Creating good spaces for kids to work

My wife and I have been struggling to create an "office" space for the kids (and ourselves) to work before school starts. All of the kids need access to at least one computer, preferably two or three, need school supplies handy, need comfortable spots to sit and spread out books and papers, and otherwise work in peace.

My wife and I have been struggling to create an "office" space for the kids (and ourselves) to work before school starts. All of the kids need access to at least one computer, preferably two or three, need school supplies handy, need comfortable spots to sit and spread out books and papers, and otherwise work in peace.

Sound familiar? Obviously, this happens on a much larger scale in classroom environments, where it's much harder to make kids comfortable (without putting them to sleep). How do you give kids their own spaces, allow them to share scarce computing resources, and fit technology, with its trip-happy cables and delicate pieces into constrained spaces?

In a nutshell, we went to Ikea. It's really too bad that Ikea doesn't take purchase orders, since they have so many fabulous solutions for creating interesting spaces that invite kids and adults to work. I have some assembly to do, but I think our old dining room, thanks to Ikea, is going to be one heck of a study. I don't know where we'll be eating dinner for the rest of the school year, but homework first, right?

This points to a real problem in many school settings though. As 1:1 computing takes off and kids increasingly make use of a variety of media and technology in their learning, the 30 desks in a classroom just don't make sense any longer. I struggled no end last year to make a relatively up-to-date lab accommodate 25 students and the computing equipment we needed to finish labs (up-to-date or not, the lab wasn't built to power computers, probes, and projectors). Similarly, standard-sized desks are lucky to accommodate both a book and an Asus Eee, let alone a full-sized laptop and a notebook.

As we renovate, build, and design new spaces in schools, it is quite clear that these will need to be designed around technology as much as they will need to be designed around kids and traditional instruction.

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