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?

Is Your Office Job Hurting your Health?

Thanksgiving is right around the corner; and if you are like us, you are eagerly counting your steps and tracking what you eat in hopes of maintaining your diet and health regimen during a holiday season known for sugary desserts, over-eating, and often inevitable weight gain. While you may be focused on your current health goals due to the time of year, we encourage you to think about you and your employees’ life-long health. The way your office is designed, whether in your home or where you work, can make or break a healthy lifestyle.
The majority of Americans spend most of their lives sitting at office desks for their professions. Our day-to-day routines require us to sit in cars to drive to work where we arrive to once again sit at a desk for 8+ hours a day, 5 days out of the week. Unfortunately, engaging in regular activities outside the home is simply not enough; especially when many people come home from work exhausted and want to sit and relax on the couch after a day filled with sitting (how ironic!).
That is why we, at SMARTdesks, believe that we need to rethink the work culture. Many companies and employees with home offices are getting rid of their comfy office chairs. The two most popular replacements are using no chair and creating a standing desk or developing the desk into a fitness station with a customized treadmill or seated bike designed with the workplace in mind.
Why make the change? Research has shown that sitting for the majority of the day is bad for your health, linking prolonged sedentary activity like sitting to being more prone to breast cancer, prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and depression.
The benefits for employers who adopt wellness programs are not only beneficial for the employees, but for the companies themselves. Not only does investing money in employee health allow for lower absenteeism and health care costs, but most companies witness increased employee satisfaction and retention.
A study released by Avner Ben-Ner, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, and Dr. James Levine, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, found that employees who use fitness desks had an increased level of quality of work, opinion of work and productivity. Instead of feeling physically exhausted or distracted by the movement, employees felt more engaged. Engaging in exercise and movement releases endorphins into your brain, which is proven to improve your mood and decrease your stress level.
This holiday season consider giving the gift of health to you or your employees. To recap, here are the top 6 reasons to make the switch:

  1. Increased productivity
  2. Increase in endorphins giving your brain a boost
  3. Improved focus
  4. Reduced back pain
  5. Increased employee satisfaction
  6. A healthier life that keeps your heart healthy!

Backpain
The Washington Post recently released the following graphic outlining the negative effects of sitting. We encourage you to share it around the office to remind coworkers to get up and move; if not, it could result in a chain of problems!
To find out more, check out these great articles, from Vox and Forbes, that served as the basis for this article.

Announcing our New Line: Fit-at-Office!

We live in an ever-increasingly health conscious world, with fitness bracelets and apps to track calories and weight loss with the click of a button, and SMARTdesks has now joined the trend!
We now offer a complete line of LifeSpan® treadmill desks and bike desk workstations designed for the home and office. Desk options include: electric height adjustment models that can be used collectively by multiple people in the office, manual adjustment models for 1 or 2 people and if you already own a stand-up desk we have available treadmill and bike options that work for you as well. All models include our patented step counting feature “Intelli-Step” to automatically count your steps or pedal revolutions while you walk or bike. Using the standard Bluetooth feature, you can track your progress on your Mac or PC and wirelessly sync your activity results.
Add a traditional seated desk to one or both sides letting you sit and walk or pedal throughout the day. Whether you are self-employed and working at home or part of a large corporation, SMARTdesks Fit@Office products can help you increase physical activity while you work without taking time out of your busy schedule.
treadmill-office-desk1
The entire SMARTdesks Fit@Office product line is designed to bring physical activity back into the workplace with safe, quiet, and reliable activity stations that are proven effective to improve your health and the health of your employees. Our products are equally well-suited for more “recreational” purposes as well — surfing Youtube and scrolling Facebook news feeds can now come with the added bonus of burning calories from the comfort of your home!
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact a SMARTdesks Fit@Office product specialist at 1-800-770-7042. We can answer questions about how others are using our products, discuss the best approach for introducing activity stations in your company or help decide which model is right for you.

