24 must-have features of computer labs UPDATED

This is an updated version of an earlier article.

While it's fashionable to decry the use of computer labs, still they continue to exist in many schools. If you have, or are thinking of having, a computer lab, what ought it to look like?

You might not be able to hire the 2 Celllos for your computer lab, but instead perhaps you could buy a decent computer for playing music!

You might not be able to hire the 2 Celllos for your computer lab, but instead perhaps you could buy a decent computer for playing music!

It's better to start by considering function rather than design. That is to say, think about how you'd like pupils and teachers to use the room.

The following are my ideal features.

Space for collaboration

Research has indicated that pupils often learn more when they work in pairs, so a computer lab should acknowledge that. Given how inexpensive laptops and tablets are there days (relatively speaking), there's no need to cram as many desktop computers into the room as possible. As long as you have...

Space for sitting away from a computer

If the room is large enough, I like the following:

Desks with no computer

These are necessary so that pupils can work with pen and paper, on a laptop or tablet, or have a discussion with someone.

Easy chairs

These are for reading in, working on a laptop or having small group discussions.

The right equipment

My "shopping list" is:

  • Interactive whiteboard

  • Walls you can write on

  • Surfaces you can write on (eg desks)

  • Visualiser or at least one Hue Camera (click the pic below; please note that this is an Amazon affiliate link)

  • A bank of laptops or tablets that pupils can use as they require

  • Ditto some cameras (with a video function as well, of course)

  • Podcast/voice recorders

  • Spare pens

  • Paper to write on

  • A3 paper to plan on

  • Interesting posters

  • Informative posters

  • No posters telling people what they must not do (see Quick wins in the Computing classroom)

  • Cupboard space

  • Spare marker pens

  • Spare interactive whiteboard pens

  • A selection of books on Computing

  • A regularly refreshed selection of magazines

  • A regularly refreshed supply of newspapers

Plants

Plants not only look nice, they can help to clean the air too. (We all know how hot and stuffy computer labs can become.) I used to have spider plants in mine.

I think plants have a calming effect as well, which is good news on windy days!

Music

Having a nice Vivaldi or Mozart album playing in the background is definitely useful. It helps keep pupils nice and calm, and can help them concentrate too.

The company ICT Direct, which advertises on this website, have informed me about some good deals they have going specifically for music computers. Please note that although they advertise here I would quietly forget about such deals if they looked like rubbish — but they don’t! One of the things I used to do when I was Head of ICT/Computing was to use an old stand-alone computer for purposes like playing music or doing DVD-based research. These days I’d want one that could handle recording too. Not every school has the space or the money to go all out like John Hanson School has done, but relatively inexpensive but high-spec equipment like this is a pretty good start. Here’s the link:

MUSIC TECHNOLOGY PCS – GETTING THE BEST BANG FOR YOUR BUCK – VERSION 2.0

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