Some background info: I see the phrase “disruptive technology” all over the place and it makes me cringe. It has become one of those trendy buzz-phrases; destined to rise to celebrity status and then phase out in a couple of years because it’s been overplayed. I’d like to think of myself as less trendy and more classic. You know, I stick to a timeless black dress rather than buy a frock in the color of the moment (which, as I have recently discovered, is this fall’s burgundy.) But as I started to outline this post, I disappointed myself with how many times “disruptive” came to mind. And then, I moved forward.
I am insanely lucky that I get to travel all over the country visiting campuses, discussing challenges and successes with AV and IT ed tech professionals. It gives me a unique opportunity to understand trends as they are happening…and the issues that inevitably arise when colleges and universities try to design technology trends into their specific and distinct environments (remember BYOD?). Imagine my surprise when one of the most disruptive of these trends isn’t technological at all.
According to Whatis.com disruptive technology is “one that displaces an established technology and shakes up the industry.” Inside the very efficient flex classroom is one such disruption. The flex classroom itself is a room that can transition from a traditional lecture style environment to one that encourages active learning and collaboration, or any configuration in between. This type of space is inherently challenging for audiovisual designers and support staff mainly because of one ridiculously simple and definitely not new piece of equipment…the caster.
In order for the flex classroom to be, well, flexible, the furniture must be easily moved. So chairs, desks, tables and lecterns are designed with casters. It is so straightforward and yet so problematic. If chairs and desks are going to be pushed into tables, where will be the best locations to hang displays/ screen? If the room configuration is unknown, where will the users require power for equipment and charging?
Those darn casters mess everything up. Here are a few things to keep in mind when designing these flex spaces so you can try to out-smart those casters:
- Sit with faculty to determine the PRIMARY use of the space based on their curriculum and pedagogy. There will be exceptions, but if you can nail down how the room will be used 60-70% of the time, you’re ahead of the game.
- Place power and charging throughout the room. Be strategic about where you will have power so that if the configuration is changed, there is still access relatively local to the users. FSR’s FL-200P floor boxes offer enough room for just power and data in a smaller box that blends in with the flooring. Additionally, USB charging, including POE USB chargers, can be offered in a small footprint- many times up to 6 inputs in a single plate.
- If using hardwired technology be smart about where those cables are coming from and going to. Cables cannot be a trip hazard, even temporarily. Cable management will be an important part of these flex classrooms.
No matter how you look at it, casters have significantly disrupted traditional classroom technology designs. Flex spaces are becoming more common across campuses. Have you developed unique solutions to flex classroom challenges at your school? Share them below!