It is evident that classroom design is changing. The one-size-fits-all model that was popular for decades is slowly being phased out in favor of more flexible, student-centered learning environments. Teachers across the nation are disrupting the traditional classroom setting by integrating innovative technology with flexible seating solutions. The goal is to better accommodate students’ different learning needs while promoting the types of skills required for future careers.
Camille Dahnke, a kindergarten teacher in California, understands the importance of this change, having experienced the progression in classroom design and student learning over the past 15 years. For many years, her classroom was equipped with an overhead projector and traditional desks and chairs. But for her, and the needs of her students, that was never enough. It wasn’t until 2016 that Camille was able to introduce her students to classroom laptops, a Prowise interactive panel, and collaborative software. Still, there was something missing. Something that would complete the puzzle to give her students the optimal learning environment. After receiving a grant from her school district, Camille finally had the opportunity to pair her new classroom technology with flexible furniture solutions. Her classroom was disrupted indeed, and the puzzle was finally complete!
In an exclusive interview with ELB, Camille shares her flexible learning journey and how the integration of furniture and technology has enhanced her students’ learning. Although the combination of flexible furniture and interactive technology is still relatively new to her classroom, she has already experienced noticeable improvements in both engagement and learning. Let’s hear from Camille about these experiences and outcomes:
ELB: “How many years have you been teaching?”
Camille: “Currently, this is my 15th year of teaching and I have taught grades K-3.”
ELB: "What inspires you and your teaching?"
Camille: “I am mostly inspired by seeing the joy and enthusiasm on my students’ faces each morning. I believe that school should be a place where students feel appreciated for who they are and a place where they are eager to come to each day.”
ELB: "What type of technology have you previously used in your classroom?”
Camille: “Technology in my classroom is still relatively new. Four years ago, I was still preparing overhead transparencies and wheeling out an overhead projector when I wanted to guide students through an activity or introduce a new concept. Now, I am very grateful for our Principal Hosch's, incredible vision. My classroom is now well equipped with a short throw projector, HoverCam, student laptops, Prowise Pro Line Chromebooks and my favorite, a 65’’ Prowise Interactive Flat Panel.”
ELB: "“What challenges did previous technologies pose?"
Camille: “I always felt that my biggest challenge as a kindergarten teacher was integrating older technology with my flexible lesson plans. There can be many interruptions in a kindergarten class and sometimes lessons have to be postponed. Suddenly, I might need students to work in small groups as I counsel a student who may be upset about something which happened on the playground.”
ELB: “How is the Prowise solution being used in your classroom now? And how has it helped you overcome previous challenges?”
Camille: “Utilizing the interactive tools within Prowise Presenter software has allowed me to create a variety of presentations to accommodate the flexibility I need in a bustling Kindergarten classroom. I can instantly access a presentation and have a small group working with purpose on selected skills. I can link my Presenter lessons to our reading exercises and in minutes we can organize key events and details into a Thinking Map. Immediately following a student-led brainstorming session, presentations can be easily converted into a pdf file and printed so students have an instant writing prompt to inspire their writing.”
ELB: “How has the Prowise solution improved teaching and learning?”
Camille: “I love that with Prowise Presenter software, I can build new, customized lessons upon past lessons in a format that is familiar to my students. I can build presentations that include all of the skills I want to cover in a week and include links to external websites that support the week’s focus. Through thoughtful planning and the use of the tools in Presenter, I can create lessons that are both engaging and interactive.
By using the Prowise panel, my kindergarten students have the opportunity to interact with text, numbers and objects in ways that would be difficult to facilitate otherwise. I can set up a station for 8 Kindergarteners to work interactively on a task and in seconds I can move that group on to another task and reset the presentation for the next group of students. The flow between lessons is now smooth. Once I have prepared a presentation, it can be used repeatedly, modified as needed, and requires no physical classroom storage. Primary teachers spend so many hours printing, laminating, cutting materials for students to use for limited amounts of time and Prowise has greatly diminished the amount of time I now have to devote to such tasks.”
ELB: “Before flexible furniture was introduced, what type of furniture did you use previously in your classroom?”
Camille: “My classroom was only equipped with traditional student desks and chairs. I have a kidney shaped teacher table where students gather to work with me and I have a brightly colored alphabet rug for students to sit on during whole group instruction.”
ELB: “What challenges did these traditional furniture pieces pose?”
Camille: “When you run must-dos or traditional centers, tables, desks or chairs work fairly well most of the time. However, as soon as I incorporated Daily 5 and Daily 3 Independent Literacy and Math rotations, I was scrambling to provide additional, more versatile seating options. Although some students still elected to sit in a chair at a desk or table, I noticed immediately that many students gravitated toward the pillows and stools after the NorvaNivel furniture arrived.”
ELB: “How did you go about obtaining flexible furniture for your classroom?”
