At the 2010 NeoCon show in Chicago, the furniture manufacturer Steelcase introduced a new classroom seating product called Node.

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Steelcase Inc. the global furniture manufacturer, today introduced node™, an active learning classroom solution at NeoCon 2010, the World’s Trade Fair for Interior Design and Facilities Management. Based on extensive ethnographic research, node includes a variety of features to support the new ways students are learning.

This is the first product from Steelcase Education Solutions, a dedicated group within Steelcase that partners with educational institutions to design products that meet the needs of today’s students and educators.

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.”

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.

For the items that aren’t needed during class, Steelcase designed the base and arm of node to hold student backpacks and personal items, keeping aisles clear of hazards and enabling the physical shift between teaching modes. The contoured seat shell will also help students maintain comfort over a long period of time. Additionally, the node chair’s large worksurface supports laptops and additional mobile devices, along with a variety of textbooks and notebooks. It’s fully adjustable and articulates to provide comfort and to accommodate both right and left-handed students equally. When used in groups, it merges with other chairs to create a group table dynamic.

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