Embrace the New with HuddleVu: Innovative Screen Sharing and Collaboration Table Solutions from SMARTdesks

From business to education, collaboration and leadership are the cornerstones of today’s workplace. Technology, the ultimate tool for consensus building and problem solving, has shaped how we communicate ideas and develop solutions at a faster rate than ever before. From network building to our instant access to information, the culture of sharing defines how we think, work, and play.
SMARTdesks recognizes that sharing technology in the office and university increases productivity and success across an array of collaborative work environments. Our BoostTM Collaborative Conference Table presents the all-in-one solution. The BoostTM comes outfitted with a FlipIT Lift monitor display easily visible from all sides of the table, and that neatly hides away when no longer needed. In addition, the easy-to-install HuddleVuTM HDMI video switcher enables up to four users to plug their computers in and seamlessly toggle the main display to show their individual screen at the touch of a button. For small meeting rooms and open-plan spaces alike, the BoostTM and HuddleVuTM make an elegant pair, bringing collaboration to your fingertips. With a simple installation and no software or programming required, sharing your screen has never been so easy.

Designing the Classroom for Academic Honesty

Students are constantly faced with academic dishonesty. Unfortunately, although technology has become a powerful learning asset both inside and outside the classroom, it has also become an additional tool for cheating. According to major higher educational studies, an average of 75 percent of students admitted to at least one form of cheating over the course of their college career. But, this problem is not just found within academia. The same statistics ring true for high-school-aged children.
While we can put out a clarion call to scan student’s essays through online software that notates plagiarism and create several versions of tests for students to take, the need for combatting academic dishonesty is much more than that. It is about developing a culture of pride and personal integrity within students. Now, this is much easier said than done. Academic dishonesty has been around for decades; and will still be even in classrooms where teachers take action. But, that does not mean that it should go unnoticed.
Teachers and school districts can design their classrooms for success and honesty by:

  1. Changing the focus of learning

Cheating is increasingly prevalent during high risk assessment, like highly-weighted exams or essays. While testing can be argued to be an important aspect of learning, the focus across the United States needs to be realigned to focus more on the mastery of the skills. Teachers should consider methods other than traditional closed-book exams to test students on their ability to apply their knowledge, not simply demonstrate memorization. Students would be less likely and capable of cheating if the notion of learning focused on enrichment and mastery of skills rather than testing standards.

  1. Adding tools that decrease the possibility of cheating

How test takers are seated can affect the probability of cheating. While it is not possible in all schools, adding testing privacy shields between desks that clamp to the desk not only discourage cheating, but encourage focus. This will allow students to do their best on exams.

  1. Academic integrity code of ethics contracts

Many teachers have each student and a parent or guardian sign a code of ethics policy that clearly lays out the policy at the beginning of the year. This can help educate students on what constitutes as plagiarism or academic misconduct and lay a foundation for a no-tolerance enforcement. Students will be a lot less likely to attempt to cheat if the policy is very clearly spelled out.
4. Be an active teacher during testing
For teachers administering tests, testing day is not simply a time to catch up on reading. Teachers need to be actively looking for common cheating signs during test-taking situations. The more aware a teacher is, the more difficult it will be for a student to cheat; and the less likely they will.

  1. Consider school-wide devices over BYOD

In a 21st century school, technology is prevalent. If the school has a policy of providing students with individual iPads or laptops that they can use in the classroom, there is more of a possibility that the school can utilize computer monitoring software that bars students from browser windows and tracks where they go. Blended learning and the use of technology in the classroom is arguably extremely beneficial, as long as the teacher is knowledgeable of the technology.
How do you create a culture of academic honesty within your school?

