Trends in Education: View From the Industry
- By Michael Fickes
- July 1st, 2019
Thought Leader: Ashley Houck, Senior
Manger, Vertical Market K12 has over
10 years of collecting insights and
translating them into innovative products
across multiple markets.
Company: Learn by Safco®
Contact Info: AshleyHouck@safcoproducts.com
Q: What are some of the trends you are
seeing in education for student furniture?
A: There are a few trends we are seeing
as we talk to teachers and administrators.
First, the idea of flexible seating. Chairs that
allow students to choose where and how
they sit while they learn are very important
in today’s classrooms. Schools are also
looking for seating that provides movement
for students to fidget in a more natural way
versus more distracting outlets that can lead
to interruptions in the classroom. Second,
mobility and reconfiguration are big for the
classroom and spaces outside the classroom
too. The ability to easily move desks, chairs,
tables and other classroom furniture is
critical for the varying ways students learn
and the activities teachers need to do while
teaching. Schools have learned that one size
does not fit all when it comes to learning, so
the furniture throughout the school needs to
reflect this and be able to change quickly with
Q: Why do you think flexible seating is an
important addition to classrooms?
A: Flexible seating offers a variety of options
for students in a classroom. This allows them
to not only make a choice about where to sit,
but also what seat is the most comfortable
for them. Some students may choose a chair
that allows a lot of movement, while other
students may want no movement at all. Plus,
having multiple chairs gives students the
ability to switch during the day. Depending
on their mood, the classroom activity, or time
of day there is a seating option that fits how
they need to learn. Many flexible seating
options are also designed to be moved easily,
so reconfiguring seating options can be done
by the students and not just teachers or
Q: Where do you see flexible seating in the
A: Flexible seating will continue to be
an important part of the educational
environment and grow as students, teachers
and even parents see the benefit of having
it available. The seating will continue to
adapt to school and classroom needs as
curriculums and learning methods change
over time. Educators will seek seating and
other pieces that help students learn and
provide flexible solutions that can grow and
change with their environment.
Thought Leader: Jim Elliot, Midwest /
ProTeam®, is a senior
sales executive with a
passion for calculating
Company: ProTeam, The Vacuum Company
Contact Info: email@example.com or 866/888-2168
Q: Cordless backpack vacuums require a
higher initial investment. How do I determine
the ROI for a cordless backpack vacuum
compared to an upright?
A: When I started in this industry 30 years
ago, you had to really tell the customer
how the math works in their favor. You had
to be able to say, “Here’s how productive
we’re going to be. We can pay for this in
‘X’ number of months.” That’s why, in my
work, my emphasis is still on teaching
and on clearly illustrating the benefits of
new innovative approaches, like cordless
Let’s start with some hard facts about the
productivity advantages of cordless backpack
vacuums over upright vacuums. If you’re
cleaning a 100,000-square-foot facility, you
could realize an annual savings in five figures
simply by switching to a cordless backpack.
How is that possible? Let’s do the math.
We know that a standard upright takes
three to five times longer to clean the same
space as a battery backpack. Tests show
that an upright cleans approximately 2,500
square feet per hour. If you have 100,000
square feet of floor space, it’s going to take
35 hours to clean it with an upright. But
with a cordless backpack vacuum, you can
cover 10,000 square feet per hour. That
means that the same area will take about
9.5 hours to clean. Based on an hourly wage
of $13/hour, the labor savings add up to as
much as $87,000 a year.
Q: Many vacuums improve IAQ. What is the
value of improving IAQ?
A: Although it’s harder to put a price tag
on improving indoor air quality (IAQ), it
certainly benefits a building’s occupants
and its cleaning staff. After all, most of us
spend 80 to 90 percent of our time indoors.
Most upright vacuums kick up the very dust
you’re trying to remove. That isn’t just bad
for IAQ—it eventually settles and needs to
be cleaned again.
