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Students unveil fanciful designs for classrooms of the future

For only $55, students of the future will be able to buy the Notebook 5X, which includes a fingerprint-activated lock, an optional keyboard, and wings for when students’ backpacks just can’t fit another thing.

The fanciful design was unveiled today by Rory Corcoran, a fifth-grader at Queens’ P.S. 144, during a presentation about “The 2050 Classroom” at the New School’s weeklong MobilityShifts conference on learning in the digital age.

Corcoran and her classmates have been imagining the educational tools that their children and grandchildren might use in school, and the presentation today marked the culmination of their work. Seeing the other designs in action, Corcoran said, “Wow, I think my brain can’t stand all this awesomeness.”

P.S. 144 was one of two schools to work this fall with The 2050 Group, a team of arts experts who are developing new ways to integrate the arts into public schools. The 2050 Group tapped two designers – Hsing Wei, of Pixelated Learning, and Katie Koch, of Project: Interaction/pixelkated – to work with students at P.S. 144 and New Design High School.

“Aside from just re-imagining the classroom and thinking about how technology integrates into their futures, they’re thinking about their own power as designers,” Wei said. “How many of them in the future will end up being a different kind of Steve Jobs?”

The fifth graders Wei and Koch worked with redesigned three classroom staples: the notebook, the desk and the blackboard. Aside from the Notebook 5X, students also presented the Superdesk, which heeds voice commands, folds up to the size of a textbook, and is compartmentalized so supplies don’t fall out. But if something does drop to the floor, the Superdesk’s bionic arms can pick it up.

The blackboard of 2050 will communicate directly with students’ own mini-boards, according to the students’ design. Teachers will be able to press a button to translate notes for students who are new to the country, and students will be able to post questions directly to the main board without interrupting the flow of the lesson. The group even redesigned the scent of Expo markers from smelling like “stink bombs” to smelling like “fruit extravaganzas.”

New Design seniors took on the more abstract challenges of re-imagining lectures, homework, and testing — most of which will incorporate some notion of virtual reality, they said.

Conference attendees asked the students whether the designs be put into action sooner than 2050 — perhaps today?

Probably not, the students agreed.

“I don’t think it would be possible to make all of our amazing ideas so soon,” said Bria London, a fifth-grader.

Dev Gandhi, London’s classmate, had a more pragmatic doubt.

“I don’t think it could be made because of the economy right now,” he said. “It would cost a lot of money.”

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