ON CAMPUS: Classroom dreaming

Posted by Nan Austin on May 8, 2013 

— Between stories chastising school districts for spending taxpayer money, let’s take a moment to pretend we’re rich as sultans.

The educational marketplace offers a glittering tapestry of temptation and, Monopoly money in hand, we’re shopping.

Let’s start with a classroom makeover. A box with a teacher’s desk and neat rows of chairs describes the basic classroom and has since the 1800s.

Over the last century and a half, the front wall became the chalkboard, became the blackboard, became the whiteboard, became smarter boards.

But for our classroom, we’re in the market for a huge surround screen to fill three walls (leaving one for windows and tacking up paper memos administrators still send out). I’ve seen these walls on CSI shows and visions of the future videos from Microsoft and I want one.

Wall-screens can section off for art displays, math tests and student questions they can enter from their desks.

And speaking of desks, the basic elevated oblong has served for the last century-plus. An under shelf, tilt up storage top, or half-size fold-a-ways for cramped quarters offer variations on a theme. So yesterday.

Our first stop: KI Furniture, which describes itself as “the top player in the educational furniture marketplace.” Since we’re just flinging dollars in the virtual air, let’s play.

There are the standard desks, sure, but after some virtual poking around, I realize I need powered tables. These beauties from the top look like standard desks, but push a button and a personal screen rises from the surface.

Group tables have a large screen and a strip of plugs and Internet connections running down the center – for when every child has a touch-screen computer or tablet.

Remember the tilt tops? Still there – a “laptop garage” just deep enough for a Macbook Air to flip open with the mini-lid. With online texts and testing, there’s no need for that cavernous catch-all for books.

No. 2 pencils? Passe. Pass me a stylus.

Whiteboards come on wheels. Desk task lighting comes on rods. Minimalist chairs roll on wheels. If wall screens still have bugs, fold-away glass walls might do.

Cafeteria tables have gone small group circular, bar-height mixed with standard. Just in case we couldn’t spot the popular kids before, now they can be literally above the crowd.

I could get used to being a sultan (sultaness?).

While this was just an imaginary stroll through the top tier, a shift to computer-savvy furnishings will be coming to a board discussion near you one day. Parcel tax, anyone?

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