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Ask Slashdot: Ideal High School Computer Lab?

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the all-lisp-machines-and-dot-matrix-printers dept.

Education 268

First time accepted submitter dmiller1984 writes "I am a high school computer teacher and I've been put in the unique situation of designing my ideal computer lab since our high school will be undergoing a major expansion over the summer. I thought the Slashdot community might have some great ideas to help me out. I've never liked the lecture hall labs that I've seen in some schools, but I would like some way to get natural light in the room without worrying about glare on the computer screens (skylights, perhaps?). What are some of your ideas for a great computer lab for education?"

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So.. (5, Informative)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466150)

Only thing I can think of is add some vegetation. A few well placed plants does wonders for a room. Maybe some geek paraphernalia around the room to get people in the right mindset

As usual, ergonomics are important. Get chairs and monitors that adjust easily, keyboards/trays with the proper support (and again, adjustable) and maybe educate students on how they should set up their work environment before they. Oh, and a decent amount of desk space. Just because they are working on a computer doesn’t mean they won’t be working from a book or have some other reason to need a little room to work.

Of course once you’ve drawn your balanced, well thought out and researched plan, it will promptly be rejected and the school can proceed to bring in some cheap tables and place an order with Dell ;p

best of luck and have a great life!

Re:So.. (1)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466182)

* before they start working every class

I'm not the best when it comes to hammering out quick replies and tend to introduce mistakes like that, but sometimes, I swear slashdot is disappearing my words on me...

Re:So.. (5, Funny)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466406)

What is geek paraphernalia? 1980's posters telling you that "Computers don't Byte?" Or a road sign that says " this way to the information super highway!". Ugh, eck. Wrong.

Do it like it was done unto me.

Put some vim posters, and maybe sections of kernel.h printed on ye old'e green and white.

And make the room dark and foreboding. Loop 1980's new wave bands intermixed with psychedelic 60/70's. No natural light, sections of light banks that can be independently turned on and off as to provide just enough light to make out each other and the obstacles around you. Bonus points if more than one tube flickers and sends sparks intermittently.

Develop some rituals for the students, some incantations to the mighty computers. Sell copious amounts of energy drinks and high sugar snacks on the down low to your students to buy better equipment than the school board provides and give them super human coding skills.

Worked well enough for me and my cohorts.

Re:So.. (2)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466470)

I was thinking more like having an old TRS-80 (or dragon32.. which is what I learnt on) set up and functioning in the corner ;p

I never got into the dark lighting thing. Vi(m) .. sure.. but always in a well lit room.

And lose the techno...put on some pink floyd!

Re:So.. (2)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466716)

Plants are good. Not as I usually do (giant redwood cuttings) but something more appropriate. Real plants, though, not plastic. Because labs will vary in temperature more than most places, these'll need to be plants that can handle a decent range of conditions.

Light isn't a problem if monitors have anti-glare screens. Clip-on anti-glare covers for flatscreens are just fine and then you will only need them for a small number of monitors.

Ergonomics is absolutely vital, never mind important. I'd recommend getting reasonable-quality keyboards, too, because that impacts the user more than one might think.

Desk space should be comparable to the lab space you'd expect someone in a chemistry lab to have, or a quality library. Enough for the computer, lab book, text book and the student. In fact, a chemistry lab makes an ideal template for space requirements. Just as it would be Really Bad if a thrashing elbow could topple a Bunsen burner or a beaker of hydrofluoric acid, it would be Really Bad if computer students disrupted each other in the course of perfectly normal working.

Layout should depend on space available. There are definite advantages to a Greek Ampitheatre layout with the lecturer at the focal point. One is that this will eliminate the glare issue entirely, another is that the lecturer can be heard over large numbers of fans. The disadvantage is that it's space-hungry and schools often have to place a very high premium on space. (Inadequate funding being one major cause.) Curved workspaces look a bit more sci-fi and high-tech than boring rows.

A picture of the current Linux kernel as seen via the Linux Kernel Graphing project (modified as needed) would look great, especially if you could get some students to turn the ceiling into a massive plotter and vector-draw the entire thing. An even better hack would be to make the ceiling a white-board and have it updated with every release, bonus credit to the first to spot the biggest change since last lab session.

Wall art should not include boring or "motivational" phrases. A fresco of some major event in technology would be cool (and would help with inter-departmental politics since it would make a neat art project). Traditional adventure gaming maps of MUD1 and Dungeon, a mobile made of relic computer parts, maybe an old teletype in the corner (with a dunce's hat on it), something to show that technology is always in flux and that the rigid line between serious use and entertainment never existed at any time in the history of computing.

