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:
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.