Someone commented on the previous post asking how different body shapes would fit in the Node. I recommend viewing this video because it shows real students using the chairs. You’re able to get a sense of spacing. The nice thing about the tablet workspace is that you can adjust it accordingly-- it is fairly accommodating to each person.
I was in a classroom last week for a faculty training session and these were the chairs we had to work with. If you want to talk about limited space for Big & Tall take a look at the current era of chairs on your campus.
“FIT, MOVE, STORE”
Continuing my interview wit Sean
Corcorran, Director, Product Development & Marketing @ Steelcase
- The big aspiration was to support active learning. That was the core theme they wanted to explore. As students and technology and teaching styles have changed, there has been a widening gap between classroom needs and what exists. The sense I got from their research is that current state of furniture and classroom models might actually be preventing the activity of learning from reaching it’s full potential. Mentally we’ve evolved but are confined by physical limitations.
- Sean said that as they moved into the conceptualization phase that there were three central concepts that they wanted to express in the design: fit, movement, and storage.
- FIT. They were creating something that would fit both the needs and the bodies of today’s students—from 300-pound football players to more petite students. It had to be a shape that was comfortable and accommodating. Sean spoke a lot about avoiding pinch-points and sharp edges. They didn’t want students to feel wedged in. Students needed to be able to shift around in their seat, cross their legs, and twist about. They can also rock in place, which I really like. The back of the seat also has a little give. And like I mentioned about the work surface can be positioned for what is needed. (Writing, typing, reading, eating, or out of the way completely.) The main points: it fits the student, their stuff, and what they need to do.)
- Movement. Portability was the first aspect that really grabbed my attention. When I sat in the Node I knew this was something different. The theme of movement was critical on several levels. On a macro level they wanted students to be able to move to different points in the room (lecture mode, small group, circles, etc)—the casters enable that. Sean used the phrase “active ride” to describe the motion—it cruises along nicely. On a micro level the seats rotate in place allowing you to maintain eye contact with others or to focus attention to other spots in the room, such as whiteboards, screens, maps, etc. These elements work together allowing students to move around the room physically and mentally.
- Storage. As they observed classroom settings they realized that it’s no longer about bookracks on the bottom of chairs, but rather all about backpacks these days. Steelcase wanted to reclaim the space under the seat and make it functional for the user. They found that current seating made it difficult for students to access their stuff during class, so they not only created a large hole in the bottom area, but also created elbow perches that could double as backpack holders. I like the phrasing he used about “reclaiming” the space for the user. It also helps get stuff off the floor. The chair also becomes a utility closest of sorts, reducing the amount of clutter on the work surface.
OTHER NOTES ON THE NODE
- Chairs come with or without tablet arm. You can pull the chairs up to tables. Oh and it’s not a tablet arm--- it’s a personal work surface! It was designed to hold laptops.
- They tested Node at two sites: a high school and a big state U (with an underperforming football and basketball team!) Obviously they needed to test it in the real world in order to fold ideas back into the design. At the university they choose a general humanities building which hosted a variety of classes (History, Film, French) with the idea of testing the chairs with different instructors and different students.
- In the high school they tried it with one class, an English class. In this case the teacher owned the room, it was her space, she used it the entire day. She was impressed with how quickly the students adapted to the chairs and how they learned to transition between the various setups: U-shapes, semi-circle, lecture mode, groups of three, etc. This enabled her to experiment more with assignments and teaching style.
- These onsite tests confirmed that transitions between learning modes were helpful for teaching/learning also could occur very quickly. Students not only found the chairs to be comfortable, but they thought they were cool, modern, and felt special they got to try them out. There is a study for someone out there—the impact of stylish furniture on the attitudes and aptitude of learning. In their research (and this is the PR talking) they found that 100% of the participants said they “loved” the Node compared to other classroom seating that they were familiar with and that they especially liked the work surface.
- When the Steelcase training their sales force on the Node they found that after using Node for a day that it felt very limiting to go back to using standard classroom chair. They had felt more active and involved with the environment and each other in the Node rooms.
- Their goal was to design light years beyond the traditional classroom chair. The design of existing chairs was poor and dated and not very suited for 21st century learning. He really stressed 21st Century learning, I suspect that’s the message that are building into the brand. The goal was to solve the problems of storage, comfort, movement, and fit and to make a modern and beautiful chair that could reinvent the classroom.
- Sean mentioned that they spoke with Dr. Lennie Scott Weber (Radford)—she advised them that if they truly wanted to encourage faculty and students to act differently in the classroom setting that they needed to give them permission to do so. If Steelcase just designed the same old thing or only made small improvements, it would be too easy to default to what they knew—the static mode of teaching. What was needed was a surprise, perhaps to even scare them a little—make them curious—make them want to understand how it works—make them want to try it out. So the goal wasn’t just to make a chair that looked different but to really push the envelope, conceptually and visually.
Some More Concept Pics
That’s it for now. I’ll have one more Node-related post after the 4th—and I’ll tie it all into libraries and our role in the educational ecosystem. Hope everyone had a nice time at ALA. I’m afraid to cross back over the mountains and feel the drench of humidity.