Secrets to More Productive Meetings

It’s Friday at 3pm. The clock is ticking, employees are fidgeting, and everyone is glancing at the clock. Voices drone and no one’s listening…
Every businessperson knows the importance of meetings, but most companies don’t take advantage of the time they have with their employees. Long meetings with little productivity result in wasted money and time for the business. Here are three tips to help you maximize your time in the office.

  1. Keep your meeting to 15 minutes, max.

Have you ever been in a 2 hour meeting? Regardless of the topic — which may be crucial to a project’s success — the mere duration can drain your energy. The human brain is not designed to process information continuously for that long of a time span.
Carmine Gallo, a professional coach and personal trainer, recently released an article on “The Science Behind TED’s 18-Minute rule.” TED Talks, a popular webinar series, limit their speakers to a mere 18 minutes.
TED Talk curator Chris Anderson offers his reasoning behind the rule: “By forcing speakers who are used to going on for 45 minutes to bring it down to 18, you get them to really think about what they want to say.”
Did you know?

  • Most business people spend approximately 25 percent of their working hours in meeting.
  • Studies show 20 minutes is the average attention span before people lose focus.
  • Middle managers spend at least two days out of every week in meetings.

Don’t think you can hold a meeting for 15 minutes and get everything done? It takes planning and efficiency. These famous speeches of history only took about 15 – 20 minutes.

  1. Planning

To get your point across in a shortened amount of time, you must hyper-plan every moment of your meeting. If not, you company could lose money for the time that could be spent elsewhere.
For example, let’s say you have a meeting of 10 people and the meeting lasts over an hour. With 10 people in the room, that meeting is equivalent to over 10 hours of time utilized by the company. A 15 minute meeting, on the other hand, takes just over 2 hours total.
The first step to planning is to make sure you actually require a meeting. Keep the end goal in mind. Does the meeting require action items? You may find that you can accomplish the meeting goals with an email discussion or distributing the news in an email newsletter. Typically, reoccurring meetings are superfluous.
Globalization – If you are planning meetings that require meeting with people in different locations, consider using a conference table with smart technology to bring everyone together virtually. This eliminates travel costs and enables worldwide communication.

  1. Scheduling for Success

Never plan meetings for Monday or Friday. These two days are the most common for employees to take long weekends and and be the least focused on their work.
The online meeting scheduling service “When is Good” conducted a survey of 34,000 events and determined that Tuesday at 3 p.m. is the most “available” spot for a meeting.
Not only are more people typically in the office on Tuesdays at the standard office, but 3 p.m. is early enough not to impede with the average workday and late enough to be after meal times. Moral of the story? Always pick a time that works best for your team.
So, are Mondays and Fridays non-productive days in the office?
They are only non-productive if you allow it. Mondays and Fridays may not be good meeting days, but if you delegate deadlines and tasks for those days, employees will be motivated to get the job done.

Workplace Productivity? Try Community + Engagement

Results from a 2013 Gallup study provided a surprising (and rather dismal) statistic: of 25 million workers polled, only 30% were actively engaged in their work, and the other 70% fell short of their productivity potential. According to the same study, employees who are engaged in their work are enthusiastic, committed participants in their company whose creativity generates new ideas, attracts customers, and contributes positively to their organization as a whole.
This chart from the Gallup poll shows that since 2000, employee engagement levels across the US have barely changed.
Screenshot-2014-06-28-22.49.05-624x667
So, what is to be done?
Assuming that employee engagement levels are tied to feelings of (1) personal satisfaction, (2) balance, and (3) enthusiasm in their companies, it makes sense to examine how spatial design can improve these three aspects of their working lives.
(1) Personal Satisfaction
Easy-to-work-in office settings are crucial to a developing a sense of personal satisfaction among employees. The instant-gratification of younger office workers can see one another and easily interact, the same way they do with the instant technology-based communication that they use in their daily lives.
(2) Balance
Environments that foster interaction among employees — whether friendly or professional — are likely to improve company morale and willingness to work. A physically balanced space in the office can guide employees to a sense of psychological balance in their own lives. According to this blog post from WorkDesign magazine, breaking down walls in the office in favor of open architecture can drastically improve employee performance and productivity. Removing barriers between office also removes barriers between employees and enables them to connect on a personal level.
(3) Enthusiasm
Spatial design, coupled with charismatic leadership, boosts employee engagement tremendously. Settings that offer the possibility for both individual and group work, as well as welcoming meeting spaces, build community and camaraderie in the workplace. Flexible furniture offers the option to work individually or in groups – employees have control over their workspace, whether they’re problem solving on their own or as a team.
And not to be forgotten…company management / leaders also play a key role in defining workplace engagement (see this Huffpost blog).
Did you know? “Employee engagement” is such a hot topic right now that it has its own Wikipedia page. It also has increased significantly in relevance in Google’s search engines (based on a growing number of searches) according to the graphic below.
Emplyengagetrend-624x371

