wasting bandwidth since 1999

No Question: Time to Kill the Lab!

There are many reasons why I’m looking forward to the bring-your-own-device project we will be trying in some of our schools this fall. One of the biggest is that maybe – just maybe – it will lead to us finally killing the computer lab.

I’ve ranted about this before, and the conversation usually stirs up a lot of strong feelings, but the more I see how they are used in schools, the more convinced I am that we will never get to the point where computing devices are, in the words of someone wiser than me, “like oxygen – ubiquitous, necessary, and invisible” unless the labs disappear and are replaced with devices that are available to students anytime, anywhere.

Those feelings were reinforced in the past few weeks in discussions with some of our trainers as they plan for the new schools year. Especially concerning one elementary school where the teachers are lobbying the administration to use the lab as a drop off point for their students in order to increase their planning time. In the same way music, art, PE, the library and other “pull out” programs are used (also incorrectly).

Now I certainly believe the teachers in our elementary schools need more time to plan their lessons. All teachers need regular, meaningful opportunities to plan, collaborate with their peers, and to reflect on their practice.

However, using technology in this way (and it’s not at all uncommon in other schools around here as well) only reinforces the idea that computer use is for special occasions, a nice-to-have extra, and not especially necessary. Computers are something we do, not a tool to improve learning. A once-in-a-while treat, not oxygen.

If we get to the point where a large number of students are bringing their own devices, labs full of identically configured equipment becomes unnecessary and even impossible to justify.

And, with any luck, are removed from the school experience forever.

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3 Comments

  1. RJ

    I’m just curious of how you will solve the issue of some students who aren’t able to afford computer equipment over others. Maybe solution isn’t to destroy the lab, but instead disperse those resources into every classroom (aka 10 laptops per classroom).

    • Tim

      For the short term, that’s exactly what we will be doing: taking the equipment we already have and reallocating it for students who can’t bring their own.

      However, in the long term, we need to get away from the concept of a “computer” as the only device students can use for their learning. And mobile devices like tablets and phones (and other formats still to be created) do not lend themselves to being organized into labs.

  2. Terry

    As much as we had vested in all those labs, they were the “baby steps” to today. Smaller, cheaper and more inexpensive and powerful devices will be flooding the markets and all students will have availability personally or by checking them out at school. Look at where we were 11 years ago as well as the 10 before that. The growth is more than one can conceive. It is a beautiful thing :-)

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