Look to the SMARTdesks Design Team for great interior design ideas for your classroom. In business since 1997, we've applied our design boutique approach for our clients—one classroom at a time. It’s one thing to get some new computer desks and tables. It’s another thing entirely to orchestrate how all the components fit together to offer a truly upgraded educational environment.
Active learning requires students to engage in small group activities to perform analysis, discuss research, understand different points of view and form consensus conclusions. Data visualization technology integrated into customized furniture for active learning is essential. The dynamics of small group interaction—interfacing with each other and technology— demands SMARTdesks comprehensive interior design approach.
To address the unique needs of active learning educators, SMARTdesks design services specifies your choices in our lineup of innovative collaborative learning furniture to realize your vision. Call on us to share ideas and evaluate your space and classroom needs. Together we can develop a classroom floor plan that reflects every requirement—where design meets technology.
As collaborative learning becomes the gold standard for K12, universities and in the private sector, organizations learn that interior design for education is critical for collaborative learning to take place successfully.
SMARTdesks custom designs and manufactures the furniture to the interior design requirements and technology integration needs to support the pedagogy your educators plan. Our innovative furniture solutions and decades of experience allow us to design a collaborative learning space where groups will want to meet. We help your IT staff and educators think through the hard questions, from technology requirements to educational outcomes, to help you develop a first-class collaborative learning experience customized to your specific needs.
SMARTdesks pioneered the computer conference table. The earliest ones were built for big CRT monitors mounted under glass. As soon as flat screen LCDs became the accepted standard, we innovated the flipIT® Concealed Monitor Mount into the design, thus making possible a transforming, multi-use desktop. When computers are not needed, away they go and a simple desktop supports the meeting without distraction.
When computers were first integrated into the conference room and conference table, the biggest concern was what to do with the CPUs, peripherals and wire management. SMARTdesks engineered this into the conference table design with handsome and practical CPU cabinets and cable management products. Made to order, finish choices can match or complement other designer choices in the space. The popular choice is black, to make the technology encasement to be visually minimized.
Because the conference table is the centerpiece of the room, serving as both a social framework for engagement and a corporate image statement, our clients were looking for the next big thing: a line-of-sight table. At NeoCon 2004, we launched a new design that has proven to be answer: The SMARTdesks Piano Collaborative Conference Table.
The shape and size of the conference table had always driven conference room design decisions. How long? How wide? C shape? U shape? Boat shape? Racetrack shape? Now we had something new to offer: the line-of-sight shape of the Piano: an isosceles triangle with curved, contoured corners.
The Piano Collaborative Conference Table changed everything. The design got its name from the triangular hinged lid in the center that raised up on a strut like a baby grand. This allowed easy access to the technology well. There was a wire pass-through around all sides of the lid, so when closed, peripherals, such as drives and speaker phone, could be brought out to serve the needs of the users in the conference. Small form factor CPUs could be stored in the technology well. Clients have also stored laptops there to serve the larger screens and keyboard/mouse platforms offered by the flipIT® Concealed Monitor Mounts. Larger CPUs could be stored by carriers, or in a central mobile cabinet that would stow under the table, out of the way.
The next thing: Video Teleconference Rooms
The Piano Conference Table was enough ahead of its time that it actually enabled the next thing: Teleconference Rooms. We observe that early roll-outs of teleconference rooms featured as many large displays as possible. Telepresence was all the rage, with three large displays in front of a boomerang-shaped table. This set-up would be mirrored in a remote location. When the immersive, multi sensory experience was conducted, it was as if they were around a diamond-shaped table.
Here's how the Piano design supported teleconference experience right out of the box:
The Piano is a single isosceles conference table shape. Now, put a single camera and large display at one end, voila— a perfect video teleconference table. All faces are in the camera's field of view. The speaker phone can be placed in a central location—equidistant to all. If data visualization is required for the meeting, this can be presented on individual displays supported by flipIT® Concealed Monitor Mounts. Cameras see people reacting to the data on the screen. Everyone looks natural and visual cues are in context to what the cameras see and screens display. This is a big difference from the set-ups that required two large displays: one for people and one for data visualization. Imagine what the meeting looked like! To look at the people on the screen, those on camera would look aloofly to one side to make eye contact with the people screen, then look the other way to see the data screen. The reaction of the people in the space was very off-putting.