Workplace Collaboration: Why You Need It and How to Achieve It

Collaboration in the workplace not only allows companies to provide their consumers with the best solutions, but it helps employees stay on task and stay motivated. When looking to start a new business or revamp an existing business, executives should consider adopting a collaborative model. As this article from TechRadar aptly expresses, the prevalence of social media, mobile technology, and an international information-based economy have developed, so too has a greater need for collaboration in the global marketplace.
Why you need it…

  1. Increased Innovation

Through collaboration, employees bring together expertise and experience to develop the best solutions  for customers. Working on a team employees utilize their own unique strengths and abilities that go beyond their job descriptions and allows for greater creative input. According to this Crain’s New York Business article, open offices even spur employees to set more ambitious goals in the workplace.

  1. Better Rapport

While a job may be a 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. commitment, to truly encourage commitment and success within a company, the members of each team need to know each other. The standard cube-style office approach encourages employees to be closed off from one another. By encouraging a collaborative workspace, it allows employees to get to know each other on a deeper level. Employees can open up and feel at-ease when expressing new business ideas. Google is following (or perhaps even setting!) this trend with their new GoogleDocs features, and increased storage in the cloud, which allows collaborators to share and edit their work together even when they are a world apart from one another.
How to achieve it…

SmartDesks is currently running a limited time sweepstakes to win a set of 6 igroup tables to help businesses promote collaboration.
iGroup-Accessorized
The iGroup is known as the “origami of interaction” because the tables are flexible in formation – you can create hexagon, pinwheel, star, wave, and abstract shapes among many other options. The iGroup is ideal for both the workplace and educational institutions.
igroup-giveaway-FB-LikeBar

  • The value of this prize is $5,000!
  • Entries will be accepted until 7/30/14, 12pm EST.
  • One entry per person, please.
  • The winner will be notified via email on 7/31/14.
  • If winner does not respond via email within 48 hours, a new winner will be notified. (Watch your email & check junk mail.)

For more information: Visit the official sweepstakes page.
 
 