Well, it depends on the type of classes. (3, Informative)

bussdriver (620565) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466772)

I've used many layouts. For high school I am not sure. Depends on usage.

The silly typing courses many high schools have-- if that is all it is for, then old terminals are plenty good + make it more office like with typical office chairs etc since posture is part of that topic. Adjustable screens, keyboards etc should be part of it-- as the parent post suggests. possibly even have a couple styles to choose from (learning to type is a waste of time, but learning to save your hands and back is so important later...) no desk needed for such a class... Classic typewriters would outlast any computer and work just as well to build that skill. keyboards are cheap; typing programs run just fine on Apple ][s. I might have a WORKING one in the basement, probably still runs typing tutor...

The worst "lab" I've had is a normal room with a parameter of computers desks. This makes it easy to see what people are doing and stand in the center area; its horrible for college lectures because they can't use the computer and see what you are showing; on the plus side, they can't use the computer... Our newer "labs" decided upon this kind of layout to make a clean break between lecture and computer lab time physically; I hate this while others like it. For high school this may work out; despite it requiring more floor space than a normal room - its not all that disruptive to make them move during class; they are kids and likely need some moving around...and some discipline in doing so maturely. Without locked down machines you know they'll goof off and if you lock it down, a kid like myself will be distracted by that challenge... You can easily see what is going on with a parameter layout (plus equip the room far cheaper.)

The coolest lab I've seen was one with individual desks that had monitors IN THE DESK; it was odd to look downward but also really cool. takes a little getting used to-- I've not got that lab, the math dept has it. probably good for their needs.

Daylight is nice; however, a brightly lit room is more important than windows; full spectrum bulbs are enough. When I was in school it was dim all the time; now they seem to have double the lights! A board student or easily distracted student LOVES WINDOWS. I shut the blinds. Skylights waste energy in heating or cooling in most places.

Every computer lab I've used which was full became stuffy after a while; I figured it was the extra heat in the room that caused it to feel that way; except in rooms designed as labs where they had extra venting planned... Those would often seem too cold and dry (I should complain someday.) I would STRONGLY recommend some of the NASA plants... actually, a ton of them would be needed-- hang them around the parameter of the room up high and SOLID. The feeling of the room is greatly improved by this; plus the humidity will be more natural and the oxygen level will be higher. (see snake plant, I think its the best one on the list. I don't have a room of my own or I would do this.) Peppermint. Its a smell, not a taste and its a mental stimulant like ginko (it works, ginko doesn't do jack for me.) Two proven impacts: 1) mental subconscious connection to the room and past situation upon entering the room. 2) it wakes you up mentally although it has to be rather strong for that. There is no official allergy, but I sprinkle the oil around the room secretly before class. The plant doesn't smell as much but you could grow that... (I suggest putting a few drops on the keyboards, haven't busted one yet!)

Metalic PAINT... I hate cell phones... the kids these days (girls) can text amazingly fast... if you could only get them to properly type gossip to each other under their desks...

ANY kind of development work can use LARGE monitors! actually, 2 cheaper ones makes a lot of sense... since most people are going to laptops and will hook up a 2nd display... If you do any graphic work, get nice monitors; if its just typing any crap will do. DO NOT get all-in-one computers. that is just stupid. Also if you do development work; you must teach REFERENCE use. Google is making people dumber. examples don't always exist; problem solving is not looking up answers on google. A firewall to block google is a good idea; perhaps even blocking all internet.

Linux is obvious. Mac is ok. Windows is just so stupid... The "real" world tech isn't anything like what they see in high school - learning MS Office and the argument for that is so false... the concepts are learned then all spreadsheets are the same. Capable users who are not just stupid consumers/serfs will learn unix/linux. GUIs will change a bit so learning one specific one is pointless; its like memorizing multiplication tables and not knowing how to manually calculate products; the latter is more important and an actual SKILL involving real learning.

Cheapo computers break a lot. The general use labs always have a few dead machines awaiting IT... Buy a few extra, put them nearbye in storage; forget I.T.

SPACE- large people are hard to help from behind; space for you to stand to the right of the student to help them with out bumping into the next person is nice; also in labs with rows-- its not fun to move in/out of the rows without SPACE. Something too many forget to think about. Also, it helps if the resolution is LOW so you can easily see their display with out poking your head into their space to read the display. A 2nd mouse would be nice if anything supported that.... A small laser pointer is ok; don't like touching the monitors... If I was one of those freaks with the 1 handed keyboard mouse things -- I'd plug into student computers when I wanted to show something... Sure remote screen crap is out there but its POOR for doing instruction.

A large touch screen display for all to see is nice; I think... I am still on a projector.

Some courses do not need books; so no desk space... some people keep notes so some space for that is nice. some have laptops and avoid the space altogether...