Put two Piano tables together, joined at their bases, and you get a diamond shape. We call this the Piano Duet. (The single isosceles triangle conference table is a Piano Solo design).
The doubled up Piano Duet can be used a number of ways:
- Line-of-sight conference table:
People seated on the two long sides can see more faces.
- Multiple small work groups:
The scale of Piano Duet lets multiple meetings take place in the same space. (Yes, I said, "The scale of the Piano." Bad pun. Sorry.)
- Teleconference using half the table as an isosceles:
Lower a large screen from the ceiling with a video camera, and you have a Piano Solo Setup.
- Huddle group conference table:
With the video screen (or multiple screens) at the end of the isosceles, an HDMI switcher can be used to share screens from laptops or PCs. This is a natural for a Piano Solo, as well.
- Full immersion, 3-screen telepresence conference table:
The boomerang shape is available on either of the long sides of the Piano Duet. Set up 3 cameras and 3 screens on both ends of the hook-up and the mirror effect is even more impressive—the people really are seen filling the empty chairs on the other side of the table! If data visualization is needed, the flipIT® displays come into play, giving natural social cues to the people on the screens from the cameras creating the spacial illusion of presence.
More shapes for collaboration, please.
The equilateral triangle is a brilliant shape for collaboration. Initially, we made this table as a variation of the Piano with its signature lid-on-a-strut and technology well. The military liked the set-up of having three flipIT® Concealed Monitor Mounts on one side of the triangle and "the hot seat" at the apex for their boards of review. But then, a client called us asking for a different twist.
The Collab™ Conference Table was minted in collaboration with our Ivy League client who wanted a big central column for wire management and to shroud a pop-up power data port in the center. Each table had six flipIT Laptop Safes® to secure the institution's laptops in this multi-screen environment, rich in data visualization.
In the design process, we sent them plywood templates to clearly identify where the core drilling locations. The 18-inch cylindrical wire management columns were on center with the tables. The interior design choices were high-style and demanded veneer tops with stained wood edge to coordinate with curved wood task chairs and the wood trim and color scheme of the architectural space. See the pictures on the Collab Active Learning Conference Tables page https://www.smartdesks.com/room-type/collaborative-learning/collab-active-learning-conference-tables.html
Exchange™ and iGroup® Active Learning | Collaborative Learning
We made Pythagoras our friend and found that 60-30 right triangles fit together in wonderful ways for making collaboration-friendly table tops. Putting a gentle curve on the user's left or right helped to define the comfort zones of the arrangements. Exchange and iGroup give new possibilities for the active learning classroom space with their flexible arrangements and shape shifting transformations for collaboration.
- When these Exchange Elements are put together in a mirrored pair, they make a Beetle shape or a rectangle.
- Two mirrored pairs can be put in a row of two rectangles, but the seating arrangement is like a semi-circle. We call this the Linear Offset.
- These can be put together to form a Chevron that is perfect for making a huddle group of teleconference setup for one screen and one camera.
- Three mirrored pairs form an equilateral Collab triangle, a Leaf, or an Abstract arrangement. People use the corners and returns as collaboration spaces to share information, screens and notes.
- Two like Exchange Elements form a Rectangular Offset arrangement.
- Six like Exchange Elements form a Pinwheel or a Hexagon arrangement
Exchange is scaled for use with flipIT® Concealed Monitor Mounts or flipIT Laptop Safes®. For smaller classrooms that primarily use iPad® or laptops, the smaller iGroup® collaboration tables work beautifully. The Elements are unitized with snap-together joining plates.
Be sure to check out our Interior Design Ideas for Classrooms and see the possibilities for your classroom space. You will find floor plans that show maximum student capacity for the area of common classroom sizes. Then, use the Design Request button to give more details about your project to our Design Team.
Instructors and Presenters:
Podiums or standing desks, which is better for You?
Active learning classrooms and collaborative conference spaces usually require the presenter to be either mobile or stationery, but in a neutral position. There are times when the instructor is "the sage on the stage," but in practice of active learning, the role shifts to "the guide on the side." Many times, the adjustable height standing desk is selected because the instructor can use the desk in the seated position when not presenting. Often, the podium is also doubles as an AV technology cart with rack mount spaces and external shelves to increase work top space for doc cams. We often build in heavy duty casters so these large multi-media podiums can be positioned stage left, center or right. SMARTdesks options for podiums and standing desks run the gamut, including customization for technology integration.