Standing Desks Are Not Innovative

Standing desks in a classroom– whether they’re for students, teachers, or both — are NOT innovative. It is not changing how kids learn, no matter what some advertisement is trying to sell you.

Standing desks are not going to change the classroom environment for the better, especially if the “tasks” the students are doing don’t change.

If you don’t feel you have the power to change the “tasks” the kids are all doing in the classroom (you do, but we’ll debate that another time), let’s first discuss the the problems with promoting this type of  “innovation” (that is not really an innovation):

  1. If you remove all the traditional sitting desks in a classroom and replace them with standing desks, you still have a problem: All the kids are still physically doing exactly the same thing, and you’re making the assumption (consciously or not) that all kids need the same thing.
  2. Kids need to MOVE. The research is still unclear about whether sitting all day or standing all day is worse for you. Research about movement for all ages, on the other hand, is VERY clear. Kids of all ages need to move. (I only added one article on movement here. There are MANY. Search for “why kids need to move.”)
  3. Multiple options in a classroom will always be better than one option. Why not have some places where kids can stand, some places where kids can sit, some places where kids can be together… I think you get the picture. I have different options in my classroom, and the kids choose sometimes to simply sit on the floor with no furniture. When I taught high school students, it wasn’t any different. Kids need choices of where to be, and those choices should be determined by the kids… not by the adults assuming they know what the kids need. Multiple options are especially helpful in cramped-for-space classrooms.
  4. It’s really difficult to collaborate with other students when they’re all standing at individual desks. Humans are social learners, and they should have options to group up and discuss.
  5. Could we also talk about how “ableist” this “standing desk” assumption is? Not everyone can stand. Not everyone can stand for an entire school day… and that goes for adults as well as kids. I’m not going to use this space to rehash my own health issues, but I would be an absolute wreck if I had no place to sit during the day. I don’t sit there all day– I teach 5-7 year old kids. That would be impossible. BUT… my body tells me when I need to sit down. I need options, and so do my kids.

So instead of advocating the “latest, greatest” fad in standing classroom desks — or pedal desks (seriously?), why don’t we stop and think about advocating BETTER options altogether?

Provide spaces where kids can be comfortable.

Provide options for many different types of spaces in the classroom.

Provide for more movement throughout the day (sorry, Florida. BIG FAIL on the recess issue. Kids need to be moving outside every single day!). Hands tied on giving the kids more recess? Then do something, ANYTHING to help those kids move around in their space. There are yoga videos on YouTube. You can have a dance party. Just help them to move in whatever way they can.

Your best bet? Ask the students what THEY want and empower them to help make that classroom design happen. Flexible spaces can be significantly less expensive than one desk for every student. Get creative. When you involve students, you may have to help them through the creative process more than once. Make sure they “shoot for the moon” in the design process, because they might stick with the only thing they’ve ever known.

Then… make it happen. I know this is possible, because I’ve been in places where it’s changed, even this late in the school year. A teacher from Texas came to our 5Sigma Educonference (at Anastasis) in February. When she returned to her school, she shared with me,

“I came home from Denver and completely gutted my room. All desks gone including mine. Changed the mojo completely! We got tables. We are also starting our mornings with a group activity rather than desk work. So far we are loving it.”

Don’t let advertisers tell you what is best for your students. Ask the kids. Read the research… and then make it happen.

Thanks for reading.