Do children really need to sit at desks while they learn? Not necessarily, say some forward-thinking researchers. In fact, the classroom of the future may even incorporate movement into regular lessons. Mayo Clinic obesity researcher James Levine, MD, PhD, and child researcher Lorraine Lanningham-Foster, PhD, are testing a radical concept: Together they have designed what they believe to be the first chairless school—complete with “standing” desks and a host of sophisticated learning technologies.
Researchers spent a week with 30 fourth and fifth graders. During this time, the researchers measured all activity in the “traditional” classroom. A week later, they moved into the “school of the future” and monitored the children’s activity once again. The activity data was collected using specialized telemetry devices called Posture and Activity Detectors (PADs). The PADs measured time spent standing and walking, and each child wore one on his or her leg. Educational testing also took place.
Here are some of the innovations the research team tested:
- video-streamed “podcasting” as a teaching aid
- “Learn ’n Move” bays
- personalized laptop computers
- earpieces that measure physical activity
- vertical magnetic work spaces that double as projection screens
- personalized white boards (instead of one large blackboard for a room)
- “standing” desks (the children stand and work, rather than sit)
The most amazing advance, according to Dr. Levine, was giving children the chance to move at school. “Children are so amazing,” he said. “They are adaptable and actually love to learn; we just have to let them move naturally.”