wasting bandwidth since 1999

Speaking of Computer Labs

Do you have those little things tucked away in the back of your mind that other people don’t find particularly annoying but which drive you almost over the brink?

This picture illustrates of one of mine.


First, laptops are about twice the cost of desktops (at least these are), have smaller screens, hobbled graphics, a shorter life span, and less power* over all.

Which is fine since being able to carry around the power they do have, far beyond what was available even five years ago, makes up for all that.

However, lining them up on tables and locking them down totally and completely defeats the whole concept of wireless, portable computing and communications.

Of being able to use the machines wherever and whenever learning occurs, not just in this contrived, regimented space.

I suppose the situation that will send me completely over the cliff is when (and I’m afraid it will be when, not if) I walk into a similar room and find iPads or other tablets in place of the laptops.

While I’m complaining about computer labs, that wall down the middle of the room stands out as another stupid feature built into the labs in most of our schools.

One more element of the space that inhibits collaboration, and almost all other interactions between students.

And the interactive whiteboard at the front of the room? That’s a long rant for another day.

*Although not very much less power. Certainly not enough for most people to worry about.


  1. Susan Socha

    Remember when…..we were happy to have a computer lab? We’ve come a long way in some ways, and not so much in others….

    • Tim

      We’ve come a long way but seem to be slowing down and even shifting into reverse in some ways.

  2. Eileen

    I agree that on the surface this does look like a huge waste, but as someone who has been through renovations and who has been insistant about having desktops in the labs, I have to say that many schools have been firmly discouraged from buying desktops. I also have to wonder about your price for the desktops v. laptops. Did you add in the $300 for the monitor on top of the $650-700 for the desktop?

    Also if this lab gets used everyday as many do, then these laptops are getting more use than if they were in a cart. Plus they won’t get abused by the students in quite the same way laptops in carts seem to get. Teacher don’t pay attention to their students using laptops from carts because they are kind of anonomous, whereas the labs they have signed up for and they have more adult supervision so their keys have a better chance of remaining on the keyboard than those in carts.

    • Tim

      Our schools currently pay about $650 for a desktop computer and $150 for a 19″ LCD monitor vs. $1300 for student laptops. So not quite twice as much but close.

      But aside from the financial aspect, we also encourage schools to buy portable computers exactly because they are portable, able to be used in a variety of places in the building. I’m just bothered when I see that flexibility neutered by locking the machines into a fixed location.

  3. Karen

    but Tim–at least this way power isn’t an issue, and we can hardwire them so connectivity isn’t an issue…..
    and you will find the iPads locked down some place, so be prepared to explode. As long as we continue to define learning as teacher directed and non-collaborative (and as primarily there to support on-line testing) this kind of stupid stuff will continue.

  4. Michelle

    Okay Tim! I get it…but first consider what Eileen has shared and just because the computers are locked down does not necessarily make them no longer portable….if follows the regulation and guidelines related to keeping equipment (laptops) secure. I have been in this lab and that door cannot be locked due to classes coming in and out of it all day long. Having been in that lab, where exactly do you expect them to put the interactive whiteboard…and unless you have a picture showing “activity” or “in-activity” with use of this item, then it is difficult to see your point in ranting about the board. We have boards like that in every classroom in our building and they are used in many ways including small group work, and student centers. You can’t judge use by a picture of a room of equipment without kiddos and teachers in there. If the interactive whiteboard was on a cart in that room, it would be a fire hazard…

    The county purchases laptops for our schools, demands that we keep them secure, and does not provide classroom cabinets that lock and charge the laptops (ANYMORE)…we would have to purchase our own mobile cart…ANOTHER 1200.00 to house these machines…make it 2400.00 because there are about 32 machines in that room….with a limited budget.

    Additionally, how would set up a room like that for students that would allow for wiring not to be in the way…if you did not have the wall…not that I like the wall at all, just wondering?

    In the computer lab at my school, we have D600 laptops because we have SOO many of that model (6 mobile carts worth…4 in carts and 30 in the lab)…HOWEVER, they do not hold wireless…so this year, we put all D600 laptops in our lab so they could be hardwired and the higher end laptops and desktops could go to classrooms. 70%+ of computer at my school are laptops…what do you recommend for securing that equipment, hardwiring configurations (because wireless is always dropping), and charging options…as well as getting the teacher to be able to troubleshoot all of this because it is not consistently connecting…and STILL trying to integrate the tools effectively….

    Laptops in the computer lab are the least of my worries :) As long as they are using the equipment and it works for them…I am happy for that….computer lab or no computer lab…it will still be a question. I have teachers in rooms who don’t lock down the equipment with LOCKS but have to “lock it down” with network cables because the wireless is not holding…I don’t see that as anything different than the picture you have shown above…but they have no choice if they want students to use the computers to access the internet…and at my school…to access software (app-v). just my 2 cents… :)

  5. Leslie

    In our school all assessment testing has been moved online. When there’s a big test when a lot of students must be online at the same time, they use all the computers in the school, including the laptop labs we have. They’ve had to hardwire the laptops in a lab setting so that they can all maintain a connection to the Internet during the test – our wireless connection is just too shaky – plus the batteries don’t last long enough for a three hour test. Since there is a test adminstered (it seems) just about every day, this is their best solution.

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