The desk-chair combination most often associated with school is growing closer to obsolescence as classroom furniture manufacturers like KI discontinue models with in-demand flexible features like adjustable heights and wheels, making them easier to move around the room, Education Week reports.
As districts build and update existing schools, they're considering modern approaches to classroom design that reflect future work environments and no longer require students to sit in rows of desks. Instead, they're encouraged to sit, stand or even move around to collaborate on assignments.
The trend toward 1:1 technology rollouts has also eliminated the need for large desks to store books and paper, though these furniture changes are expected to be phased in over time as districts acquire funds earmarked for renovations.
Classroom furniture and layouts are increasingly mimicking the trends taking place in the workplace. The past decade has seen many companies shift to open office plans that include a mix of quiet areas to work in addition to plenty of collaboration areas. Employees can work from couches, bean bags and even lofts. Since most files are stored digitally, there is no longer a need for file cabinets and stationary desks.
Given these shifts, as well as the disruption of traditional blue-collar jobs by automation and artificial intelligence, schools are moving away from a model designed during the Industrial Revolution to primarily churn out factory workers. Employers are now demanding graduates with the soft skills necessary to work collaboratively and creatively in teams. Furthermore, schools built mid-century were designed around the concept of the teacher standing in front of the room, but today's teachers often instruct from the sidelines while the students work in groups to find solutions.
Given these new realities, it’s important to select classroom furniture that can be used in different configurations. Since students in many districts are now working on tablets or ChromeBooks rather than pen and paper, classrooms no longer need to be packed with desks. To figure out the best route and test the waters, administrators might consider introducing a single furniture item to a learning space and see how it's received by students before making a larger investment.
These furniture changes don’t have to be expensive, and they should be unique to each classroom and environment. For example, tables can replace desks to save space for small group environments in the back of the room. Opting for affordable furniture from stores like IKEA can also keep costs down.