Camille: “Through an Innovation Grant opportunity provided by my school district, Redlands Unified, I was able to apply for and ultimately awarded a grant for up to $10,000 worth of innovative furniture and technology. Through this generous grant, I was able to enhance my classroom environment with 15 - 24’’ GENGA Blocks, 6 ROCKER OTTS and 6 WOBBLE Boards in addition to 12 Prowise Pro Line Chromebooks and a Prowise 21.5” All-in-One PC, AKA “The Mini Prowise.”
ELB: “How do you use the NorvaNivel furniture in your classroom?”
Camille: “I am continually amazed by my Kindergarten students and their creativity with the flexible furniture options in my room. They come up with such innovative creations that truly support their focus and learning. I still use our traditional student desks and chairs though so my students have a space to store their binders, facilitate whole-group practice with math tools and for art lessons."
ELB: “How has flexible technology and furniture improved teaching and learning?”
Camille: “I believe we all work best when we feel comfortable. I once read an article on EdSurge about the concept of the 21st century classroom and how it reminds us of Starbucks. This article really stood out to me because I believe that the “one size fits all learners” is not the best approach for my young students. Some kids are more comfortable and productive working under a table or lounging on something that is versatile since it helps promotes a personalized learning environment in the classroom. This has definitely been the case in my classroom this year as I have incorporated NorvaNivel furniture into my room along with Pro Line Chromebooks, the Prowise 21.5” All-in-One PC and the Prowise interactive panel. My students have embraced our flexible furniture and have demonstrated greater stamina during extended reading and work times while using the furniture. My teaching has improved as well because students are no longer limited to sitting on the rug for a lesson, students are now empowered with furniture that helps them to maintain their focus and engagement. The result is higher engagement and more successful learning.”
ELB: “How has the staff and student body responded to the integration of flexible furniture paired with technology?”
Camille: “Everyone who comes into my classroom is eager to try out the NorvaNivel furniture options. We recently held a staff meeting in my classroom and all who had an opportunity to sit on a ROCKER OTT were very pleased with the flexibility and comfort they provide. Similarly, parent volunteers who come into my room have been impressed with their versatility since they not only serve as a comfortable seating option for adults, but also provide focused seating for students. Judson and Brown students of all ages are intrigued by the pairing of flexible technology with flexible furniture. My former students enjoy visiting my class to see current kindergarteners as focused learners and even give up their recesses to come work with my students. They are amazed by the technology skills that these kindergarteners are developing. ”
ELB: “What has been your favorite part of the dual integration?”
Camille: “My classroom motto states “We come to school each day to LEARN and have FUN while learning!” NorvaNivel’s furniture paired with Prowise technology ensures that we have fun while we are learning each and every day. Whether it is creating a personalized desk with a Pro Line Chromebook or surfing on WOBBLE Boards while interacting with Presenter tools to work toward concept mastery, my students are focused and engaged. They are learners who LOVE coming to school.”
ELB: “Do you have any favorite moments with the furniture or technology you would want to share with us?”
Camille: “I am so inspired by my young learners’ desire to become “Kindergarten Prowise Experts.” They are fearless when it comes to tackling a new task on Prowise or creating something to demonstrate their understanding of a concept using Prowise Presenter. One of the most significant Prowise highlights for me was when a student who often struggled to maintain engagement asked me if police stations have Prowise because he wants to be a police officer and he wants to learn how to be a police officer using Prowise. Clearly, the Prowise solution is a great way to learn! During our Friday “You Decide” choice time, students have the opportunity to build and create structures using our NorvaNivel flexible furniture. They absolutely love the opportunity to use the furniture for the purpose of constructing and it’s been a wonderful opportunity for Kindergarteners to boost their creativity and to work collaboratively.”
ELB: “What are other key benefits or results you would like to highlight?”
Camille: “Since implementing flexible furniture into my classroom I have noticed that students now ask for extra time to read independently. Overall student engagement has increased when the flexible furniture is being used and students maintain their focus for longer periods of time. Although getting started with technology initially required more of my time, the use of Prowise solutions in my classroom has improved my ability to differentiate my lessons to meet my students individual needs in an efficient way. My students are developing a love of learning and strengthening their “tech muscles” at the same time.”
ELB: “Do you have any other comments about where you think the future of education is heading?”
Camille: “It is invigorating to see how enthused five and six year olds can be about learning to use technology tools with flexible seating. Prowise has been an invaluable addition to my teaching practices and my students’ learning. I hope that many more Primary grade teachers and administrators will see the value in this EdTech tool and will embrace its’ use in their classrooms. Each year, students are using more student devices and it is imperative that we continue to teach young students the purpose and academic value of technology as well as the value of good digital citizenship.”
ELB: “Thank you for sharing your flexible learning journey with us! We are inspired by your stories and we look forward to supporting your teaching and learning needs.”