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Rebecca McKinnon

Computers: Better situated in labs or classrooms?

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Are computers best situated in classrooms or labs?

There are many arguments for each side debating the pros and cons.

If they are situated in labs then the lesson can be more structured, each student can have access to a computer and there does tend to be more ICT resources available to support the teacher. Unfortunately the learning can be disrupted because the students need to travel to the lab and can become unfocused.

With computers in the classroom there is room for spontaneous learning with technology, and the computers can be used regularly discouraging fear of technology. Having computers in the classroom also promotes equality of use as they are more readily available to the students.

It is hard to weigh the benefits of each to decide upon ONE good way. In fact, combining the two might be the ultimate solution, providing both options to the students and teachers.

From

Rebecca McKinnon

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There's a role for both approaches, but it also depends on the subject area. In my subject, namely foreign languages, there is a strong case for lab work, which gives learners the opportunities for intensive individualised listening and speaking practice, especially listen / respond / playback activities which are strongly favoured by teachers of foreign languages.

When computers were introduced into schools in the early 1980s, whole-class teaching using one computer and a big TV screen was in favour – mainly for reasons of economy. Then labs and networks came into being. Now we are seeing a return to whole-class teaching, using a computer/projector setup, with or without an interactive whiteboard.

We weigh up the pros and cons of both approaches for teaching and learning foreign languages in this document:

Davies G., Bangs P., Frisby R. & Walton E. (2005) Setting up effective digital language laboratories and multimedia ICT suites for Modern Foreign Languages, London: CILT:

http://www.languages-ict.org.uk/managing/d...nguage_labs.pdf

The ICT4LT site also contains advice relating to this topic, especially in Module 1.4 (see Section 4 on whole-class teaching and Section 5 on using a networked lab) and Module 3.1, where five different case studies are presented:

http://www.ict4lt.org

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Are computers best situated in classrooms or labs?

There are many arguments for each side debating the pros and cons.

If they are situated in labs then the lesson can be more structured, each student can have access to a computer and there does tend to be more ICT resources available to support the teacher. Unfortunately the learning can be disrupted because the students need to travel to the lab and can become unfocused.

With computers in the classroom there is room for spontaneous learning with technology, and the computers can be used regularly discouraging fear of technology. Having computers in the classroom also promotes equality of use as they are more readily available to the students.

It is hard to weigh the benefits of each to decide upon ONE good way. In fact, combining the two might be the ultimate solution, providing both options to the students and teachers.

From

Rebecca McKinnon

I think the days of travelling to a computer lab for some ICT based learning should be long behind us.

My preference is for rooms approximately double the size of traditional classrooms equipped with both sufficent networked machines for whole class use, additional network points for student laptops, and a large space for desks, books resources etc. for work away from the computer. I'm not that fussed about interactive whiteboards but I do like to have a digital projector and a white wall!

I think it is also important for a modern school to have computerised areas where students can work on the network in their own time. This is probably best achieved in designated private study areas.

Again I would prefer this was not based on the lab model. Schools should have the confidence and expectation that students will use such facilities responsibly.

I am also in favour of putting some network points and/or a couple of networked PCs in their social areas.

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We also have to bear in mind that much of this debate is really about the fairly primitive state computers are still in. I often make the analogy with the car industry in its early days. In my opinion, computers are still at the Model T Ford stage, where you had to start it with a handle, and know a lot about how the engine worked just to be able to drive it. We might be at the Morris Minor stage soon (with a heater as an optional extra!), but we're a long way from Toyota Corolla!

When computers have really big hard disks, a proper amount of RAM, and we have networks which run at a normal speed (instead of really slowly), then I think much of the debate will be over, and we'll be facing lots of other challenges.

One of the most important of these new challenges is going to be about the role of teachers in the learning process. We who use computers a lot have already been exposed to the change from teacher as 'sage on the stage' to 'guide on the side', but, let's face it, we're a tiny minority. But I think this change is coming to everyone in the classroom, and quite soon too.

One of the questions I'm contemplating at the moment is what happens when 'push' becomes 'pull' in education. I'm referring to the way 'push' marketing decides what consumers are going to buy and they pushes it at them (the way CDs are sold) as opposed to 'pull' marketing where consumers find out about the product themselves and buy it in a way they want to (the way music download services, such as iTunes, work).

We're discussing the Bologna process a lot here in Swedish higher education at the moment, but no-one's really thought about what happens when students look at our 'learning outcomes', decide to achieve them in their own idiosyncratic ways, and then apply to gain the credits without necessarily having studied 'our' courses.

BTW, the American branch of Apple have just produced 'iTunes U', which allows students at universities which have bought it to download lectures, lecture notes, on-line materials, etc the way they download tracks from iTunes (and allows the universities to charge them on a piece-by-piece basis, if they want to).

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