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Flexible seating: The SAMR model

Updated: Sep 7, 2021

Flexible Seating, that term that has been used so much lately, and that seems to have come to change education forever. Like many groundbreaking approaches that break into the educational world, many teachers joined the flow of flexible seats without prior planning or training.

After a lot of money spent on this new furniture, it is often relegated to the background resting in the corner of the class because many teachers do not know how to use it meaningfully, becoming a problem instead of a solution.

Today, we will talk about how to properly run a Flexible Seating model in the classroom creating meaningful work environments where students carry out their activities covering the needs required by each task.

Flexible Seating and technology.

Although it is hard to believe, the approach of flexible seating in the classroom has many similarities to the digital transformation or digitilization approach.

  • Technology and flexible seating are only tools that serve to enhance the teacher's pedagogy, but never have to be the center of the learning replacing the pedagogical model used by the teacher.

  • The technology in the classroom and the flexible seating is power-up tools that are not useful if not applied in a meaningful way and with prior preparation.

  • The use of technology and flexible seating can be confused with educational innovation with a very fragile pedagogical base.

Given these similarities we can say that the failures in the application of both have the same basis: A lack of training to apply these approaches in a meaningful way and with a specific objective.

Many times, we forget to ask ourselves as basic questions as: could you remove these new class materials, and your teaching would remain the same? If the answer is yes, we are doing something wrong. Technology and flexible seating must allow us to carry out activities or create working environments that we could not create before. If nothing is changing in our classes and the environment in these is the same if we removed these tools, these tools are not enhancing our teaching style and they become an obstacle without a benefit to our practice.

Many times, we forget to ask ourselves as basic questions as Could you remove these innovative new class materials, and your teaching would remain the same?

The SAMR Model

To evaluate our practice and the application of technology in the classroom. We like to use the SAMR model, a model that was created to evaluate the application of technology in the classroom, with which we value the potential benefit of these tools, as well as the impact that their use has on our teaching practice.

This model is divided into four categories emulating Bloom's taxonomy:

• Substitution

• Augmentation

• Modification

• Redefinition

The SAMR Model vía Schoology. Image Modified from Original by Lefflerd’s on Wikimedia Commons.

The first two levels (substitution and augmentation) are part of the base of the pyramid that is considered the enhancement zone, while the last two levels (modification and redefinition) are part of the transformation zone being considered this area the highest level of digital transformation.

At the substitution level, technology acts as a mere substitution of a non-technological element without bringing any structural change. For example, typing in a text editor instead of on a piece of paper.

At the level of augmentation, technology also acts as a direct replacement, but including some features that help enhance the quality of the practice. For example, including images or videos in a text editor that helps capture previously written ideas.

At the modification level (first level of the transformation zone), the technology serves more than just as a substitution. In this way, technology helps to redesign the activity that is carried out by the students. For example, the use of the grammar checker with which some digital text editors help their users to improve their grammar in their discourse and strengthen their coherence and cohesion through different suggestions generated by an artificial intelligence tool.

At the level of redefinition, considered to be the highest level of this model, technology allows its user to develop activities or tasks that were unimaginable twenty years ago. In this way, technology allows you to break molds and go further, producing disrupting experiences that redefine the boundaries known so far. The ability of an online text editor to connect people around the world to work on the same document while communicating through an available chat window is an example of redefining a practice by providing unthinkable opportunities ten years ago.

SAMR Model vía Sylvia Duckworth

The SAMR model and the Flexible Seating

The SAMR model that was initially designed to evaluate the use of technology in the classroom can also be applied to the use of flexible classroom seats:

Substitution: Replacing a chair with low ergonomic qualities with another one with a higher ergonomic level that benefits the position of the user.

Augmentation: It is still substitution but we add special features that give this substitution a structural change. For example, a chair for a yoga ball.

Modification: We exchanged several chairs for a moon-shaped sofa that enhances collaboration between users and teamwork. This modification transforms the use of seats and takes them to the next level by redefining their capabilities and purposes.

Redefinition: We change all our furniture and create different work environments that benefit the execution of specific tasks. In this way, we provide our classroom with different working environments that students can use to work on different activities depending on the characteristics and needs of these.

For example, a working environment where there are two sofas and a whiteboard in which they can collaborate and capture their ideas or a silent work environment where there are individual desks surrounded by cubes that cancel out the sound for those students who work better alone or want isolation from the noise produced by the class.

The SAMR model applied to the Flexible Seating

Considering the above, we can design the SAMR model on flexible seating as follows:

The significant use of tools that favor learning is one of the most important challenges presented by the 21st century to teachers as we find new tools in the classroom that have never been used before.

Education, the mirror of the society

The mission of any education system is to holistically prepare its younger members to be successful in future society. In this way, society and education are fed back. Society sets up the goals that education needs to meet while education is the only proven tool with a long-term impact on society.

"Education is the only proven tool with a long-term impact on society"

The needs of society have changed, and we are not just talking about the digitalization of the world in which we live or the labor market in which our students will work when they graduate.

Many times, we forget that working environments have changed. In the past, we used to work in long rows of isolated desks where employees worked sitting in a chair for hours avoiding contact with others and focused on the activities they had to complete.

American Office in 1900 vía HNF

Today, large companies and startups from the second decade of the 21st century have changed their working methodology by enabling common spaces that boost the productivity of their staff.

Infor Office vía OfficeSnapShots

As we can see the working environment has changed radically in the past years. This transformation has to bring change in the way we teach in the classroom. Let's travel quickly to a classroom from 1900.

Clase de principios del siglo XX vía Medium

Do we find any similarities between this image that reflects a classroom of the early twentieth century and the working environment of that same era?

Indeed, the education system responded to the needs and strategies used in the work environments of that time and replicated these models to prepare students for a future that meets these guidelines set by the working environments.

If we think about the environments that we replicate in our classes today, they are more like those established in the twentieth century than those established in the 21st century. For this reason, a correct and meaningful application of flexible seating (redefinition) is key in developing the skills that our students will use in their future work environment.

"A correct and a meaningful application of flexible seating is key in developing the skills that our students will use in their future work environment"
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