Getting Down to the Nuts and Bolts

by Tina Manzer


The actual components of educational spaces – even the floors, ceilings, and walls – play a more important role in learning success today than they ever did in the past. “No longer is school furniture an afterthought bid going to the lowest-cost provider,” explains Adrienne Dayton, vice president of communications and education at the Education Market Association. Instead, each physical detail of 21st-century school buildings is carefully selected by an entire team, including school administrators, facilities managers, curriculum specialists, and technology planners. “They all collaborate to plan the pedagogical intent of the design, understand the technologies that will be used, and specify all the products that will support the school’s goals,” Dayton said, in a recap of last November’s EDspaces Conference and Expo. 

Navigating through these new waters to deliver what stakeholders need and want, whether it’s stylish wall tiles that improve sound or a mobile work station for 3-D printers, is the biggest challenge facing dealers and manufacturers of school furniture and equipment, she says. 

And that’s where EDspaces comes in. The annual conference hosted by EDmarket brings stakeholders, dealers and manufacturers together to experience the latest ideas and products for creative learning environments. In attendance at the 2018 event, November 7 through 9 in Tampa, were 567 dealers from 190 companies, 205 architects and planners from 130 firms, and 39 consultants and associates from 29 different organizations.

Thanks to the conference’s scholarship program, now in its eighth year, travel grants were awarded to more than 100 purchasing decision makers from schools, districts and colleges. “The scholarships delivered buyers with nearly $13 billion in current construction projects to the exhibit floor, ensuring exhibitor face time with schools and colleges in need of high-quality furniture and equipment,” Dayton notes.

All told, 443 school and college personnel from 238 institutions attended EDspaces.

With 189 exhibitors in 617 10- by 10-foot booth spaces (an increase of 11 percent over the 2017 event) the exhibit floor was the largest to date.

What did attendees see?

A lot, including new ideas from 38 companies exhibiting at EDspaces for the first time. Among the innovations they presented were eXtreme lockers from Action Storage, a company that suggests installing lockers outside instead of taking up valuable space inside schools. Another new exhibitor, Freenotes Harmony Park, makes giant, sculptural, outdoor musical instruments. Since it began its Global Musical Park movement, music parks have sprung up all over the world. Freenotes Harmony Park installations exist on five continents and every state in the U.S.

Moving Minds’ exhibit featured the company’s Kidsfit Kinesthetic classroom furniture, including Pedal Stools, and Strider and Step Desks, which keep students moving throughout their school day. Exhibitor Nook Pod presented Nook, a mobile, modular, huddle pod originally designed to help introverts and those on the autistic spectrum in the workplace. Its number of uses quickly grew due to its ability to add efficiency and flexibility to spaces, and to create greater engagement between people.

No specific awards were presented at EDspaces to recognize product innovation, but the classrooms in which professional development sessions took place really excited attendees, Dayton says. “Edmarket conducts a contest among architects, designers and dealers to design and outfit six educational session locations. The results were creative and inspiring. They really showed how the integration of space, technology and pedagogy are driving school design.”

What did they talk about?

Topics ranged from “Trends in School Purchasing” and “Reimagining the Role of the Distributor” to “Hands Off My Play-Doh! Space, Furniture and Early Childhood Design.”

“The educational facility tours continue to be popular among architects and school personnel alike,” Adrienne says. “This year, we expanded it to include a medical college, two independent schools, two universities, a Junior Achievement college prep program, and a Jewish Community Center.”

The best attended sessions included the two keynotes. The first, “A New Architecture for 21st Century Learners,” was presented by Michael Horn, chief strategy officer at Entangled Group, an education technology studio in San Francisco. He talked about the need to rethink the fundamental architecture of schools so that new spaces for different kinds of learning can be created.

Horn is the author and coauthor of many books and papers on education, including the award-winning title Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns.

The second keynote, “Creating the Schools We Need,” was presented by Diana Laufenberg, executive director of Inquiry Schools; and Chris Lehmann, CEO of the Science Leadership Academy. They discussed the principles that enable networked learning, and ways to use technology, learner-centric classrooms, and teachers as mentors to prepare students to be functional citizens within a modern society.

Together, Laufenberg and Lehman founded Inquiry Schools in 2013, a nonprofit that creates and supports student-centered, project-based learning environments. The award-winning Science Leadership Academy is a strategic network of three progressive science and technology schools in Philadelphia.

“There were 53 individual education sessions held at EDspaces,” Dayton adds. “The top three in terms of attendance were, ‘Exploring the Future of Learning: Insights from an Educator-Designer,’ presented by Designer David Jakes; ‘Safe and Secure Schools, How Do We Get There?’ presented by Architect Chris Gibbs and Attorney Shamus O’Meara; and ‘Reimagining and Transforming Your Library Space on Any Budget,’ presented by Media Specialist Diana Rendina, Tampa Preparatory School.”

What to expect this year

Because of EDspaces’ impressive growth, the 2016 and 2017 editions were both recognized by Trade Show Executive magazine. (We have yet to see where the publication ranks EDspaces for 2018). Contributing to its growth and success are the many partnerships it has formed with organizations like the American Institute of Architects Committee on Architecture for Education, which holds its annual conference at EDspaces.

“Each year we tap into the expertise of both national and regional organizations that can help develop content and assist in promoting the event among their constituents,” explains Dayton. “We had eight partners in 2018, including four new ones: the American Society of Interior Designers, the Association of Technology Leaders in Independent Schools, the Florida Association of Curriculum Directors, and the Independent Office Products & Furniture Dealers Association. These partnerships are extremely important to our future success as we continue to grow the event. Our goal is to incorporate everyone who is interested in the convergence of pedagogy, technology and space in the learning environment.”

This year, EDspaces will take place October 25 through 27 in Milwaukee. The Planning Committee will start working in February to explore new possibilities for the event. Dayton says: “We anticipate more innovation from the exhibitors, more interactive experiences in the classrooms, fantastic tours of new education facilities, and the most comprehensive professional development program in the educational facilities marketplace.”

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