If national publications are calling attention to the health hazards of sitting, and if K–12 students are always sitting in the classroom, we’ve got a problem. In fact, we have several problems.
Beyond the deleterious effects of so much time off their feet (such as restlessness and inability to focus), students who sit for too long are hardly being prepared for the dynamic, mobile workplaces to which they are bound.
Luckily, there’s a simple solution: Stand up.
New Skills, New Schoolrooms
The National Education Association has identified the four C’s — critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity — that are crucial for success in the 21st century.
In a traditional classroom, students sit in rows of heavy desks, hardly ideal for forming collaborative groups. And for all the wonders mobile technology has brought into schools, a device on every desk can actually hinder communication with the other people in the room.
Standing desks like the Ergotron LearnFit, however, support the four C’s by making students as mobile as their devices. The LearnFit desktop can easily be raised, lowered or wheeled across the room. Students can collaborate seamlessly, and their devices become tools instead of tiny electronic walls. Because students aren’t bound to one particular area of the classroom, all the different minds in the space can interact at different points, sparking creativity in a way that sitting next to the same two or three people all semester can’t.
Starbucks as an Inspiration for Productivity
When I’m having these conversations, there’s one touchstone people often return to, and that is Starbucks.
The ubiquitous coffee chain is known for its lattes, its warm decor, its soothing music and the productivity of its patrons. If you look around the next time you drop in, you’ll see people working. Some will be seated at traditional tables, some curled into leather armchairs, some standing at waist-high bars, but all are absorbed in their tasks.
Starbucks has become the default model, flipping our definition of a place where we can be comfortable and productive. And the education world, which is known for being resistant to change, is taking note.
Supporting the Transition to Standing Desks
Standing desks alone are not a panacea. If school districts don’t engage their stakeholders in bigger “why” discussions — Why these desks? Why this technology? Why now? — even the shiniest new solutions can end up being adapted back to a semblance of a traditional classroom. After all, standing desks can be lowered to sitting height. Their wheels can be locked after they are arranged in rows.
Most school districts wouldn’t roll out, for example, 1,500 Chromebooks without a trial run. A pilot program for standing desks is just as important. Start with a few classrooms and with teachers who are ready and willing to try something new. Make sure those teachers have the support they need, and ask for their feedback on what works and what doesn’t. When those first few classrooms are running smoothly, the teachers can invite their colleagues in to observe.
Take it slowly, and soon your students will be on their feet.
Read how standing desks get students to move their feet and brains at edtechmag.com/k12/standup.