Computer Lab Design

I was in a high school this morning to work with two Career Studies classes. It was an introduction to Blended Learning using the virtual Learning Environment (Desire2Learn), and we were scheduled into a computer lab. This is what it looks like:

A picture of a computer lab

I couldn’t fit it all into the frame, but there are 30 computers (there are a few along the windows to the right of the image) and there is a projection screen on the wall behind me to my left. The classroom is enormous; I’d estimate it’s 30 feet (across in the photo) by 60 feet.

As I worked with the students I found the setup of the room to be really frustrating. Most students were too far from the projection screen, so that made it hard for me to demonstrate stuff whole-class. Also, if someone needed elbow support, I was 40 feet away from my computer. In the end I decided to mostly provide verbal instructions and coach people that needed help. The screens face every which way, so I couldn’t even see half of them from any one location in the room.

The classroom definitely needs a redesign. Some points I would consider:

  • arrange desks to make it easier for the teacher to circulate and guide the learning
  • keep the instructional laptop close to the learning area
  • put students closer together so they can help each other
  • keep the projection screen close to the student computers

It’s not a highly mobile classroom; you can’t move stuff frequently. These are desktop computers which use power supplied by posts coming out of the floor. But up to the limitations of the hardware, I think we could do better.

5 thoughts on “Computer Lab Design

    • I don’t think we should toss this lab just because there are better solutions. This tech is paid for and useful; it’s just very awkwardly arranged. When these machines fail or become prohibitive to maintain, they should not be replaced by more desktop computers. While they’re here, we should make better use of them.

      • Ah, I see. There is an argument to be made for the distribution of those desktop computers to multiple classrooms so they can be used by a few students incidentally or to supplement a BYOD approach.

  1. I see. Until systems and hardware is in place to have reliable devices in regular classrooms, I don’t think gutting the computer lab is a good idea. I recall a school from a board I used to work at that had the policy of one computer in every classroom (which was nearly never used) but there was not enough computers in the computer lab for a whole class. I’m a fan of a transition away from computer labs, but we need effective replacements; one or a couple computers at the back of the room along side the kids’ smartphones or iPods isn’t enough for me.

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