Back to school safely
It's been almost six months since all educational establishments in Spain were closed and teachers were forced to finish off the school year remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. September is deemed to be a key month in terms of implementing a series of measures that are required if students and teachers are to get back into the classroom. In order for this to work, it is of utmost importance to guarantee everyone's safety in all educational centres.
Many have pointed out the negative effects that closing schools has had on students, such as the lack of socialisation (fundamental for kids of school-going age) and educational delays. For this reason, the educational community has gone to great lengths to ensure that classes can take place in person.
This requires drawing up new approaches, reorganising classrooms, as well as shared spaces and areas of transit such as libraries, gyms, laboratories, playgrounds or school cafeterias, to find the right balance between safeguarding health and providing access to education and knowledge. Both prevention and the health and safety of students, teachers and staff are at the top of the list of priorities.
In addition to the needs of these new environments, whose main characteristics include aspects such as furniture flexibility, technology and connectivity, the exchange of knowledge or autonomy among their users, there are now three new concepts that are deemed to be essential in this new reality: density, distance and hygiene.
Most educational establishments have made or are making significant strides to implement attendance protocols, whether on alternate days, morning or afternoon classes or other options, as well as rules on how spaces can be used. Planning out various scenarios, creating "bubble" groups, mask wearing, disinfection, ventilation and cleaning are also essential aspects.
Within this context, Actiu has proposed its own safe environments that guarantee learning through a guide that's been drawn up based on the advice offered by different leading educational establishments in the promotion and development of a new educational model: flexible and collaborative classrooms, with a highly versatile product that enables social distancing measures to be complied with, reconfigurable spaces, with antibacterial surfaces that are both easy to clean and ergonomic, facilitators of new learning methodologies and ICT.
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More so now than ever before, it is time to consider and reassess what the educational spaces of the present and future will be like, as well as how students and teachers will interact in these spaces.
Technology is now a great ally and facilitator of the processes involved in both face-to-face and distance learning. However, we can't lose track of the most vulnerable students, in regard to resources, learning levels or capacities, and ensure that they have proper access to education, making it as easy as possible for them to continue learning. Similarly, in the learning process, students are moving towards new forms of communication and more collaborative and participatory work models.
In this regard, ESNE, the University School of Design, Innovation and Technology, has created a Smart Classroom, conceived and designed collaboratively with students from all years of their Interior Design Degree. The idea for this project was put forward by students looking to conceptualise their ideal classroom in terms of lighting, materials, layout and furniture, for which they received Actiu's support, combining talent, design and industry.
The resulting space is agile and versatile, capable of holding lectures as well as teamwork sessions. Initially designed to accommodate 40 students, the versatility of the furniture and the width of the tables has enabled the space to be reconfigured to accommodate 20 students in person, adhering to all safety and social distancing requirements. Furthermore, to facilitate maintenance and storage, the desks are stackable, with a structure that's designed so that numerous students can work without causing interference of discomfort, as well as having wheels to facilitate mobility at all times, thereby adapting to the needs of the classroom.
The classroom also has a large interactive whiteboard and an advanced video system that allows students to take part in the class from home, as if they were actually present in the classroom.
This new reality also means that it is necessary to start preparing technological resources that guarantee, when the times comes, a high-quality distance learning experience, in addition to incorporating furniture and equipment that allows classes to be taken remotely under suitable conditions.