Top 10 Ways to Use a SQWeezel

The SQWEEZEL, a universal tablet mounting system, is revolutionary for hands-free support for many activities. In the office, on the job, or even at home, we look at the top ten ways of how to use the SQWeezel.
1.      In the Kitchen
Tablets have a wealth of space to store recipes and with easy access to the internet it provides millions of recipes at your fingertips. Clip the SQWeezel on the kitchen counter keeping it away from the mess of the food or the heat of the stove, but within sight.
SQWeezel
2.      While You Exercise
Don’t trust the SQWeezel on an unsecure magazine rack that is part of your exercise bike or treadmill. Clip the SQWeezel to the machine and start burning calories. You can read, listen to music or answer email while doing your daily workout. Just make sure you don’t clip it to a road bike; that could be dangerous!
SmartDesks SQWeezel
3.      On the Job
Whether you are in an office, lab, or working with your hands in an industrial setting, the SQWeezel can help by providing you instruction or helping you record your data.
SmartDesks SQWeezel
4.      At School
Educational technology is a leading trend in the 21st century in schools for children of all ages. Whether you are teaching a concept through visual learning, maintaining your class attendance list, or reading a story to the children, the SQWeezel is a great tool!
SQWeezel SmartDesks
5.      In a Hospital
Both doctors and patients can benefit from the SQWeezel. Medical facilities have been incorporating tablet technology through the United States over the recent years. Patients who have extended hospital stays can clip the holder to a chair or hospital bed for entertainment.
SmartDesks SQWeezel
6.      As a Store Check-Out Option
With credit card technology, restaurants and stores are beginning to adopt the tablet check-out style. Stores can outfit their check-out location with tables to clip the mount and save space and money on bulky outdated machines.
SQWeezel SmartDesks
7.      In the Car
While we don’t advise the driver to use a SQWeezel while driving, unless they want to take advantage of GPS directions on their tablet, parents can add SQWeezels to their cars for children entertainment and learning.
Children in Car
8.      By the Couch or in Bed
Get rid of the arm strain of holding a tablet to your side or above you to watch a film or read a book. Just clip the stand to your nightstand or a table near the couch and turn the screen horizontally.
Woman in Bed iPad
9.      Outside on a Nice Day
Want to enjoy the great outdoors while reading an eBook? Clip your tablet with your SQWeezel to the chair and soak up the sun!
SQWeezel SmartDesks
10.  While on an Airplane
Depending on the length of your flight, entertainment may be a necessity while you travel. By attaching the SQWeezel to the tray table in front of you, you will free up space for food or additional materials you may need out during the flight.

Airplane Tray Table  

 
 
 
 
 
Want to learn more about the SQWeezel?
Visit: http://www.smartdesks.com/ipad-holder-stand-sqweezel.asp

Millennials in the Workplace

According to a study from Deloitte University Press, by 2025 the Millennials/Generation Y will comprise 75% of the global workforce. Born between 1976 and 2001, this generation has a perhaps unfair reputation for laziness and entitlement — and the labor market is soon going to have to absorb them in droves.
Despite their renown as multitasking video gamers, millennials can be an industrious crowd, who have different employment priorities from their (generally-speaking) baby boomers managers.

Generally speaking, millennials have different workplace priorities -- and ones that sometimes clash with their management's view of "a good day's work."
Millennials’ preferences sometimes clash with their management’s view of “a good day’s work.”

So, what exactly are Millennials looking for in their jobs?
Of course, not all Millennials share the same set of preferences, but here are a few principal values that many seek in their employment.
1. Collaboration. Millennials do well with project-based work in teams and open communication channels. They value both offering and hearing opinions before making decisions.
2. An emphasis on “company culture.” In this Sentinel article, Nikki Sutton, owner of Level Interior Architecture, said: “’Millennials didn’t grow up studying in libraries. They studied in coffee shops and more social environments, so that is reflected in what they expect when they go to work every day.’”
3. Idealism. According to this Forbes article, 64% of millennials want to make the world “a better place.” Millennials aren’t looking to be faceless worker-bees, but valued participants who can enact change in their work and their world.
4. FlexibilityMillennials aren’t looking for just a life-work balance, but rather life-work integration. The preponderance of technology and mobile computing makes accessing work materials easy (and sometimes a compulsive habit) when millennials are out of the office.
5. Entrepreneurship. Millennials recognize the value of the start-up company. With social media and instant communication, they can solve problems efficiently at companies that value speedy information exchange; according to this New York Times article, top millennial talent often goes to innovative start-ups. To compensate, Goldman Sachs cut down the number of hours new recruits work with the hopes of attracting young people to investment banking.
Here’s a snapshot comparison of the 21st century work-ethic vs the “traditional” workforce (for source study, click here):
Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 12.41.39 PM
And for an interesting Huffington Post blog entry written by a millennial who says perseverance is this generation’s greatest necessity, click here.
In your opinion…If you’re a Millennial, what’s most important to you in a job? If you’re not, how do you interact with Gen Y in the workplace? 

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:

Collaboration-Tables-Modern-Computer-Desk-K-8-Learning

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:
modern-computer-desk-collaboration-conference-tables
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.
motorized-adjustable-height-table
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.
cirrus-control-panel
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.