Duh. (0)

masternerdguy (2468142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466172)

One that runs Linux. But not Ubuntu.

Re:Duh. (2)

KerrickStaley (2423808) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466216)

-Runs Gnome 3 and hence is easy-to-use and visually appealing
-Similar to Red Hat, so people who can properly administer it are easier to find

Re:Duh. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38466228)

Not to be pedantic...but labs don't run operating systems, computers do.

Re:Duh. (4, Funny)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466746)

Not to be pedantic...but labs don't run operating systems, computers do.

That's true, and pedantry is welcome. This is slashdot after all.

I knew things were off to a rocky start when the story started with this quote:

"I am a high school computer teacher and I've been put in the unique situation of designing my ideal computer lab

To be perfectly pedantic: "computer teachers" probably don't need a lab at all.
Just an ssh connection to each computer, and you can program (teach) the computers what ever you want.

Why build a lab, that invariably attracts students, who always mess things up.
Get a Gorilla rack and put it in the basement somewhere, but what ever you do, keep those pesky kids away.

Re:Duh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38466332)

what is wrong with ubuntu? is it because it is a linux distro that is finally showing some promise and people want to use it?

Re:Duh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38466342)

Ubuntu is the distro for people who don't get Linux.

Hipster much? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38466524)

I used Ubuntu before it was cool.

Virtualization (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466354)

If you are even going to put workstations into the lab (at the university-level we are starting to think about getting rid of them in favour of student laptops) go virtual. It lets you easily switch the OS to suite the use of the room and there are cheap open source solutions available.

Re:Duh. (2)

History's Coming To (1059484) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466726)

If you can get away with licensing it, Windows/*nix dual boot machines. Windows because at high school level it's irresponsible not to make the least techie pupil au fait with what they will probably face in the workplace.

Then you have your *nix system for the "real work". Even one years experience will be a good head start for any student wanting to go into science and engineering. If you go with something with a nice GUI then you can introduce the lower level students to the idea that "it's not just Windows..."

You can get mesh blinds for the windows... (3, Insightful)

Radical Moderate (563286) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466226)

they filter out some light but still allow a view to the outside. Pretty good compromise, I have them in one lab and they work well, we leave them down all the time.

Re:You can get mesh blinds for the windows... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38466440)

Or just forget about windows altogether. In a computer lab light is your worst enemy. Keep it as dark as possible for best monitor experience. People should be focused on the screen and not on the aesthetics of the architecture and design of the building.

Computer-wise, make sure that none of the computers are locked down. Remember, this is a learning environment, and NOT a business environment. If federal funding requirements mean that you have to filter the Internet, then don't have the Internet in the computer lab: have your own Internal network that the kids can play with, exploit and abuse.

If you're really concerned about plants and windows and such then you probably shouldn't be teaching computer "science", and instead ask the principal to let you teach art class instead.

Re:You can get mesh blinds for the windows... (1)

NoobixCube (1133473) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466792)

And no more frivolous, decadent candy, either. You shall eat only turnip! The efficient food for the worker!

While some might feel more comfortable in a basement-like environment, if it's a high school computer lab, it will be used by students of all subjects. There's no worse way to make something appealing to a 14 year old with the attention span of a gnat than to lock them in a dungeon to do their schoolwork. Have you never studied education theory?

Ask the students (5, Insightful)

Chazus (988753) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466236)

Seriously. Ask THEM what they would like to see in a computer lab. School for me, plainly put, sucked. I did poorly because I never had any reason or desire to motivate or engage myself. Environment is important, as someone else said, but it also needs to be a place that doesn't feel forced. Put meme posters (that are safe for school) on the wall. Interesting trivia. Places students can go whenever they want to learn (slashdot!). Encourage them to learn and understand. Bring in computer parts for display. Show them what real world internet is like. Discuss and have information about the difference between over-security, network security, theatrical security, and how that ties in with laws. I think the ideal computer room should have all the evidence of what I would want to impress upon my own children about computers and the internet.

Re:Ask the students (1)

stevenfuzz (2510476) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466356)

I actually think this is a major problem with schools today. It has become more about students and standardized curriculum than preparing kids for the real world. Teachers are no longer the boss, when shit hits the fan it's the parents are the boss. Who cares what kids want? They have no experience with anything, have never done anything, and are pretty much useless until shown otherwise. If you don't know what you want in a computer lab, why would they?

Don't ask the students (1)

TWX (665546) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466364)

Artwork will definitely be subject to school or district guidelines. Access to internet resources is probably controlled by the IS department and is out of the hands of the teacher.

