As COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, we are all increasingly being asked to isolate ourselves from one another. On the SketchUp team, as in Trimble’s offices around the world, we have now been working from home for several weeks. We expect to continue doing our part to protect our communities from explosive infection rates. Currently, all residents of the State of Colorado have been placed under a mandatory Stay at Home order, like many other parts of the world.
As we all learn how to live and work together but from a social distance, we need to come up with new ways to arrange our homes to accommodate both privacy and intimacy mediated by the cool glow of our “home” screens.
Nowhere is this more important than in the preparations we must make for the continuing education of our kids.
In Colorado, just as in many other communities around the world, schools have been closed and teachers are preparing for new kinds of home-learning. This is untravelled territory for our schools, but it is also an unprecedented experience for our kids. As working professionals, we may have grown accustomed to working together over the internet. But there’s still a lot for our kids to learn about using the internet for something other than sharing funny cat videos. I think SketchUp can help.
Every kid in America needs a classroom experience integrated into their homes somewhere. School time needs focus. It needs an attention, enriching, and supportive space in which study can happen. Computers have to be converted from something you use to watch movies and play games with friends to a distraction-free tool for learning. How are you planning to do this? Have you given it much thought yet?
The community of SketchUp users is, collectively, one of the most creative, practical and spatially-minded of any community in the world. We are architects, interior designers, makers, and thinkers. If we put our heads together, we can solve this problem. One bedroom at a time. For millions of kids around the world.
My son Pete’s new home classroom
If you have kids of your own, try making a SketchUp model of their new in-home classroom. Make it with them, and offer support for any changes they want to make. If they want your (vintage) Led Zeppelin poster for the wall, hand it over. If they need a more comfortable chair, find it for them. Be prepared to hand over an uncomfortable amount of home internet bandwidth, as well. This is important. This is our future.
And if you don’t have kids of your own, or if you have your kids well prepared already, reach out to a neighbor to see if you can offer advice. This is what we have been doing in my house. We’re both of us, my wife and I, trained as architects. My wife, Meridith, has a successful residential remodeling business and has designed a number of homes in our neighborhood. She is absolutely great at figuring out how to fit complex programmatic needs into suboptimal spaces in homes. Our neighbors love getting space planning and interior design advice from her.
...and my daughter Lita’s new home classroom as well.
A detail of Lita’s workspace
If you are using SketchUp today, maybe you are just like us. Maybe you love giving design advice to your neighbors, too. Ask the parents of your kids’ friends what their home-classroom plans are like. If you have some design chops, your advice will be welcomed. Ask for a quick sketch with dimensions, or maybe even just a couple of photos of their kids’ new in-home classroom location. Are they sitting at the kitchen table? Maybe working from a desk in your home office? Or are they converting a desk in their bedroom? You can learn a lot from even a simple verbal description of a space.
And once you’ve had some time to think, build them a quick SketchUp model showing an option or two for how to make the space work better. You’ll blow their minds. Even the simplest of suggestions can make a big improvement. Don’t hold back. Share what you know. And do it for everyone in your neighborhood.
Here are some simple tips to consider, recommended by educators and parents in our area.
Workspace should be separated, as much as possible, from sleeping space.
If your school is using two-way video calling, make sure there is decent lighting and nothing embarrassing in the background. Try to avoid putting your student’s back to a window. Backlighting never works.
Keep the visual clutter down in the space immediately surrounding your student’s computer. Their desk at school would be clean and free from distractions. Try to provide the same at home.
Give them a window over their shoulder that they can look through every now and again to take a break from looking at a screen all day long. Focusing just for a few seconds at something far away can dramatically reduce fatigue and eye-strain.
Get a good, ergonomic office chair. The ones in our models are much nicer than the chairs we actually have, but they will work.
Get a good keyboard and a good mouse. They don’t have to be anything special, but they have to be reliable and they have to work. Leave plenty of space around them to make it easy to use them.
Reduce glare on the screen. Especially for computer monitors with shiny coatings, reflections during the day can be very distracting and can make it hard for your student’s eyes to focus on the screen.
Consider where the camera is pointing, if you are using one. Make sure it is pointed at your student’s face, obviously, but also that it is neither too close nor too far away. Think like a talking head on TV.
Make the classroom space something special, something memorable and something your student recognizes is different from the rest of your house. This is a space for learning, a space for listening and getting schoolwork done.
It is easy to focus your attention on the news and fill your mind with concern for the rising tide of COVID-19 infection spreading across the world. But take time to give thanks for your kids, their schooling and the sense of normalcy around that. Education is hope for the future; real, tactical and powerful hope. Let’s make that work for every family. One bedroom at a time.
If you’ve got some home classroom designs to share, things you know will work for others or maybe just a model of what you’re doing for your own kids, share it out in our forums. Also, we’ve compiled a few SketchUp models to get you started. Ideas that work for you will work for others as well. And if you have some time, give your neighbors a hand with their plans for their kids. You’re giving one of the best possible gifts to your community by sharing your expertise in this complex and unprecedented time.