computer room

Is there still a place for computer labs in schools?

Sunday, December 1st, 2013 | Computer Usage | Comments Off

With the growing trend towards mobility and the popularity of tablets in the field of education, is there still a role for a dedicated computer laboratory (lab)?

There is most definitely a place for both. The whole idea of using tablets (or other mobile devices) is for learners to have continuous access to technology as a learning tool. A computer lab has the disadvantage of being physically separated from the classroom, hence making it more difficult for the teacher to integrate classroom teaching with what technology can offer. However, until such a time that every child in a school has a mobile device, the computer lab will continue to fulfil an important role: it may be the only way in which to bring every learner in touch with technology.

It therefore makes sense to keep the computer room in good repair, while phasing in mobile devices – in big schools this may take a few years, owing to the high cost of technology. The need for a computer lab can be re-evaluated once a one-to-one state has been achieved, but until then, resist the temptation to dismantle the computer room in favour of mobile devices.

My advice to learning institutions is to continue using whatever technology is available, making sure that it is used optimally, and then adding more and new technologies.

[This is an extract from a recently published interview … click here to read the full article.]

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Protect your school’s computer resources with razor wire

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011 | security | 5 Comments

Any room in a school that contains computer equipment must be protected.  It is an easy target for criminals.  You can never do enough to protect your valuable technology resources.

The roof is a favourite entry point for thieves.  Where possible, select a room with a concrete ceiling (a lower floor of a multi-floor building) to house computer equipment.  If this is not possible, protect the ceiling.

This is how you do it:

An easy and inexpensive way to protect your school's computer equipment

Uncoil rolls of razor wire between the roof and the ceiling of the room where you plan to put technology.

When burglars are intent on coming through the roof to take your precious equipment away, this is an inexpensive way to prevent them from doing so … and you don’t need an expert to install this safety device!

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You can’t eat soup with chop sticks

Sunday, August 14th, 2011 | Computer Usage | 6 Comments

Does a computer room have a place in schools?  Let’s use an analogy to answer this question:

When Mary and John had their first baby, Lulu, they decided to raise her by the book.  Solid food was only introduced when she was six months old and for this purpose Mary bought a special small spoon covered with a soft plastic material.

As she grew older, Lulu had great fun in trying to use the spoon to feed herself – her first attempts were rather disastrous.  Her parents tolerated the mess since they realized it was part of her development.

Mary started training her child to use other pieces of cutlery when she was about three years old.  By the time Lulu was six, her parents could take her to any restaurant, confident that she would know how and when to use each piece of cutlery: fish knives and forks, steak knives, butter knives, spoon and fork for eating spaghetti, chop sticks, different equipment for different uses.  However, Lulu understood that spoons still had their uses, but she got to know when it was appropriate to use them.

Looking back, Mary and John can clearly see that they would never have been able to teach their child table etiquette, had they not used a spoon as a stepping stone.

Now apply this analogy to the use of technology in a school.  A whole assortment of tools is available to teachers: computers, data projectors, interactive whiteboards, slates and many other mobile devices, different software tools, web sites, blogs, twitter and other similar social networking tools, and so the list goes on.  The variety of technology tools reminds us of the array of cutlery with which a baby is confronted.

As technologies appear on the market and are introduced to teachers at conferences, they often become the flavour of the month.  Older tools may be spurned by some teachers when they return from these conferences, believing that the new tool that was introduced to them is the ultimate manifestation of technology in education.  Of course, there is nothing wrong with a teacher discovering a tool and then using it in favour of others, if the new tool proves to be more effective.

The question is: what is the best tool to introduce technology at a school where technology has never been used before?  Based on my experience with approximately one and a half thousand schools over the past decade, I would suggest that the best way to initiate the use of technology in a school is through the establishment of a computer laboratory.  Such a laboratory would typically consist of a server, a number of networked computers, a few peripherals such as a printer and scanner, one or two selected educational software packages, and, of course, internet access.

Some experts in the field of technology in education argue that computer rooms are out of fashion and that schools should not invest in them.  They point to the fact that many schools are now abandoning their computer laboratories in favour of moving technology into classrooms and therefore advocate that schools should leap-frog the establishment of a computer room and take technology straight into the classroom.

Yes, ultimately one would wish for all teachers to use technology in their classrooms, rather than having to trek to the computer room when they want to use technology for teaching and learning.  It is obvious that technology in the classroom gives teachers and learners constant access to it, as opposed to only one or two hours a week that a computer room may offer them. 

But view the computer room in the same way as Lulu’s parents viewed her plastic covered spoon: a useful tool for an unskilled person, and one that can’t cause hurt.  A computer room is a safe and comfortable environment for teachers.  Once it is established in a school, a trainer can use the facility to train groups of teachers until they are familiar with the technology.  As the confidence of individual teachers grow, they can then take their learners to the room, at first using packaged software as a stepping stone to developing techniques for using technology for teaching and learning.  In time, teachers will discover ways in which they can develop their own teaching resources and will then start moving away from packaged software.  Given more time, they will develop the need to have technology in their classrooms and with the experience they’ve gained, they will be able to identify appropriate hardware and software tools to meet their needs.

Schools that are now moving away from computer rooms have most likely used them for a decade or two and the teaching staff has reached the point of technology maturity that requires them to have technology as a constant companion in their classrooms.  The situation is different in schools where technology is only now being introduced.

Even when technology has moved into classrooms, most teachers still find a computer room a useful facility when it is necessary for learners to have individual access to technology.  Remember, when the baby grows up and learns how to use all the different pieces of cutlery, she understands that spoons will always have a place – she knows that you can’t eat soup with chop sticks.

Don’t let anyone convince you that a computer laboratory in a school is a lost opportunity.

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What factors should be considered when selecting an ICT venue?

Saturday, July 30th, 2011 | Installation, Tips | 7 Comments

Even though some people question the value of computer rooms in schools, enough reasons exist why schools will still consider these facilities at times.  Bear the following factors in mind when selecting a suitable classroom that you plan to convert into a computer room:

Size: for a computer room which holds 25 learner workstations, a server and peripherals, you need a venue of at least 60 sq m.

Capacity: if classrooms are limited, don’t do away with a library – rather consider a combined media centre.

Orientation: select a north-facing room (in the Southern Hemisphere) – it reduces sunlight glare and aircon costs.

Security: select a room with a concrete ceiling as a security measure against criminals.

Location: a room on the outer periphery of the school building is less secure than one on the inside, thus less suitable as an ICT venue.

These thoughs were tweeted by @e4africa with the tag #ictschooltip.

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Is there any justification for a computer room in a school?

Friday, April 22nd, 2011 | technology, Tips | 4 Comments

Some claim that computer rooms are of little value in schools.  Does a computer room have a place in a modern school?  Consider the following points:

When a school has limited funds, a computer room allows all learners in the school to move through it on at equitable basis. 

When technology enters a school the first time a computer room has the advantage of providing a training venue for teachers. 

Converting a classroom into a computer room doesn’t rob the school of a teaching venue if it’s used for teaching and learning. 

In a computer room, learners can acquire computer skills while working under the supervision and guidance of a teacher. 

Computer rooms and classroom ICTs both have a place in schools provided they are used optimally by teachers and learners.

These thoughs were tweeted by @e4africa with the tag #ictschooltip.

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