Computer Labs

Computer labs in schools are interesting places - mainly expensive areas that eat up valuable classroom space and, aside from the times that they are booked by a teacher, unused and sealed off from the students.

Why is that?

I was asked about my thoughts on a potential lab in my building today. In unequivocal terms I said that I would strongly oppose spending all that money and taking away an already precious commodity (a classroom) if the lab was NOT open for all students, all periods of the day, unless otherwise booked by a teacher for a specific class. In my opinion, it makes absolutely zero sense to build a physical lab with desktop computers if it doesn't actually increase our abysmally low access to computers and the internet during the school day for our students. Why waste that money there when there are so many other things we should spend the coin on that could increase student access?

It's about access to the tech. That access doesn't come in the form of 'labs' which are under lock and key for the entirety of the day. Staffing issues? Make it an optional volunteer duty (so people who want to be there and could actually help the students) in place of the standard study hall duty.

What do others do or use their labs for? How open are they for student use?

1 comment:

  1. At Texas AM (won't let me type an ampersand - weird) at Galveston, there were several types of computer labs with different levels of student access.

    There was one in the library that was for general student use, open the same hours as the library. About 25-30 desktop PCs. There were a couple of smaller ones in classrooms, which could be reserved for classes but which were otherwise available for use, pretty much whenever the classroom building was open. 10-15 laptops each.

    And there were the engineering labs with lots of specialized (and outrageously expensive) software, which were only open to the engineering students (and for which they paid a per-semester fee to use). Among other reasons, the engineering labs were restricted to: make maintenance easier (less bored people playing "pranks" that can require a complete wipe of the PC), and to make sure the engineering students always had access (this was the only place they could work with this software).

    Only the lab in the library was staffed full-time, and it was by student workers making minimum wage, or by work-study students. We were there to feed the printers and show people how to use their FTP accounts and basically just keep an eye on things. And play MUDs. This was the lab most people used for working long stretches on papers, research, etc. People would camp out on a computer for hours getting their work done.

    The classroom labs were not staffed, but they were close to the computer services office. Generally, these computers got less abuse, probably because there were classes scheduled in those rooms on and off all day and they were closed on the weekends and holidays (so, less bored and unsupervised kids). These were more often used for quick emails between classes, checking MySpace, and playing a level or two of Snood.

    A couple times a semester we'd have to go through and ghost all the machines in the open labs. That took a few hours, but with matching hardware and a good image, it was very easy. The engineering departments were largely responsible for maintaining their own labs.