We are currently deploying new computers to 40+ elementary schools. Our present model of allocation goes beyond strict student ratio, to provide a stable, consistent lab environment for schools, on a 3-year replacement cycle. Most schools are more than happy to have their labs updated, but I am noticing increasing push-back for classroom mini-labs (network drops are the schools' cost). I am a former computer, English and math teacher, with a lab, and a classroom mini-lab, and frankly, I had trouble maintaining robust class-use of the 4 networked computers I had.

Most classroom computers seem to be places to put over-due marking and dust. My question is, are you seeing a new trend to a change of classroom practice that allows seamless integration of technology, with a motivated teacher, or do you think these mini-labs, installed at the expense of an up-to-date computer lab, will simply be a place for extra time on games and the like.

Appreciate your thoughts.

Tags: change, classroom, computer, computers, labs, mini-labs, of, practice

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Our schools have labs but also have carts with 16 laptops. The carts have been a big hit, we've gone away from student stations in the classroom (there may be a couple?). Teachers who don't use the lab or carts won't use classroom computers.
Greetings Barbara & Welcome!
All the above models will work. No trend, in my experiences, is better than the other. This is really based on the individual, the school site, and the implementation. When making this decision, look at the number one use of technology. If your sites are looking at more of a back of the classroom model and you support teachers and students with that model...then go! If your implementation is better suited for a lab setting then go!

To prevent the computers from gathering "dust" is more about the purpose of the computers than the position or location. That speaks to leadership at the district, site, and classroom level.

I hope this post helps you strategically make technology a reality in your district.

Sincerely,

Antwon
Confessions of a Technology Leader Podcast
TLConfessions.com
Barbara - I am an advocate of classroom computers blended into the everyday situations of learning, not a separate thing or place outside of the classroom. I prefer to have them located in the room, not brought in on carts and distributed, again, this makes them a separate entity in my opinion. We have nine computers in my grade 4 class and use them constantly: learning centers, blogging, email, research, all topics. I have kids who take care of the computers, just part of helping out with the classroom. I've been the computer lab guy before, scheduling classes in and out, taking care of the machines, etc etc ... and it seemed to take more time just managing classes, than getting real work done in the lab. I also found that teachers were less involved when they have a computer lab (not all teachers), but in general, I found it to be true.

The kids seem to really integrate academics more comfortably when they can just walk across the room when needed, access information or write a blog, all without the whole class having to go to a computer lab or wheel in a cart of laptops. As Antwon said, I think all ways can work,but my preferred is having the computers in the rooms, not a lab. - www.smithclass.org

Terry
I am assuming that the mobile carts and/or the classroom computers are networked, probably wireless? We are just nascent in terms of deliverability in that regard. Thoughts?

Appreciate this dialogue immensely:)

Barbara
All our carts are wireless. I do agree with Terry, it would be nice to have a bunch of computers but our classroom teachers will only have 2-3.
A timely discussion. Our middle school is on the brink of forsaking the lab for grade level laptop carts with the lab teacher working collaboratively with teachers in their classrooms to infuse technology into the currriculum. There are several factors making this change a possibility, i.e. expansion of science classrooms into space occupied by computer lab, year for MS replacement of computers, other offerings needing a spot in the rotation schedule.

However there are also reasons not to do this, i.e., teacher uncertainty and inexperience, the lack of a lab for students to use on a drop in basis before or after school, no alternative if laptops are in use, students won't get as much exposure to technology as they did in computer classes. The existing drop-in lab space could be expanded, but this would not accommodate a full class and nor would the computer teacher be within hailing distance for assistance.

I am interested in hearing from anyone who has transitioned away from a traditional fixed schedule computer lab to laptops in classrooms or to a non-fixed lab schedule using a technology integration specialist working collaboratively with teachers to use technology within the regular curriculum. Anycomments or caveats you have for the options we are considering are also welcome.

Thanks for sharing
I use laptops in my second grade classroom almost every day for two years after having difficulty signing out the computer lab on a regular basis. The transition to laptops has been great for a number of reasons. One, I have almost sole possesion of the laptop cart because in the K-4 building I work in most teachers think their students are too young to use a laptop. Two, we are wireless so my students can move around the room without restriction and work collaboratively. It is a great sight watching 7 and 8 year olds laying on the carpet working on a project using some of the latest technology available. Three, parents love to know their children are being exposed to computers at an early age since almost every facet of our lives involves some form of technology.

