Survey: Pretty Much Every Student Wants to Use Smartphones in Class

Student with smartphone in class
Phoning it in? Not really.

A recent study is unlikely to surprise college professors: 94% of college students want to use their mobile phones in class for academic purposes. The survey found that a substantial number of students (58%) use their phones to take pictures of lecture slides, and similarly high percentages of students also use their phones to search for information on Google or access a digital textbook during lectures.

Students also indicated their willingness to use the phones more often for a range of classroom activities, including checking into class, answering in-class polls, and accessing lecture slides. (For some mobile classroom polling alternatives, check out this blog post from November.)

However, the risks of mobile phones being nothing more than a distraction are obvious. Half of students admitted to using phones to text friends or check social media during class.

Smartphones aren’t going away, of course, so administrators and professors need to think about ways to leverage the opportunity while minimizing the potential for distraction. Having the right kind of active learning furniture may also help.

(Source: Campus Technology)

Classroom Design for the Modern World

The "Lampe de Marseille" is a characteristic lighting fixture by Le Corbusier, and shows the importance of aesthetic illumination in office and classroom design.
The “Lampe de Marseille” (1949-52) is a characteristic lighting fixture by Le Corbusier, and shows the importance of aesthetic illumination in office and classroom design.

“Modern life demands, and is waiting for, a new kind of plan, both for the house and the city,” famous Swiss architect and designer Le Corbusier said in 1923. His words are still relevant today not only for the home and the city, but also for classroom design and office design.
Le Corbusier was among the pioneers who developed a relationship between interior design and architecture. Many of his furniture designs have become hallmarks of 20th century architecture history. Although he worked before the ubiquitous presence of computers and technology, his prescient view of furniture design and organization applies to the thinking behind cutting-edge classroom and office environments of the 21st century. Le Corbusier’s seamless integration of lighting fixtures, shelves, cupboards, and cabinets into their surrounding environment parallels the best contemporary classroom designs, where those elements are accompanied by comprehensive wire management systems, podiums, computer tables, and collaboration furniture.
High quality classroom design, complete with computer desks, computer tables, and collaboration tables, falls into a category that Le Corbusier called “human limb objects” — physical things that extend human capabilities and productivity.  In the world of furniture and classroom design, his words apply to tables and chairs as artwork of their space: “Certainly, works of art are tools — beautiful tools. And long live the good taste manifested by choice, subtlety, proportion, and harmony.”
The careful balance Le Corbusier articulates is one of aesthetics and functionality. It forms the core of sound classroom design and ergonomic desks and chairs. The versatility and flexibility of convertible computer tables are the key components of an advanced technology center or modern learning space. Architectural efficiency was one of the Le Corbusier’s most prominent ideologies, and it still plays a vital role in classroom and office space planning.
Here are a few tips and guiding questions to keep in mind when designing for efficiency in your own classroom.
1. Before beginning the planning phase, brainstorm all possible uses for the space. Does your classroom design need to include ample space for breakout activities and modular-shaped furniture, or are lines of computer tables for a more traditional approach most suited to your needs?
2. Computer tables and conference tables come in a plethora of shapes and sizes. Which accommodates your existing technology infrastructure best, and/or what is the technology infrastructure you would like to change or develop?
3. Consider the scale of your room(s). From K-12 environments to higher education to the corporate boardroom, the size of your furniture will define your space and the activities within it.
4. Similarly, what is the maximum number of people who will need to occupy the space? How can you choose furnishings in a way that makes the room feel as open as possible?
5. Chairs should encourage both comfort and good posture. This is most easily achieved through ergonomic design, which enable people to accomplish their work with greater ease and sharper focus.
6. What limits need to be placed on the available technology for your classroom design or office design? If participants will partake in both computer based and paper-and-pencil pursuits, your computer tables must offer sufficient ergonomic design to accommodate both.
7. Aesthetic and flexible wire management is an important part of designing any modern working and learning environment. Do you need moveable outlets, or would you prefer a more static arrangement? Careful consideration of technology needs will show you where and how flexible to need your computer cable organization options to be.
8. Finally, how long do you need this classroom design or office design to last? Will it be updated in the next ten years, or sooner? Think about building a space that incorporates the timeless element of high-quality furniture materials with the flexibility to update technology, such as computer monitors and smart boards, as each new model is released, and before your next major renovation.
If you’d like more ideas for designing your space, feel free to call us at 1-800-770-7042 without cost or obligation.
 