Please don't take this the wrong way, but there's a real balance to strike between exciting diversions and core curriculum, and while there are some companies that encourage expression at work, there are probably ten times as many that don't want even cubicle decoration. Don't stifle the kids, but at the same time, don't teach them to expect so much individuality in expression that they experience a severe culture shock when they get into the workplace later. And since each student is different, there is an expectation that some kids simply won't like the environment, even if the majority of the kids are fine with it. Since we can't afford individualized instruction to that level this is simply going to be the case.

Re:Ask the students (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38466646)

> Seriously. Ask THEM what they would like to see in a computer lab.

1) That's what he is doing.
2) Customers often have no idea what they want, and often want what wont help them. [IKIWISI]

Re:Ask the students (1)

Random Destruction (866027) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466844)

I really like the hardware idea. A torn apart hard drive and cd-rom and an old computer with the side off helps people understand that they aren't using a magical black box.

Theyre using a magical black box full of neat-o spinning and buzzing things.

Re:Ask the students (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466848)

Some of the students will have ideas, but only a few of them will be good, and most of the students won't even have that.

Good suggestions otherwise, though... but I'm not sure what you expect them to learn from Slashdot, other than that editing and fact-checking are unimportant.

Make it like the real world... (5, Funny)

stevenfuzz (2510476) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466238)

If they want to get used to working in a real-world computer environment: 1. Terrible and abrasive neon lights. 2. Cubicles. 3. Every 5 minutes someone in the class needs to bother another student with a stupid question. Focus is a perk not a right. 4. Randomly stand over a students shoulder and demand a demo, and a reason why the project is not done yet. 5. If the students work is not progressing, fail them and outsource a student from India.

Re:Make it like the real world... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38466812)

Create siloes with different claimed specialties, responsibilities, and authority.

Then, in each silo, place people who plainly don't have the requisite knowledge, technical ability, and/or CURIOSITY* for their specialty with one or two people who have an excellent grasp.
(*I believe curiosity is the most important thing a truly technical person has, and the lack of it pretty much precludes a person from being technical AFAIAC.)

-Don't expect/demand/help the less technical/curious ones try to develop these skills or rotate them to a more appropriate silo where their skills may help them and their team flourish. Just expect them to do the job and tell them that if they get stuck to just get help from the one or two people in their silo who know what the hell they're doing.
-Suggest that the more technical ones take more time to teach the less technical ones-even if that's what they've been doing and/or some of these things are almost impossible to teach in a document or by observation, but rather must be learned and developed in a manner tailored to the individual, and usually require specific thought processes.
-When the really technical ones demonstrate that they have a very good or excellent grasp of the other silos, make sure to assign them tasks from those silos as well.
-When the more technical person begins to learn something new, make sure they own any issues that surround this new thing regardless of how much work they have now, how well they've learned it, or how closely this new thing is more appropriate in another silo.

-Act surprised or oblivious when the more technical/knowledgeable ones get burnt out balancing between doing their own assigned tasks, doing tasks that used to/should belong to another person, plus 2/3 of the job of their teammates.

-Be surprised when your technical people stop learning anything new (or at least no longer discuss new things they've learned).
--Be incredulous if they suggest that they don't bother learning new things out of fear they will own this new thing in addition to everything they do now.

-Expect the knowledgable ones to clean up any messes, but don't allow the authority to prevent them in the future. When they predict disaster and suggest even small changes to projects in their infancy, tell them that the other silos will handle those problems and/or make sure to say "we'll cross that bridge when we come to it", even if it really means "YOU will cross that bridge when WE come to it"

---Oh, and make sure everyone gets nearly equal pay and praise (or lack thereof).

Nix (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38466242)

Get something on the computers besides windows or osx. The kids should be exposed to something else, just to expand their knowledge a little. Ubuntu is fine, unlike the stated above comment, as long as it isn't gnome 3. We have some nice canvas-like cloth covering most of our windows, and that is able to bring in enough ambient light to not need the fluorescents. That along with matte screens also helps.

Re:Nix (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38466584)

Get something on the computers besides windows or osx.

Yeah, because educating them to use the systems that they're most likely to encounter would be just lame.

On that note, make sure to focus most of your attention on a nice alternative programming language, like ALGOL or INTERCAL.

Linux or a real UNIX is great, but start with the things that they're likely to encounter in the real world before you start getting esoteric.

A basement motif (1)

olsmeister (1488789) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466244)

Complete with Cheetos bags and pictures of mommy. Oh, and throw in a Tesla coil and some Magic: The Gathering stuff. You want it to be realistic, right?

Screens towards you (1)

bloody_liberal (1002785) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466256)

Screens towards you. This way the kids turn their back to the screen when they look at you, which would prevent them being distracted when you talk; it would also allow you to see what they are doing with a glance.