We are half way through our school year so my students have become quite familiar with the laptops. It is amazing to watch them help each other trouble shoot any technical problems that come up. They check to make sure the wireless icon is lit, doublecheck passwords, and check the headphones when they aren't working.

As for what I use the laptops for, we have done webquests, we have a number of reading programs we do (Kidbiz is done almost daily), spelling, math review groomed from elementary math sites, science, and social studies. I believe that students using wireless laptops is just a great way to motivate and inspire learning because of the mobility and the amount of available information afforded.
I love hearing about primary classes using technology. I also teach grade two and am always looking for new sites to use with my class. I often find the sites that are out there are way to hard or way to preschoolish for my kids. Do you have any links to the sites you use? It would be greatly appreciated.
Hi Barbara,

My input on this will be a bit different. I work for Spectrum Industries and we manufacture school furnishings. We have focused primarily on technology niches including computer desks for labs/classrooms and laptop storage for notebooks/minis. Our customers are trending rapidly towards mobile computing initiatives and are finding the benefits tremendous. They have commented on the ease of integrating the laptops into the existing classroom, having the students other materials available while laptops are in use, and having 1:1 or 2:1 computing instead of 8:1 or 10:1...

We look to our customers for all of our product development ideas and improvements so we try to keep a pretty good pulse on these items. If you ever need anything feel free to contact me. I am happy to help.

Take care and best of luck with the rest of 2009.

Sincerely,

Scott Dorn
Vice President
SPECTRUM INDUSTRIES, INC.
1-800-235-1262
sdorn@spectrumfurniture.com
This is an interesting discussion.. thank you for sharing.



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We have 280+ students at my school. We have 2 computer labs. One is used for teachers to sign in and use whenever they would like, the other lab schedules classes (CD-8th) at least 2 times a week. Each Junior high class is scheduled for 9 week periods.

The sign-in lab is NOT used regularly by the younger grades, primarily junior high.
Hello Barbara, I have a lab of 14 computers in my 5th grade classroom. We use the computers on a daily basis for writing, reading reference, creating presentations, language support, grade level reading support of science/social study text, and researching. Each student uses this technology for 45 minutes each day and this allows me to provide targeted teaching in math and other subjects. Teachers need to see how integration works and how it can help make your life easier during your daily teaching sequence. At my school I am seeing an increased trend of computer use in the classroom due the increased availability and minimal cost of creating a lab which is CHEAP and FREE. Yes, I said FREE. Imagine two labs with a total of twenty computers that with a price tag of about $100. Each lab runs virtually trouble free and fast.

What teachers need is a good WORKING MODEL and EMPOWERMENT in order to become motivated in using technology. Technology has to be fairly easy to use and maintain. This begins with one success and then slowly grows. This is what I did.

I created this lab last year despite the hold on replacement cycle funds at ABC Unified. The lab runs great with minimal effort on my part and only requires two network drops to work, one for the mini server and the printer. You could always link the printer to the server if you need to. I created two other labs at my school and now we have three labs with a total of 40 computers, ALL THIS AT NO COST TO MY SCHOOL OR DISTRICT. Read further to find out.

Each class has a server with at least 2 to 4 gigs of memory. Actually, any robust computer can be converted into a server. All you need to do is add an ethernet port. All the other computers are thin clients needing at least a 700MHz. PIII processor; lower MHz will work, but not as fast. Use LTSP Edubuntu operating system. Linux will work on any machine. Since my class was the first and I could not wait for donations, I bought my server and network switch. I sent out an email to my district for used PC's and found 30 waiting to be recycled. Using older technology in this manner is both lean and green, adding at least 5-10 years more to the life of older computers. When one breaks, replace it with another old computer. My school will eventually have a new Apple lab with 36 computers for around $50,000. I have been able to create three labs with a total of 40 computers for about a $1000 with two more labs in the making for next year. Linux is free and all production software is free. Kids learn the system in minutes because it is all standard based on Windows and Apple applications and there are virtually thousands of free applications available to use. In fact, I will never buy software again. Another note is that Edubuntu works well with district servers using Windows and Apple network software.

There is no reason why a school can't have an up-to-date computer lab and mini-labs. All it takes is modeling, empowerment, time, and desire. I have more information about my lab on our fifth grade website: http://hawaiianfifthgrade.weebly.com/

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