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?

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.

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.
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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.
 
 

The Common Core State Standards, widespread standardized testing, and the American education industry

Standardized testing is historically a hot-button topic in the American public education system.  From the implementation of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2002 and Race to the Top in 2009, to the more recent controversy surrounding the release of the Common Core State Standards in 2010, questions abound as to whether standardized testing can provide an accurate metric for academic success, in terms of both teacher and student performance.
According to the Common Core website, the standards “provide clear and consistent learning goals to help prepare students for college, career, and life. The standards clearly demonstrate what students are expected to learn at each grade level, so that every parent and teacher can understand and support their learning.” The ultimate goal of the standards is to produce college and career readiness from a young age — beginning in the elementary years. 
But concerns remain about how exactly to prepare students for college, especially across a diverse array of school districts and student bodies. Some who oppose the Common Core cite the limiting influence of “teaching to the test,” which according to this editorial could create a standardized test meritocracy, defining students by ratings and rankings rather than their individual intellectual and creative strengths (which are not well measured by multiple choice tests). In addition, the Common Core standards were written by 27 members of the organization Student Achievement Partners. Many of these writers are involved in the pre-existing standardized testing industry and maintain interests in its economic growth. 
On the other hand, proponents of the program argue that because the standards merely indicate what students should be capable of as they progress through the grade levels. Individual curricula are still left to the discretion of their teachers and schools. As such, they claim that teaching a standardized skill set within the flexible framework of the Common Core will, on the whole, boost students’ academic performance.
SMARTdesks and the Common Core  
SMARTdesks is a firm believer the project-based learning and collaborative work allows students to grow in ways that exclusively “teaching to the test” does not offer. Standards have the capacity to enrich education, but they also must constantly adjust to account for students and their individual learning needs. Just as rows of desks are a dated classroom layout, uniform standards can curb the opportunity to foster creativity and entrepreneurship from an early age.
This Washington Post article offers a pertinent critique of the standards and their dependence on standardized testing as a measure of success, calling this method the “test-and-punish” approach as opposed to a “support-and-improve” model. Involved diagnostic entities working to improve education – such as the California Collaborative mentioned in the article – can identify strengths and weaknesses of schools in a way that the ranking inherent in standardized testing cannot. This approach emphasizes constructive feedback rather than punitive sanctions, and enables educators to better design curricula without the looming threat of losing their jobs based on their students’ standardized test scores. 
In general, how much do Americans really know about the Common Core?
A UConn poll from earlier this month showed that the more Americans know about the initiative, the less likely they will be to support it.
Some Statistics:

  • 39% of Americans have heard of the much-debated initiative in 44  states; 95% have heard of No Child Left Behind;
  • 33% believe adopting Common Core standards will increase the quality of education in their communities, 27% say it will have no effect, 30% believe it will damage education;
  • 29% believe the Common Core will increase the number of students who attend college;
  • 33% say the initiative will mean that more of those Americans who graduate college will be ready for a career;
  • 53% of liberals favor the policy, compared to 24% of conservatives who responded to the poll.

And…38% believe Common Core is a good policy, in contrast to the 44% who believe the opposite.
This reticence perhaps stems from the consequences of No Child Left Behind, which some consider a fundamentally flawed program due to its dependence on test scores. The cost has been hefty as well; pre-NCLB annual state spending on standardized tests totaled $423 million, a figure which rose to $1.1 billion in 2008, according to this Huff Post blog entry.
For the Common Core’s response to criticism click here for the program’s elucidation of “myths vs. facts” regarding its standards.
In your opinion…Do you think the Common Core will help or harm students and teachers in the long run? What does college-and-career readiness mean to you?

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

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 . . . 
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The Final Product . . .
P1030084
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 . . . 
P1030066-1024x576
 
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?

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.