Re:Screens towards you (1)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466392)

That has the disadvantage of not allowing them to follow along through a demo or glance up at stuff written on the board while they work.

A better solution in my opinion is have the whiteboard and area where the teacher lectures at the front, and the teachers desk where he sits while they work at the back.

Re:Screens towards you (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466608)

ah, so they can be good little corporate cubical droids in the future, as they won't be able to see management sneaking up behind them. maybe some loud obnoxious sales and marketing wanks on speakerphones in the room too

Re:Screens towards you (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466618)

Along this line of thought, also get the "screen capture" utilities (they are available from multiple vendors) so the instructor can not only be "watching over the shoulder" while the student is writing code, but more importantly so an instructor can grab something the student is working on and show the software being developed to the whole class on a projector for everybody to see, and encourage class collaboration on fixing bugs or trying to resolve issues that come up in the development process. Don't restrict this to just between the teacher and student, but allow other students to "peek in" on what their classmates are doing as well or to even collaboratively write software from multiple stations simultaneously.

Another thing that would help here as well is to have "social network" tools available like instant messages and e-mails, with possibly the restriction that you can only contact other students within the school using those tools (various ways to accomplish that task). Include message boards or even a localized version of Diaspora (or something that approximates Facebook)... with the goal in mind that students can "network" with each other to solve assigned problems.

Hopefully with such tools available, you don't have a teacher who thinks "Hello World" is a major accomplishment for students in a high school classroom.

Separate power strips (2)

VIPERsssss (907375) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466276)

Separate power strips/UPS for each workstation so no one can accidentally kick the reset button and kill the power for everyone along that wall. Especially after everyone has been coding on their final project for the last hour or so.

Save early. Save often.

the (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38466294)

The secret is to get some girls in there. It doesn't happen at all normally, but it's what is needed. Girls with short skirts, possibly without panties.

Privacy? (0)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466304)

Make it a design that provides some privacy, because the lab may be the only place that some teens can surf porn. Stain-proof surfaces and antibiotic wipes would be a nice touch too.

Physically secure things (5, Insightful)

skids (119237) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466314)

... or your memory modules will walk, even if you don't think there is any opportunity for that to happen.

A lot depends on the equipment and use (5, Insightful)

TWX (665546) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466324)

What is the lab being used for?

What form factor are the computers?

What kind of connectivity will the computers use?

How many students at a time, and are these the top 20%, middle 60%, or bottom 20%?

What size of space?

These are all very important characteristics, and I've worked with all kinds of each. The one defining characteristic I can assert is that enough physical space both in the room and at the worksurfaces is important. When the room is cramped and the desks are cramped, the kids will be cramped, and will probably abuse the equipment more. It'll be harder to maintain and harder for custodial to keep the space clean.

I also suggest that the teacher's station be in the back on a raised platform, such that the teacher can easily see all of the screens.

I suggest a form factor like the "Small Desktop" form factor Dell has used for their Optiplex lines, and that the machines are mounted where with a little effort they can be reached by the user, but are otherwise somewhat out-of-sight, out-of-mind. Technicians performing maintenance will be pissed if they're on the back side of the desk where they can't be reached when in front of the console. Also, don't block too much access to the back, as the technician needs easy access to the connections.

If you won't need to reconfigure the lab, go with permanent fixture desks, run the data and electrical infrastructure in the furniture. Be sure to keep a good separation between data and electrical to minimize interference. If you will need to reconfigure, go with a raised floor like computer rooms use, that will allow cabling to be moved around as needed based on furniture configuration.

If the lab will be used for general ed computer-based learning rather than for technology-subject learning, put in short height partitions to separate students from each other a bit.

Avoid lighting on the blue end of the spectrum, go for yellower tones. Blue will make them fall asleep.

Avoid chairs that are too adjustable and on casters, they'll inevitably get destroyed. Chairs similar to those used in band and orchestra would be a good choice.

If you put up a projector, get one with the same aspect ratio as the teacher's station's screen. If possible, go for the same resolution. Put in a sound system too, at least a set of stereo speakers in the front connected to a small amp. Wire for everything on the projector even if you don't need it now- if you need to hook up a Blu-ray player or VCR or something later it's nice to have cabling.

Good luck. You're going to need it...

Re:A lot depends on the equipment and use (3, Informative)

Ayanami_R (1725178) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466616)

TWX is spot on in his comments. A bit to add...

