Textbook Economics, Part II: Digitizing Your Classroom

SMARTdesks can help you embrace the challenge of digitizing your classroom and take advantage of increasing online classroom resources. We offer a variety of products that can make the transition easy. Here’s a list of products that are essential to making the transition to digital textbooks as smooth as possible. 
1. The iPad FlipIT offers a lockable, flexible solution for classrooms looking to install iPads in their classroom desks and tables. Students can use the iPad in portrait and landscape mode in a securely enclosed and powered environment. iPad-flipIT-features
2. Mobile Whiteboards and SMARTboards are a must-have for the digital classroom. Teachers can highlight important learning material. Students can write on the mobile board to engage with their subject matter and collaborate. mobile-whiteboard-in-office-507
3. How to power all of these electronics without a mess of wires? The Floor + Furniture Integration Technology (FFIT) offers an easily reconfigurable solution for cable management. To see how it works, click here.
4. At the Jack Swigert Aerospace Academy’s Cyber Cafe, outfitted with Exchange collaboration tables, students are using technology on a daily basis for their research needs.

A student at Jack Swigert uses both digital and print resources for his research in the cyber cafe.
A student at Jack Swigert uses both digital and print resources for his research in the cyber cafe.

For some great insights into the pros and cons of digitizing libraries in the classroom, check out this interview with Nik Osborne, the Chief of Staff for the Vice President for Information Technology at Indiana University. According to Osborne, academic institutions have a role to play in the market for digital textbooks; it’s not just up to the student and book publisher to make classroom changes happen. For a look at how students use technology in and out of the classroom, check out these stats from the Educause Center for Analysis and Research.
The bottom line? The potential for innovation in the market is tremendous if institutions, publishers, and students to develop an interactive, lower-cost alternative to traditional print textbooks.
In your opinion…what are the advantages and disadvantages of a digital classroom?

Textbook Economics, Part I: Are Digital Libraries the Future of Learning?

At the Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, NY, print textbooks are a thing of the past. For the 2013-2014, school year, the school has converted its curriculum to digital textbooks stored on an Internet cloud. So far, according to Lisa Alfasi of Pearson Education, Stepinac is the only high school in the country to abandon print textbooks entirely.
Digital textbooks are certainly a growing trend in the education sector, and not just in private educational institutions. By 2017, all North Carolina public schools will receive funding for exclusively digital textbooks. While moving to a digital library has its perks, the question remains how every single student will gain access to a computer, either provided by the school or a “bring-your-own” policy.
But after high school, according to the 2013 College Board Trends in College Pricing Report, students budgeted approximately $1,200 for textbooks and supplies for the 2013-2014 academic year. Student debt is an enormous obstacle for many recent graduates (read this excellent NY Times feature for an in-depth look at this issue), and the cost of textbooks often is not even included in tuition and fees that can near $60,000 per year for private universities alone.
In college, due to rising prices of hard-copy college textbooks, both online resources and textbook rentals are increasing in popularity. According to this USA Today article, some students avoid purchasing textbooks altogether in an effort to defray already astronomical education costs and student loans. In the future, it seems that textbook companies will have to develop cost-effective interactive and online versions of their books.

From the Government Accountability Office Report GAO-13-368, page 6.
From the Government Accountability Office Report GAO-13-368, page 6.

From this report, we can see that in the US, printed college textbook prices have risen at a rate of 82% from 2002-2012, and the Consumer Price Index (CPI) — which measures change over time in prices for bundles of consumer goods — has risen at a comparably much slower rate, 28%.
What does this mean? The cost of print textbooks is rising at a significantly faster rate than consumer goods at large. Therefore, proportionally, textbooks are becoming more expensive more quickly when compared to other goods considered in the CPI, which include eight major groups: food and beverages, housing, apparel, transportation, medical care, education and communication, and other goods and services. At the start of the 2013-2014 academic year, Bloomberg news addressed this textbook inflation as an “untenable trajectory,” according to Watson Scott Swail, president and CEO of the Educational Policy Institute.
To improve learning experiences, like at Stepinac High School, and offer a lower-cost alternative to print, publishing companies like Pearson Education are exploring options to capitalize on 3D digital technology for interactive textbooks. For example, Pearson’s Prentice Hall “United States History” digital text for iPad costs just $14.99 on Apple iBooks…
…But some would say that digital textbooks cannot replace the attractiveness of a hard copy textbook, at least in early childhood education.
Let’s return to the Stepinac model for a moment. With technology on the rise in classrooms, students unarguably have greater access to educational materials and resources. But what’s the solution for K-12 public schools, where funding usually does not cover procurement of technology for individual students (a problem case in point for the North Carolina plan to “go digital” by 2017)? And what about private and public universities, which generally provide neither print/digital textbooks nor computers for their students? The cost of learning remains a challenge, despite the benefits of a growing trend in digital textbooks in K-12 and university learning environments.
On a lighter note, thanks to Cagle Cartoons for this one.

In your opinion…
Do you think digital textbooks should replace all, some, or no print media in K-12 and higher education classrooms?

Check back tomorrow for how SMARTdesks suggests “going digital” in the classroom!

SMARTdesks at Gulf Coast State College: The Inside Story

At the Advanced Technology Center (ATC) of Gulf Coast State College, in Panama City, Florida, SMARTdesks furniture is changing how learning happens.

