as literacy, art, or science. These common areas are typically furnished with several seating arrangements that make student interaction easy and comfortable. Collaborative seating, like Smith Systems Chat Chairs, are perfect additions to this type of environment. Chat chairs are comfortable lounge-style chairs that can connect together to form straight or semi-circle rows, great for story time or a sharing activity. If more desk space is needed, multimedia tables are available with interchange TV Mounts for viewing lesson videos or distance learning, but they can just as easily be left empty for group conferences between students and teachers. I-O Post Network Towers and power modules are available for all collaborative desks and multimedia tables, which are great for learning centers that are in need of power and connectivity.

Has your school embraced collaborative learning? If not, make your principal aware of the benefits of collaborative learning. And if your school has adopted this 21st century learning style, encourage the use of collaborative desks that are comfortable, movable, and provides excellent work space. Have questions? Contact us to speak with a school furniture expert that can assist your school with its individual classroom needs.

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