How IDEO and Steelcase have innovated to create the classroom chair of the future

by | Jun 21, 2010

I am a huge fan of Ideo. I like their thinking, their philosophy, and their drive for execution.

The case that is often cited when talking of IDEO is the work they did with Shimano in developing the coasting bike. Now they have done it again. Steelcase Design Studio worked with IDEO to design a classroom chair that would provide quick and seamless transitions from one teaching mode to the next. The swivel seat allows students to easily rotate and view information being shared throughout the classroom. The open seat design enables them to change postures and positions, offering comfort in multiple settings. Its mobile base offers the ability to move back and forth from lecture mode to teambased learning, without interruption.

Steelcase research shows a variety of teaching modes occur in today’s classroom, such as group discussions, team collaboration, and lecture — all of which contribute to more effective learning and instruction. Educators are turning to multiple teaching modes to support multiple learning styles. However, while teaching methods have evolved, the classrooms themselves are not designed to support multiple activities or the transitions required to employ them efficiently.

Many traditional classrooms actually inhibit current teaching methods by creating physical and social barriers between students and teachers. They have been designed for one-way learning with tight rows of desks and chairs that inhibit movement and interaction, keeping instructors confined to the front of the room, where there are few opportunities to connect with students. Students are confined to chairs that are secured to the floor or are difficult to move, forcing them to struggle to adjust to see the instructor, fellow students or content displays.

“Students today expect a more active learning environment that supports co-learning and group discussion, similar to their everyday interactions; but the classroom has remained largely unchanged for decades,” said Sean Corcorran, director of product development and marketing for Steelcase Education Solutions. “

The node classroom chair provides key features like its swivel seat to maintain open sightlines, casters for mobility and quick mode change, backpack storage and a large adjustable worksurface that supports laptops, textbooks and notebooks.”

My only question is: if this is a chair for the classroom of the future, in the future, do we need classrooms at all?

Classroom for the future

Jeffrey Tobias

About Jeffrey Tobias

Dr Tobias is an accomplished innovation consultant and entrepreneurship strategist, drawing expertise from the academic, entrepreneurial and corporate worlds. Jeffrey’s commercial and business experience is particularly focussed on lean startup, design thinking and leadership. Prior to The Strategy Group, Jeffrey was Cisco’s Global Lead for Innovation in the Internet Business Solutions Group helping Fortune Global 500 companies improve customer experience and grow revenue by transforming how they do business.
Jeffrey is a professor of innovation and entrepreneurship teaching MBA students at the Australian Graduate School of Business at the University of New South Wales. An active angel investor, Jeffrey is on the board of various well-known startups.

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Managing Director, The Strategy Group

Dr Tobias is an accomplished innovation consultant and entrepreneurship strategist, drawing expertise from the academic, entrepreneurial and corporate worlds. Jeffrey’s commercial and business experience is particularly focussed on lean startup, design thinking and leadership. Prior to The Strategy Group, Jeffrey was Cisco’s Global Lead for Innovation in the Internet Business Solutions Group helping Fortune Global 500 companies improve customer experience and grow revenue by transforming how they do business.
Jeffrey is a professor of innovation and entrepreneurship teaching MBA students at the Australian Graduate School of Business at the University of New South Wales. An active angel investor, Jeffrey is on the board of various well known startups. Jeffrey’s corporate background includes leading global innovation strategy at Cisco, working with large corporates such as Adobe, Westpac, Telstra, Woolworths, and Perpetual.

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