Sunday, May 4, 2014

Listen Up! Middle School Students Speak Out About Node Desks

After a 6 week trial, I wanted to get some feedback from Middle School students regarding the Steelcase Node Desks.  I selected two 6th grade classes from which to collect feedback as well as to discuss the bigger concept of flexible learning spaces and student choice. It is my opinion that replacing existing furniture with new furniture that is all the same gains us nothing. As you will hear from the students themselves, learning styles vary as does their preferences for learning space.

I feel strongly that their should be variety within the classroom so that students can select a personal learning space that fits their learning style. During this lesson, students quickly configured desks to facilitate a group discussion regarding the Node Desks. I then asked students to move into small groups to discuss categories of seating types and to select their top 3 choices. I created a Google Doc with examples of various seating categories.  The categories included:

  • Soft seating
  • Chairs
  • Wobble stools
  • Cafe tables
  • Large tables

After discussing and selecting their favorites, students moved once again into a large group discussion formation to share out and explain the rationale behind their choices. Below are the summaries of our class discussions. The second video is annotated.

Feedback and attitudes that were consistent within these groups include the following:

  • Students have distinct preferences regarding personal learning space.
  • Students want to have choices in their learning space. 
  • Characteristics within the space can have a positive or negative impact on their learning
  • Some types of furnishing work better for certain courses than others
  • For most students, the Node desktops are too small for the resources and technologies that are currently being used for instruction.
  • Students like the mobility. They felt mobility was beneficial for the following reasons:
    • Easy to move to work with small groups and the groups were more flexible
    • Easy to see the teacher no matter where she was in the room
    • Ability to self adjust if they needed quiet workspace to focus
  • Some students need to move while processing information or solving problems and swiveling helps
  • Some students will abuse the mobility factor but teacher expectations are important for success
  • Tables with whiteboard surfaces for brainstorming and collaborating were very popular
  • Students want to have a voice in creating a space that fits their learning needs
These students had great input regarding the Node desks and choices they would like to see in the classrooms. It is my hope that as we make decisions for the new building that student committees will be a part of the decision making process when it comes to furnishing the space which will be so important to their learning experience!