Q: Cordless vacuums remove the potential
trip hazard of a cord. What is the value of
A: While we can’t track the savings from
accidents that never happened, we do know that
a single trip-and-fall incident can cost tens of
thousands of dollars in medical and insurance
costs. Of course, providing a safe work environment
isn’t just economical; it’s ethical.
Tom Brennan is the
founder and CEO of
and Past Chair of the
EdMarket Board of
Directors. He is passionate
educators prepare students for the future and
believes in fostering long-lasting partnerships
with school districts.
Q: Are you seeing a change in the attitudes
of educators about new designs of learning
A: In the 20 years since I started School
Outfitters, I have never seen educators more
receptive to new furniture innovations that
can support changing pedagogy. While not
as important as the teacher, research shows
a great environment helps kids feel more
loved, engaged, and focused. This makes our
work even more fun, because we can make
a more meaningful impact in the classroom
with our new designs. I encourage teachers
and administrators to embrace new options
because the journey to better education is a
Q: What trend has you most concerned?
A: Confusing the construction event with real
change. I worry when I see customers who
expect a new physical learning environment
to suddenly make people teach or learn
differently. Change is a process that must
be fostered and developed in an organization
full of human beings who tend to resist it. It’s
hard work, and perhaps the most critical skill
educators need to be developing today. You’re
going to fail along the way, but that failure can
drive improvement as you learn. Don’t make
the ribbon-cutting the end of your discussions
about how to foster learning. Make it the
Q: What’s most important in selecting a
A: First, I would look for a vendor partner who
is willing to listen. There are a lot who just start
selling their solution before even understanding
your problem. Your needs deserve careful
analysis and consideration by any vendor.
Next, I would look for responsiveness—do
they do what they say they are going to do, in
a timely manner? Not everyone has done the
work of creating a truly customer-responsive
organization. Once they propose a solution, it
ought to ladder back perfectly to your goals and
answer your question—they need to show they
were paying attention! When delivery comes
there will inevitably be minor hiccups—watch
how they handle these unplanned issues. Do
they do it with efficiency and grace? Ultimately,
you are trying to find vendors who understand
your needs and are trustworthy. That trust must
Q: Education facilities at all levels are
undergoing quite a bit of change. What is
one trend you are following regarding new
A: At National we are tracking the emerging
trend to include spaces within schools or
universities that are designed for reflection,
or to offer respite. These spaces are primarily
meant to provide students with a chance to
step away from their usual “busyness.” They
may be called a reflection room, meditation
room, mindful room, or even multi-faith room.
Q: Why do today’s students need a place
to get away from their usual tasks or
A: The pressures on students have
multiplied, much as they have for adults.
The push for excellence; the abundance of
extracurricular activities; the all-too-familiar
pattern of mass shootings. Certainly, the
growing influence of social media on young
lives can also exacerbate the stress that
students of all ages are experiencing.
Research shows that the need for
student mental health resources is
increasing. For example, the American
Psychological Association reports a 30
percent increase in college students seeking
on-campus counseling. With 75 percent
of all serious adult psychiatric illnesses
starting by age 25, schools and universities
play an essential role in addressing mental
health issues early.
Q: How are institutions addressing the need
for spaces which allow students to focus on
their mental health?
A: A growing number of institutions are
providing quiet spaces where students can
gather their thoughts, reflect, pray, or meditate.
These spaces may be furnished with soft
seating, floor cushions, or mats. Calming colors
are often used, and soft music may be played.
If practical, these types of rooms or spaces
are located in a quiet part of the building,
with guidelines that restrict group study or
conversation. The use of electronic devices may
be discouraged or prohibited. Additional points
may include restricting food or drink, or the use
of scented candles or incense.
Experts recognize that emotional health
is important for succeeding in school. This
growing trend to provide reflective spaces
is evidence of administrators seeking to
engage students’ spirits as well as their
Dr. Dieter Breithecker,
Kinetics Scientist, is
the President of the
Federal Institute on
the Development of
Posture and Movement
Company: On behalf of VS America
Contact Info: firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: How does movement nourish the brain?
