New desks could be future of classrooms

Node chairs, each comes equipped with a backpack and an iPad holder, swiveling seat, moveable tray and wheels. They have been installed in four classrooms at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas.

Westlake Featherduster staff

Node chairs, each comes equipped with a backpack and an iPad holder, swiveling seat, moveable tray and wheels. They have been installed in four classrooms at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas.

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Four classrooms are piloting a new wave of futuristic desks as part of a plan to innovate the district. Called Node chairs, each comes equipped with a backpack and an iPad holder, swiveling seat, moveable tray and wheels. They improve student comfort and allow for a flexible learning environment in the classrooms.

“For about the last 18 months, the entire school district has been undergoing a master planning process looking at how to update the district,” principal Dr. John Carter said. “During the course of this master planning process, it had come up that sometimes the furniture is not conducive to all sizes of people. So the question became, ‘If we’re looking towards the future, what type of furniture would be more comfortable for students and also accommodate all body types?’ One vendor that has chairs out is called Steel Case, so it was decided to pilot their chairs before a mass spending of money on every room.”

Math teacher Lacey Victor and English teachers Melissa Dupre, Michelle Crocker and Valerie Taylor agreed to pilot the desks in their classrooms.

“Mrs. Dupre does a lot of inner seminar class, so we thought the mobility of the chairs would help,” Carter said. “We also thought that we wanted to pilot them in larger classrooms, and Mrs. Crocker has a very large classroom, as does Mrs. Taylor. In hindsight we probably should’ve tried a smaller classroom, but that’s why we do a pilot, so we can learn from it. We decided to pilot chairs in [Mrs. Victor’s] classroom because the student council meets in there [during] fourth hour, and we wanted to get their input.”

The chairs create more versatility in the classrooms. Because of their mobility, they can be moved around the classroom to form different groups and formations.

“I think the chairs are great, and as we try to incorporate more collaboration with students in our classes, they’re going to be very helpful because people can group up really easily,” Crocker said. “I would love to see them in every classroom for teachers who want them. They have worked really well so far.”

The desks cost approximately $200 each. The Parent Teacher Organization purchased one classroom set and the remaining three were purchased with district furniture funds. Even if the desks are an instant success, they will not be placed in every classroom immediately.

“It becomes a cost issue at some point,” Carter said. “They will probably be phased in over time, but that’s something that will be left open for discussion as result of the master planning task force. There may be another company out there that we might want to pilot and weigh the pros and cons.”

Despite a few complaints about the wheels, students have reacted positively to the desks so far.

“They make me feel like I’m in the future,” junior Anna Spell said. “I love being able to adjust everything so I can sit a certain way. [But] people can get very distracted. I was sitting next to this one guy who was moving his whole desk around. There are some downsides, but overall I love the chair.”

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