New SMARTdesks Classrooms at Union County College

Early this year SMARTdesks revamped four classrooms at Union County College in Cranford, New Jersey. The project was a collaborative effort between the Design Team at SMARTdesks, the Union County IT department, and other college administrators. SMARTdesks generated layouts for the rooms within a week of receiving floor plans, and through GoTo meetings and live presentations jointly developed a vision for the classrooms.
SMARTdesks’ challenge was to turn this type of old-fashioned classroom, previously furnished with fixed desk chairs, into an ADA compliant, collaborative classroom with multi-use FlipIT desks. (The blocks in front of the white board are the new floor, pre-measured and ready for installation).
The Starting Point . . . 
The Final Product . . .
In four days, SMARTdesks finished the makeover. To begin, installers covered linoleum floors and old carpets with the Floor + Furniture Integrated Technology (FFIT) carpet flooring, which distributed power to 15 duplex outlets and each of the moveable computer workstations. The FFIT can be rearranged according to the desk layouts.
A new power system . . .

FFIT Floor raised carpet tiles.
FFIT Floor raised carpet tiles.

This new floor was designed with fire code regulations and ADA compliance in mind. A ramp leads into the classroom for wheelchair accessibility.
ADA Compliance . . . 
The furniture itself had to accommodate a minimum of 24 students, and is built on locking casters that enable mobility. They can be arranged back-to-back (shown here), around the perimeter of the room, or in rows, depending on the professor’s needs.
Top of the line desks . . . 
Closed monitor lids offer a flat workspace when needed.
Closed monitor lids offer a flat workspace when needed.

These desks feature the FlipIt, which allows for both computer and traditional pen and paper desktop uses. They will be used for library and classroom  work, conducted in teams or independently. As Michele McHenry, director of design at SMARTdesks said, “This answers the need for adaptive teaching and learning styles.”
In your opinion…What does your ideal classroom look like?

Collaborative Spaces: Designing The Modern Classroom

Collaboration is becoming the catchphrase of modern office and education institutions. Days of the cubicle are numbered, and straight lines of desks in schools are overlooked in favor of more flexible desk arrangements.
What is collaborative learning?
Collaborative learning is the process by which students or employees form teams to tackle a significant problem. It can take place in close proximity or long distance, through teleconferencing and Internet communication technology.
Problem-based learning is a common theme in a collaborative approach to education, in which students engage with their peers and teammates to best understand the subject at hand.
How can we design classrooms that foster collaboration?
The key to collaboration is successful communication. Desk arrangements can determine the ease with which students and professors interact. SMARTdesks iGroup and Exchange tables offer flexibility in their configurations. Desk element interlock with each other in a variety of shapes; just a few options include the hexagon, pinwheel, leaf, and wave shapes, as seen below.
SMARTdesks iGroup computer collaboration tables, specially designed for K-8 environments:


This iGroup table is located at the Hackensack Public Library in New Jersey, and specially designed for elementary and middle school student use.
This SMARTdesks iGroup table is located at the Hackensack Public Library in New Jersey, and specially designed for elementary school student use.

SMARTdesks Exchange Collaboration Tables, for high school, university, and collaborative office use:
This is just one example of how Exchange elements can be combined. As you can see below, collaborators can work on projects using computers or have a clear desktop depending on their needs. This flexibility is critical in collaborative classroom design.

Classroom Design fosters Collaborative Learning

Two views on collaboration . . . 
While recent media has stressed the importance of collaborative learning, particularly at the university level, according to this study (from Virginia Tech) there is little empirical evidence that it actually augments students’  critical thinking skills.
Nonetheless, some professors swear that a collaborative approach has improved their students performance. For an excellent story on one journalism professor’s movement from lecture-based to peer-to-peer learning, click here. And here is a study that focuses on computer-based collaborative learning.
Check back soon for some tips on how to make collaborative learning most effective!
What is/was your educational experience like? Do/did you participate in collaborative learning environments? 

The standing desk: is it really better for you?

How many hours per day do you spend seated at work? At least 5 days per week, 8 hours per day…it adds up quickly. This BBC article claims that we spend as many as 12 hours per day in idle positions, not including a 7-hour night’s sleep.

