Another dot in the blogosphere?

Not so special rooms

Posted on: May 31, 2012

If there is anything I dislike more than “interactive” white boards, it is computer labs. If there is an IWB in a computer lab, then a child-like neuron in my brain dies!

Both are relics in the edtech age because they do not attempt to create new learning opportunities and environments. Instead, they limit the possibilities due to old school rules, e.g., do X things in Y amount of time and submit it to Z, noise is bad, do only what the teacher says.

Here is what I think is wrong with computer laboratories:

  1. Teachers need to compete to book the venues because the labs are a shared resource. Some teachers have more access than others.
  2. The labs create and reinforce the mindset of lesson novelty for its own sake. You go to a special room for a special lesson under special circumstances.
  3. The novelty creates classroom management problems because the kids (young and old) get over excited. Just bringing them to the labs is disruptive.
  4. Once in the labs, the kids discover that the sessions may not be that exciting after all. They are what one blogger calls “sporadic and unspectacular engagement with technology”.
  5. The labs are sometimes misused. The occupants do not use the computers or are there to enjoy the air-conditioning.
  6. It is very expensive to maintain and upgrade the computer labs. You get stuck in the cycle of having to maintain them because they were so expensive to create and perceived as a waste to let go.
  7. Despite this expense, the labs in some schools become white elephants when their usage drops.

There already are alternatives to fixed computer labs like mobile carts and BYOD schemes. While these measures may reduce material or infrastructure cost, they do not remove them entirely.

They also do not necessarily promote more progressive technology-mediated strategies, e.g., flipping the classroom, game-based learning, self-directed learning.

I think that the best thing about BYOD is that it forces teachers to think about ways to leverage on what students already own. If teachers do this well, they can work on passing the ownership of learning to the students. To do this, teacher must first own and use the devices themselves and then learn new instructional strategies.

If the teachers have wifi enabled classrooms, they do not need special rooms like computer labs. They just need to start with new mindsets and strategies. When these methods become more common, the technology and the pedagogy become natural, powerful, and transparent.

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