Tables and Chairs Make a Difference at Stanford University

If you ever have a chance to see Stanford University's Wallenberg Hall, don't pass it up. The Hall has a web page at:

The integration and use of technology in the facility is phenomenal. Despite what you might be thinking, Robert Smith, Director of Technology Services at Wallenberg Hall, recently told the Director of Education Technology Services at UC Berkeley that the tables and chairs were among the most vital innovations in the building.

Say what?

According to Dr. Smith,

"The tables and the chairs are the most widely significant technology in the building.  Both are Steelcase products: the Time Tables are from their Werndl division, and the current product is called the Flip Top (clever of them, no?)

"I haven't had a chance to evaluate this newer model, but the Time Tables are showing the wear after four years... we repair their folding mechanisms about once a year, usually because of people sitting on them (as pictured in the new website, so I have some hope).

"The chairs are Cachet chairs.  We have both rolling and stacking flavors, they're four years old and look like new.  Everyone loves them."

Bruce Horn from UC Santa Cruz made this observation about Wallenberg:

"When we first saw Wallenberg Hall this was my perception also that the moveable furniture was one of the best things about the space. Not only the stacking chairs and tables but rolling white boards dividers and displays that can be accessed quickly and easily from any laptop in the room. "The server and software system that runs the rooms is also great but it is amazing how something as simple and relatively inexpensive as furniture you can roll around and stack out of the way when it is not needed can improve the learning environment."

The classrooms in which the furniture is used has a lot to do with their value. Larger than a typical classroom that would have room for 3 dozen tablet arm chairs, the room is large and flexible enough to use with or without the tables (see the website above to see how neatly the tables fold and stack together) and in a number of creative arrangements. In addition, white boards are positioned around the perimeter of the room to enable students to easily create small discussion groups within the classroom setting.

One last insight: The staff at Wallenberg Hall has long since given up their goal of maintaining any semblance of order in the room. Rather than insist that departing students and faculty leave the room in a recognizable geometric array, they expect the incoming class to arrange the room in any way they desire prior to the beginning of class. It makes perfect sense when you realize that the room might be used in any number of ways in any given hour.

While tables and chairs are not the domain of Instructional Development here at UCSB, I am passing along this little gem of information in hopes that the right person at the right time might consider some of Stanford's successes in creating better learning environments.

Art Battson, Director
Instructional Resources
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-3200
(805) 893-2414
(805) 893-5895 (FAX)