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Saturday, August 8, 2009

My Lab

Alright, so I want to talk about my lab a little bit. I have 36 computers that are HP running Windows XP. I can't remember all of the specs right now since I've hardly been in my lab this summer. Several years ago another computer teacher at my school and I decided to switch rooms. My principal at the time allowed me to then redesign the room I was getting. At the time there were several "pod" shaped tables with the computers on them. For those of you who don't know this shape, basically it is a hexagon shape and the computers are placed around the edge of the hexagon. I absolutely HATE this layout. We still have two labs at our school that are using this layout. The problems I see with the "pod" layouts is that the teacher cannot see all of the computers at the same time. The teacher has to walk around the table to see the students on the other side, and if the students are not on task (which of course NONE of our students do that -- sarcasm), then the students can quickly switch back to the program while the teacher is walking. Then, the other students on the other side of the table can go off task while the teacher is talking to the one student about being on task. It's a mess. Yes, there is software out there that will allow you to watch every students' screen (we use LanSchool at our school), however I believe that a computer teacher (or ANY teacher using a lab) should not be sitting at their computer, but be up and around engaging the students (OK, so the engaging part is something I need to work on as well). So, when I went to redesign my current lab, I chose to have straight tables and space up by the whiteboard (which of course should be the front of the classroom). I first was going to have three long tables, but then my principal at the time suggested having six tables so that there was an isle down the middle (I am very grateful that she suggested that, it is one of my favorite features now). Here is a basic drawing of my lab:

The long line at the top is the whiteboard/display boards at the front of my room. Each table can hold six computers. My computers were upgraded this last year (thanks to our district CTE director), so now I have flat screen monitors. We recently purchased computer stands that allow us to place the CPU on the floor underneath the table on the holder that has wheels that we got from Cyberguys (which I absolutely love looking through their catalog - my wife calls it geek porn).

I have my teacher station at the back near the isle. I actually have my computer sitting on a computer rack (an old one from days gone by) and I stand there to teach my classes. I love this layout because I can see EVERY screen in my lab at just about the same time. I can know if someone is on or off task. If I need to "lecture" about something, I usually have the students turn off their monitors (so they are not distracted by the "sparkleys") and then they have to turn around to see me.

This layout has alos has helped with getting my students to learn computer skills. As I've mentioned before I have used Certiport's Practice Tests and clickers to teach these skills to my students. Each table is a "team" that can help each member of the team to know how to complete the skill before I randomly pick a student (this is a great feature on eInstruction's CPS software) to come to my demo computer to complete the task.

This next year I am hoping to change the way that I use the teams. I am creating simulations tutorials that every student can use at the same time. So, what I plan on doing is having each student bring up the same question at the same time. I will start the timer on the CPS software and allow them to play around with the simulation until they find out how to complete the task (i.e. Start Microsoft PowerPoint 2007). Once they figure out how to do it they will click in to the CPS software. They can then show their team members how to do it. Once the whole team is clicked in they will tell me they are done. The first team that gets done will then be able to click in for more points. Also, once the team is done, they can then go and help other teams.

I'm hoping this works out, and I know that there will be some tweaks that I will have to complete as the year goes on, but I am excited about this.

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