The brand-new ATC opened for fall 2013 classes, and it is fully furnished with top-of-the-line SMARTdesks products. The LEED gold certified facility is 93,500 square feet and the first green building on the Gulf Coast campus. Through the ATC, the college seeks to provide students with the opportunities, resources, and network they need to succeed in a highly competitive global marketplace. To prepare its graduates for success outside of the classroom, the ATC curriculum is incredibly diverse; classes and divisions range from sustainable design to robotics and the culinary arts. (For a the comprehensive list of fields of study, click here).

The ATC mission is to provide its students with tools to communicate their skills and strengths in the 21st century job market. Accordingly, the building and its furnishings were designed to accommodate students and faculty who both bring their own devices and use preexisting technology infrastructure. GCSC invested heavily in a “learning convergence” environment, which refers to areas where students can work or have class while collaborating or using information technologies.

SMARTdesks computer desks and furniture — including the Exchange collaboration tables, iGroup, Nesta, Pi, and conference tables for board rooms — are a major component of the building’s open-architecture floor plans. Professors at Gulf Coast have found SMARTdesks furniture’s flexibility to be one of its greatest strengths. Dr. Ariba Garmin, Director of E-learning said, “The furniture SMARTdesks provided allows staff and student to create any learning environment you want. You almost don’t see it at all because you can move it around to suit your needs.”

The Exchange and iGroup, with their reconfigurable shapes, are collaboration tables tailored to the needs of the contemporary classroom. Each computer table element can be arranged in a variety of configurations, depending on the needs of individual teachers and professors. Nesta folds away quickly to clear classroom spaces of computer desks and tables when they aren’t needed. And Pi is the ultimate collaboration tool in the classroom; students can study separately or together in circles and lines.

To complete the ATC project, SMARTdesks collaborated with both Gulf Coast and the architect to construct the “future-forward” optimized learning environment that the college was looking for. Because the breadth of the course of study is so great, SMARTdesks engaged in mass customization to fulfill all of the ATC’s furniture needs. Mass customization means that every furnishing had to fit a divergent set of needs depending on the room for which it was designed. The SMARTdesks design team collaborated for months with the project architects on the design cloud to make sure each product was optimized for its space.

To read the full story in the November issue of PUPN magazine, click here. And for an excellent article on the history of learning environments, click here for a white paper from Educause, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing higher education through the use of technology.

Ergonomics at Work

Think about your workday for a moment. Chances are you spend a lot of it in a seated position, most likely typing away on your computer. 8 hours per day, 5 days per week, 4 weeks per month…that’s 9,600 minutes of work. Contrast that with the average working American’s 10,140 minutes of sleep per month (on weekdays), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (For an interesting global comparison of sleep patterns around the world, check out this Huff Post article). We don’t, in fact, spend much more time asleep than at work. Why then do we pay so much attention to the comfort of our beds, when we don’t give half as much thought to our office furniture, and spend almost the same amount of time there?

How you work influences how you feel. You can improve the comfort of your work environment by considering the ergonomics of your space. Ergonomics refers to the applied science of designing products we use so that we can use them in a safe and productive manner. Unsurprisingly, there are quite a few studies out there about how working in optimal ergonomic conditions can improve productivity and overall health.
Repetitive strain injuries (RSI) are a substantial risk in the workplace — how many evenings have you spent with sore forearms or neck from craning at the computer? According to the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, these injuries cost businesses up to $20 billion dollars per year. Ergonomic furniture products, keyboards, chairs, and adjustable height desks can help mitigate the negative effects of RSI, and are increasingly popular in the workplace.
The importance of office ergonomics is gaining attention in the news, as well. In Silicon Valley, Esther Gokhale teaches posture techniques (check some of them out here, with diagrams). Sitting for long periods of time negatively impacts our muscles and causes in some cases long-term injuries. For a checklist to see if you are at risk for RSI, take a look at this checklist for your workstation and office design.
Check out Microsoft’s guide to help you set up your office design to work in the most ergonomically functional way for you or contact us with any questions! We’re here to help you design your custom office and classroom furniture environments.

Innovation and Education at the 2013 Ed Spaces Trade Show

First of all, welcome to the SMARTdesks blog! We look forward to bringing you news and information from the industry leaders in collaborative furniture and design. As you know, the 21st century is a time of unprecedented growth and changes in technology and learning environments. In our blog, we will explore how these changes affect our lives in and out of the classroom and the office. We want to hear your thoughts and opinions, too! Feel free to leave comments on the blog or contact us anytime at 1-800-770-7042. We look forward to hearing from you.
From December 3-6, we will be setting up shop at the National School Supply & Equipment Association’s (NSSEA) Ed Spaces Trade Show in San Antonio, TX! Thought leaders specializing collaboration furniture and sustainable design from across the globe will come together to discuss the most cutting-edge K-12 and university classroom and office products. Ed Spaces is the only trade show of its kind because it brings together professional educators, designers, manufacturers, and dealers looking to network and promote their 21st century classroom solutions.
In addition to showcasing products from a industry leaders, Ed Spaces’ packed schedule will feature a CEU-accredited education conference this year. The lecturers hail from a diverse range of backgrounds, including the the International Interior Design Association, USGBC’s Center for Green Schools, AIA’s Committee for Architecture in Education, InfoComm, and AAF’s Design for Learning; the classes offered vary from Understanding the Classroom Environment to New Sources of Energy and their Impact on Schools. Be sure to check out the Networking Events, too, and meet other engaging leaders in the education industry.
We’ll have some new products for you to try out at the show, too: Drifter and Isle, all new movable, flexible, and beautiful power and data systems, and the SMARTdesks Quint, an a mobile conferencing table essential for the collaborative classroom.
Come visit us in booth 752!