Get classroom management (for computer labs) software like LanSchool. Then you can face the machines however you want. With software like this you can see all the monitors, lock computers, turn the internet off, etc. You can get a demo version from their website (www.lanschool.com)

Also make sure the room has proper cooling. We have schools losing machines left and right because AC is "too expensive" So is replacing lab machines every 2 years due to failure from overheating. At one school their entire lab failed in about 14 months, and cost 4x what installing AC would to replace. This brings another point, if a tech (like me) tells you something LISTEN TO IT. Usually this isn't a problem as it's the principals that truly don't listen to us. We tell you something, you tell your principal and then nothing happens. If this happens to you, email the tech and get a written suggestion from them, forward it to your principal. It'll save your ass if same principal tries to blame you later on for a failure that could have been avoided by LISTENING TO THE TECH. I hate to use caps, but it's that important.

Re:A lot depends on the equipment and use (1)

swalve (1980968) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466786)

I was going to say the same thing, specifically, what is it going to be used for? Is it a general purpose lab, where students book time to get things done? Or an instruction lab? Or a specific purpose lab? In high school (1990-ish), there were three labs. One was full of PS/2s for teaching "business applications". One was full of vt100s hooked to a UNIX machine for the computer science people, and one was for "writers workbench" that was a kind of cool application that we used to improve our writing. We'd type our drivel in, and it would spit out statistics about grammar, word length, and so on.

Anyway, each lab had different purposes and different setups. No instruction was done in some of them, so the partitions were higher. That, and the writer's lab, had larger desks because you'd need to spread out notes and things. Etc.

I would strongly suggest using thin clients and some kind of term server, where the base image is unmodifiable and gets reset at each bootup. If it is for instruction, I might want a setup where I would flip a switch and turn off their monitors so they would pay attention while lecture is going on. If you are stuck with PCs, plan for constant re-imaging. Build a good image and write a script, using PXE if possible. Go draconian with locking the machines down, or get some really good firewall and antivirus software. Might even use some creative subnetting so that none of the other machines are visible to each other. It sucks to have to do that, but consider that the lab is a resource for everyone, and letting them "play" just costs other students the opportunity to use the resource. Let them go fuck up their own computers.

Finally, make sure they actually work. Many times I've gone into labs with instructions to "use program X to do task Y" or "go to compaq.com and do the online learning module for FGH product" and the computers don't have some necessary software installed, and nobody can be found to correct the problem.

As a computer/technology teacher (2)

Cramit (609487) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466352)

I like to have my lab set up with tables put together in the middle of the room with computers around that wall. This allows space for lessons and planning away from the keyboards. Students like to move tables around when they are working in groups. Computers around the wall gives me a view of all the screens allowing me to keep students on task.

Re:As a computer/technology teacher (1)

stevenfuzz (2510476) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466416)

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! AP Advanced C++ Flashback! Seriously, this is exactly how my high school CS classes were organized.

Free Access (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38466358)

Give free access to computer terminals.

Run only free software so everyone can tinker with the code what they see.

Lots of old (maybe even broke) gear for tech experiments. Add a few microcontrollers, say Arduino, for electronics projects.

Teach technologies not brands, computing not languages, bring the fun and joy to computing.

Yeah, have some plants! (Possible student projects include, but are not limited to: automatic plant watering, plant weather control, plant health [i.e. soil humidity] check.)

Choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38466360)

If possible give students some choice, I would have loved to be able to run Linux/UNIX-like OSes alongside Windows. Allow students to install things and tinker to learn rather than having things forced.

Implement some restrictions on website access and reward the first student that manages to bypass them.

What is makeup of users' group? (1)

TechForensics (944258) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466366)

How many students at one time, what career track (mostly)? Slackers or hackers? Important to know.

Best computer lab is not having a computer lab (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38466370)

You probably arent going to believe me now but in a few years you will figure out what I mean by this post.

A computer lab is better when its not a computer lab. The magic happens when the students collaborate rather than sit in rows behind computers. You should provide them with an active learning environment that has pods rather than rows. Pods of about 6-8 with a large flat screen or two with a switcher that allows each student to put up their screen to share with the pod and interact.

You spread the pods around the room and also have the ability to grab a screen and put it on the main overheads around the room. For instance you want to show what POD1 is doing, then you pull it on the main screens, show, talk, collaborate then go back and work, etc.

How I Made My High School Lab (5, Informative)

wetdogjp (245208) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466384)

I am also a high school computer teacher, and our building got renovated about three years ago. I was able to ask for lots of goodies too, but be prepared for the contractors to ignore whatever suggestions you make.

That being said, there were a few important elements I insisted on. One is that I could see all the students' screens from a central location. Mostly that meant having all the PCs facing outward against three walls, with me in the middle. This was a huge improvement over the back-to-back rows we had before. The downside is that kids have to turn around if they need to see the board or the teacher.

