As a teacher or even as an administrator, it will be necessary to consider the role of computers in the school or classroom. Some things to consider are how many computers will be available and how the will be distributed within the school. There can also be concerns with cost and supporting faculty and staff in helping students with technology.
In this post, we will look at different options for distributing computers within a school. There are essentially three choices to consider when distributing computers within a school, and they are computer labs, computer clusters, and a single computer.
Computer labs are probably the most popular choice for integrating computers into the classroom. With the computer lab, students go to where the computers are. The benefit of this is all the computers are in one place which allows all students to use a computer. It also should make it easier to monitor the students as they all have their own resources so it should, in theory, be easier for them to focus. In addition, it is common for the computer lab to have a computer technician who can provide technical support.
There are also problems with a computer lab. There must be a schedule which means that usually, only one class can use the computer lab at a time. The startup cost of a computer lab can be high has well. Buying 5 computers vs 50 can be a big deal for many institutions. Behavior can still be a problem because even though the student has their own computer it doesn’t mean they are using it to learn. Lastly, with numerous computers comes a need to provide technical support through hiring staff.
Computer clusters are essentially combining the computer lab with the regular classroom. Computer clusters involve having several computers in the regular classroom. How many computers make a cluster depends on the school. If we exclude the teacher’s computer it safe to say at least two computers would be considered the minimum for a cluster.
A variation of computer clusters is computer carts. Computer carts are carts that contain laptops. These carts can be checked out by the teacher for student use. You can think of them as a mobile computer lab. This allows the teacher to infuse their own classroom with technology rather than having to go to the lab. Depending on the school there can be enough laptops for everybody or simply to make clusters. In addition, instead of laptops, the school may have tablets or other technology available.
The benefits of computer clusters are that they are available all the time. Computer labs are book and taken but the cluster should be at the discretion of the teacher. Several students can collaborate on their computers to complete a project or other tasks. The downside is that it is not possible for everyone to be on the computers so there must be some way to manage the students who are not using them. Computers are generally popular with kids, so they will all want to be on the computers when possible.
Single Computer Classrooms
A single computer classroom has one computer. Generally, this is the teacher’s computer and or their laptop. This may seem counterintuitive but having only one computer helps to keep the cost down. However, the use of technology is limited to teach led actions because not all the students can use one computer at the same time. This means using such tools as videos, PowerPoints, demonstrations, etc. Activities that require more passivity from students.
The purpose is not to claim that any of the options discussed are better than the other. The purpose was to explain the options that are available for educators who are training to match their resources with their technology. Any of the choices mentioned here can work with appropriate support and cooperation.