We’ve all seen countless articles about how sedentary work habits contribute to depression, obesity, and serious metabolic conditions. This study, published by the US National Library of Medicine, shows that people who sit for 6 or more hours per day are at a greater risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease. We’ve known standing is better for us for quite some time; in 1950, a Lancet study showed that bus conductors (who work standing) versus bus drivers (who work sitting) were half as likely to develop heart disease.
So, knowing that standing is better for us, what can we do about it? Sit-stand desks, otherwise known as standing desks, are the logical, ergonomic choice for anyone looking for a healthier work environment. (But keep in mind, and stand up/adjustable height desk might be the best choice because too much standing can actually be harmful – check out this personal account from the Washington Post).
SMARTdesks offers the Cirrus line of adjustable height desks and sit-stand desks that can help you work in a healthier way. A wide variety of finishes are available as well as floating balance, ratchet, spring pin, and motorized option for adjusting the height of the standing desks and tables.
And because neither standing not sitting is ideal for extended periods of time, the motorized lift memory function makes it easy to save both your sitting and standing heights.
For more information and studies from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention about standing at work, click here.
In your opinion…How do you like to work best? Seated, with intervals of movement, standing all the time, or standing and sitting depending on how much strain your feet can take?

Did you know? Standing at work puts you in good company. Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, and Benjamin Franklin all worked at specially-built standing desks.
Courtesy of the Washington Post.
Courtesy of the Washington Post.

Mobile Laptop Carts and Laptop Security in Schools

Learning in the classroom and office takes place in an increasingly mobile world. Tablets are by far the leading trend in technology for the modern classroom, but laptops are also popular in schools across the country, such as in the Miami-Dade district, according to the Miami Herald. The trend is international; in Kenya, the government will spend Sh24 billion on laptops for primary schools in the first quarter of 2014, according to AllAfrica.com.
More laptops in schools, though means a greater need for security in the form of mobile laptop carts that stow and lock away the computers when technology isn’t needed. Mobile laptop carts frequently offer the capacity to charge and store computers and minimize the risk of theft and vandalization. This study from the University of Michigan shows that in Winter 2010, over 50% of 1,415 student sample brought their laptops to class at least once per week. And for an interesting look at mobile phone and tablet usage in the classroom, click here for an Atelier.net article.
Personally, I wonder if in an increasingly “bring your own device” (BYOD) world that the the need for mobile laptop carts will soon be restricted to students too young too carry their own devices.

The Newpath from SMARTdesks is a new take on the mobile laptop cart. Laptops charge securely in the desk. The Newpath is a time-efficient option because teachers and students do not have to unplug and remove laptops before using them.
The Newpath from SMARTdesks is a new take on the mobile laptop cart. Laptops charge securely in the desk. The Newpath is a time-efficient option because teachers and students do not have to unplug and remove laptops before using them.

In your opinion…Do you prefer using a laptop or a desktop computer?

Designing The Modern Computer Desk

The SMARTdesks Quark, a computer conference table for Telepresence, Teleconferencing, Video Conferencing and Collaboration.
The SMARTdesks Quark, a computer conference table for Telepresence, Teleconferencing,
Video Conferencing and Collaboration.

2014 is here, and as we progress into the second decade of the 21st century, computer desk designs continue to changing quickly with technology innovation and office design trends. The modern computer desk must adapt to an increasingly collaborative environment and one that favors open-architecture spaces over cubicles. Desktop computer use is on the decline as mobile device usage increases steadily. Creative work environments improve productivity and foster innovation.
Within contemporary educational and office spaces, SMARTdesks strives to innovate and design creative and modern computer desks.
iGroup is a reconfigurable collaboration table that offers a variety of possibilities for customization, including inset iDrawer or FlipIT options for iPad or computer.

Check out how some offices around the world have implemented their ideas of the modern computer desk here, including workstations from Google, Skype, and Twitter, among many others. Apple has even patented a ‘desk-free’ computer that operates on laser-powered projection, eliminating the need for a monitor on the desktop. And here’s a list in pictures of office trends that are on the way out in the next ten years according to HuffPost.
In your opinion…What do you think are the most important features of the modern computer desk?

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.