My class is in the Career and Technical Education school, so I'm training kids to be sysadmins, programmers, and technicians. Due to the nature of the class, we have a central rack with networking equipment that's easy for the kids to crowd around. If this is something you need, make sure there's plenty of space on all sides, and use a cable tray to bring in the wiring. Also, I asked for power to be dropped from the ceiling to the center of the room so we could setup work benches to troubleshoot hardware. (That's one of the things they neglected to give me.)

Natural light is a wonderful thing, but I wouldn't worry too much about glare as long as you don't have shiny glass screens. If students will be sitting in front of these things for an hour or more at a stretch, good (and large) LCD displays will reduce eye strain. Similarly, don't expect kids to sit in crappy chairs for long periods of time. But don't get swivel rolling chairs; they'll just race and spin in them.

Probably the most used piece of technology in my room is the projector. I'd definitely get a decent one and install it where everyone can see it. I also like to be mobile in my lab, so I've got an iPad to walk around with and take notes on student work.

As long as you've got space to spare, give students as much elbow room as possible. High school kids need a little personal space so they don't get on each others' nerves. Also, more space per PC makes it easier for students to work in small groups, as they can gather three or four people around one PC.

I've got some software I'm partial to, as well. It's nice having something like Faronics Insight in the lab, which allows me to monitor what everyone is looking at, limit Internet access, or share my screen with everyone. I'm not tied to that particular brand (thought it's what I'm using right now, and works on PCs and Macs), but rather any software system that has those functions.

My lab is due to be upgraded in a year or two. I might go with laptops if it's in the budget, but we've got to work out accountability (for theft), upgradability, and a few other issues. I certainly wish I had one or two for myself, though.

I hope this helps some.

Dual monitors (1)

claar (126368) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466390)

I realize this is for high school, but get them started on dual monitors early if possible. The expense isn't bad, especially since monitors usually out-last the computers two-fold or more.

We have dual monitors in our computer labs in our engineering labs, and our students always flock to our labs over the single-monitor ones the general university provides.

Re:Dual monitors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38466592)

Buy LCD monitors used in bulk from surplus or recyclers. 19" = $40, 17" = $25. They are so cheap you can even buy a few spares.

Re:Dual monitors (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466780)

hah! you'd never get the budget for that approved in 99% of schools. and most workplaces don't have them either for the same reason. neither do most homes. dual monitors is something most of them won't have later.

Windows are useful. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38466396)

I would have loved some windows in high school. Also helpful would be to have pens/pencils, paper, and other useful things nearby. Keeping printers close to a cluster of computers is amazingly helpful, cuz I dreaded the 40 foot walk to the printer in the library next door. Useful fact posters, such as helpful keyboard shortcuts, are a plus, especially to the aspiring guru. And most importantly, a physical server for file sharing/hosting that can be accessed around the campus. This is extremely helpful, especially when doing multiple projects for different classes.

Networking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38466400)

If the students have to learn about networking: redundant switches, cables, network cable pliers and cable testers. And a poster describing straight & crossed cable connections and their colors.

Make it silent (4, Insightful)

Richard_J_N (631241) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466408)

It is hugely more pleasant to work in a computer lab where the noise of fans isn't deafening. Actually, you can pretty much get total silence now, and I strongly recommend it. Specify computers with fanless coolers (usually this is $25 even for a high-powered i7 cooler), avoid rotating disks (use SSDs or etherboot), avoid case-fans, and use silent PSUs (these are usually equipped with fan for use when flat-out, but tend to run inaudibly; they cost a little more, but last much longer).

Re:Make it silent (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466834)

hahaha, my 1980s computer lab was a partition in the raised floor data center, with glass wall separating us from the 4381 mainframe. It was noisy, windy, cold, painfully bright and a long walk outside to the bins where the 11x14" greenbar output from the line printers (roaring like machine guns) was placed.

Re:Make it silent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38466836)

I think you need to turn in your geek badge now. I may be showing my age here but what self respecting /.er didnt grow up with the sound of cooling fans going nuts? If it's not loud, it's only showing youtube videos.

What is the budget and intended purpose? (1)

director_mr (1144369) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466414)

It would be helpful to know what the budget for the lab is, how many workstations are they hoping to accommodate, and what the purpose for the lab would be. Without that information, its hard to give any useful suggestions. I recommend LED lighting, as it is dimmable and easy on the eyes, but also saves electricity.

Vague question, please be more specific... (1)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466432)

I am sorry to say but the question is vague. When you talk of ideal, what do you mean?

Could these options help focus your mind to what you need?