A: When muscle fibers are activated, blood
circulation increases. The brain receives more
oxygen and neuroplastic messengers support
nerve cell growth and synaptic switching.
Students’ brains are more alert and they are
emotionally more engaged – conditions which
have a positive impact on school performance.
Move your body and your mind will follow.
As humans we have special sensory organs
located in the inner ear and in the muscles,
tendons, and joints. As “eyes” inside our
bodies, they register muscle activities and
stimulate our cerebral activities. But the
positive effects of those sensory organs
can only be revealed if they are regularly
stimulated by motion. Just as eyes need
daylight and noses need fresh air, the sense
of balance, along with muscle and movement
sensors, needs regular posture changes
and movement. Keeping our sensory organs
engaged keeps us aware and alert.
Q: What role does furniture have in learning
A: Furniture in learning spaces plays a
pivotal role, greatly influencing physiological
learning behavior and social interactions.
Furniture also creates opportunities for
healthy and needs-appropriate behaviors
by opening up possibilities for a variety of
postural changes and movement.
Recent scientific findings make it clear
that room furnishings based only on rigid
chairs, tables, and tablet chairs lead to
serious pressures on physical and mental
health. These recent results are so significant
that they are being captioned by magazines
as “sitting is the new smoking” without
seeming overly exaggerated.
The main culprit is passive sitting. The
energy expenditure in sedentary behavior is
so low that health risks have increased for
multiple pathologies such as obesity, type
II diabetes, high blood pressure, dementia,
and even cancer (Dunstan et al. 2012 and
Katzmarzyk et al. 2009, Haly et al. 2017,
Healy et al. 2008).
Children often sit up to ten hours per
day, and have poor posture while sitting.
This behavior, ingrained from childhood, is a
pattern we need to break.
Q: How often should students stand during
the school day?
A: Sit as necessary but encourage as much
postural change and exercise as possible.
Here’s a healthy recommendation for a
- 50% sitting (note: dynamic sitting on agile
chairs so there is still movement)
- 30% standing
- 20% movement within the space
Consider how important movement is for all
ages. People aged:
- 6-10 should not sit more than 5 minutes
at a time.
- 11-15 not more than 10 minutes.
- 16+ not more than 20 minutes at a time.
Jean Nouvel, Architect,
is a Pritzker Prize
architect and designer
have changed the
face of architecture
Company: Jean Nouvel Design
Contact Info: email@example.com
Q How do you understand the relationship
between school furniture, room design, and
students’ learning experiences?
A: For me, every object poses a question.
Every time we look at an object or a piece of
furniture, we become more familiar with it
and it makes an imprint in our minds. So I
believe that we carry with us the experiences
of furniture that we regularly used, especially
in the educational environment. For that
reason, it’s important that this furniture is
made with love and care.
Q What attracted you most about the
mission to create a chair for the education
market with VS America?
A: My parents were teachers, and I am
also the father of a little girl. I know all too
well that children often perceive chairs as
instruments of torture because they want to
get up and jump around.
I still remember my wooden school
bench and the chairs behind which we
played hide and seek, so it’s very clear to me
that these chairs have to be robust enough
to withstand the hurricane-like nature of
children. So it was quite clear to me that
durability needed to be a central criteria in
the design. Also, that school chairs must
be able to be integrated into a variety of
different types of schools. I believe that a
piece of furniture must be able to adapt
to its setting, which means that with our
design, we have to be able to respond to all
possible life situations.
Q How did your parents being teachers
influence your design concept?
A: I always told my parents that schools
should be more concerned with architecture
and design. In my opinion, education in
architecture and in design must take place
in parallel, but in France everything is much
too strictly separated. It’s also important
that students learn from good examples
and that they find these examples in the
place where they spend a lot of time, namely
in school. I haven’t been very involved
with the educational content – although I
myself have participated in the conception
of a well-known educational institute
– but I definitely think that the subject
of architecture and design also raises
questions for teachers and pupils.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2019 issue of School Planning & Management.