Friday, August 19, 2011


I had a fun opportunity yesterday to visit a company called Steelcase in Grand Rapids, MI.  They make classroom equipment and furniture and are involved in technology for educational purposes.  Let me just say that their website doesn't come close to the impression you get onsite.  On their website, all you see is individual pieces of furniture.  In Michigan, they not only have the furniture arranged in pedagogical and work cofigurations, but they presumably encourage their employees to use the mock rooms, not least so that visitors can see them in action.

The main purpose for the trip related to the new 5 story science building IWU is about to start constructing.  I went up with nursing, science, and math faculty who were strategizing about learning spaces.  I went because we will be breaking ground on a seminary building this spring as well.

The place is fun--at least it looks that way.  The furniture and arrangements had a European feel, a kind of souped up retro-70s style with fun innovations.  So all the chairs are build to roll and most to twist, adjust heights, etc. 

The corporate culture at least seemed relaxed.  People worked wherever they wanted.  The global HQ seemed to have a gym.  The global conference equipment was open whenever anyone needed to connect around the world.  The cafe was open 24 hours a day.  They had computer desks connected to treadmills. Food was all over the place.  Lots of mock classrooms, meeting spaces, and study spaces.

Some of the educational insights could be implemented simply by the way you arrange a classroom, supplemented by some portable whiteboards.  Of course the whiteboards they had were high tech.  A tap on a spot and the professor could project the web on the whiteboard and engage the board like it was a touch screen.  Another tap and you're writing on the web with a colored marker.  Another tap and everything on the board is saved to your laptop.  Another tap and anyone in the room can project what's on their computer screen onto a nearby screen, whether the high tech white board or a flatscreen.

But again, a simple arrangement of tables with a whiteboard at the end would go over half way toward their room and vastly improve average pedagogy today.  Another key is swivel chairs, so students can quickly spin from watching the professor to being in a group to working on their own board.

I'll stop there.  It's always fun to see how creative people are in areas you know little about.  I hope our seminary building will be able to incorporate some of these ideas.

1 comment:

::athada:: said...

GREAT city. Glad you could make it to G-Rap. The manufacturing decline has been very real in MI, but bright spots and new businesses have often been overlooked.