In a post from a couple of weeks ago, a colleague asked for help with setting upÂ a computer lab at his school.
He was looking for something other than the “conventional wisdom” -Â 30 machines lined up inside a rectangular space in such a way to make it easy for the teacher to have everyone to work on the same assignment.
Over the past few months as I’ve been working with some of our school-based trainers, I’ve also been thinking a lot about the idea of computers labs.
Not so much the arrangement of the room but whether they are an impediment to the process of technology integration and need to disappear.
When I watch what goes on in the computers labs at most schools, regardless of the level, it’s rather depressing.
Rote lessons in which students are all doing the same activity (“open the map of Virginia and draw the four regions of the state”), as a reward for kids getting their real work done, to take tests (lots and lots of tests), or just to make sure we get our technology requirement checked off.
It seems as if very little about the way kids use the technology in their lab time is integrated into the learning that occurs back in their “regular” classroom, and it certainly doesn’t lend itself to the concept of a “lab”, a place in which experimentation occurs.
So what about mobile labs, those big carts full of laptops are rolled in and out of classrooms, that many of our schools have been putting in place over the past few years?
Well, the potential to do something better is there. But what I usually see looks very much like a traditional computer lab, often complete with the teacher machine projecting to an interactive whiteboard with no interactivity going on.
So, is this a chicken-and-egg situation?
If the lab went away (or the arrangement changed) would the way teachers use computers in their instruction change? Or if teachers wanted to change their instruction, would labs disappear?
Either way, I think it’s about time to kill the concept of the traditional school computer lab.
Am I wrong? Missing something?