  • A lab that is facilitates learning...
  • A lab that will reduce the potential impact of interruptions from outside sources...
  • A lab that helps students explore the inner workings of either software or related hardware...
  • A lab that helps focus students to today's and tomorrow's likely IT trends...
  • A lab that will make the Systems Administrator's life easy...
  • A lab that will be easily upgrade-able to new software and hardware as they become available...
  • A lab that will not be bound to a single software or hardware support paradigm...

Please be more specific and make up your mind. This is (I am sure you know), Slashdot.

#1 requirement for computer lab (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38466446)

stock it full of Vitamin P

that's poontang for those of you who can't follow along

if this computer lab's a rockin', don't come a knockin'

Variety of OS's (1)

vga_init (589198) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466454)

When I was in high school and was a budding sysadmin, I was really fascinated with operating systems. I didn't just want to use Linux, but I wanted to try every OS that I could get my hands on. I tried all kinds of Linux distros, and I also spent a lot of time running FreeBSD. I also tried BeOS, but it was dead by the time I got to it.

What would be really neat is if students had access to a variety of OS's that they could play with and learn to work with, such as Linux, OpenSolaris, BSD, and of course even Windows and Mac OS. You might even try getting some of the oddball systems to run like SkyOS, Syllable, ReactOS, Haiku, FreeDOS--the more the better.

Of course, computer labs are for more than just OS experimentation, but if you set aside a couple of older boxes with multiboot or maybe just install some nice VM software somewhere I think you'll attract some inquisitive students and inspire them to learn.

Re:Variety of OS's (1)

supremebob (574732) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466534)

Unless you put a bunch of games on the Linux PC's that aren't on the Windows PC's, 90% of the students will never bother to use it. People like to stick with what they already know from home use when they get a chance... they're lazy like that.

The 10% that do will probably be the classroom geeks that already know what they're doing.

Cover-less cases (2)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466474)

Or at least with openable cases. Have a drawer with spare parts, allow student to freely play with the hardware. Or at least have some stations that are "fair game".

Have a few stations with arduinos and basic electronics linked.

Give students a homepage with a kind of dynamic pages activated (php, python, perl, cgi, whatever)

Provide unusual resources (2, Interesting)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466480)

Fill the lab with Winders or fruit and students will tend to skid to a halt at a "power user" level of proficiency. Fill it with uninstalled white box PCs and Linux CDs, and they will learn many valuable things in the process of creating a usable network. Sure, they may never again need to do a lot of that stuff, but at least they will understand why it's necessary.

"You know that teacher we hated in the high school computer course? I just realized I learned something that year that prevented a corporate meltdown today."

Re:Provide unusual resources (0)

404 Clue Not Found (763556) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466588)

Computers are just a commodity tool nowadays. Why should students learn or care how they work inside?

Do we require students to go through a paper factory before assigning them reading? Do they have to learn to harvest their own wood and craft their own pencils?

Computer science is just one backbone of a very complex society, and not everyone needs to waste time at the same level of detail. There is other research, innovation, science, art, music, literature, etc. to be done, and the world probably needs (any/all) of that more than a few more GHz or yet another patch to yet another bug. I'm sure it's blasphemy to say this on Slashdot, but there's more to life than IT.

Standing-heighth desks!!! (1)

jduhls (1666325) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466490)

Standing-heighth desks!!! Changed my "crap, gotta sit on my ass all day" life.

Model a Hackerspace (1)

swifticus (191301) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466500)

Get a 3D printer, vinyl cutter, poster printer, and other fabrication tools so that the computers can be applied to a wider domain. Grab some arduinos and electronics to interface computers with sensors and motors. Consider getting some easily hackable gadgets like kinects, wii-motes, webcams. A couple DSLRs w/ fluorescent light kits & green screen?

I'd include ubuntu, OS X, and windows in your network if you can; if you're creating a budget of some sort, don't forget creative software costs (Visual Studio, Adobe Suite, Autodesk).

Make sure you will be able to grant administrator access without compromising the lab (you can use something like windows steady state, but I'd also keep backup images at a clean state). A local storage server with redundancy is a good idea to keep system images and other work safe.

Go for the skylights and vegetation; there are a lot of shade loving vines and plants that thrive with only a little light.

A couple of ideas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38466504)

Opaque skylights (ie, they let light in, but not direct light), will liven up the lab without introducing a lot of glare. If you are going to have counters along the walls for the computers, instead of the holes with grommets to string the wires through, just us a trough that has a removable lid. If you are going to have tables for workstations (or other movable furniture) consider extensive in-floor wiring (perhaps even a floating floor), so the lab can be as flexible as possible. Plants are another good idea, however keep them close to any windows you may have issues keeping them alive without some direct sunlight. Make sure the walls are all white, try to throw in some color, same goes for the ceiling, if it is a suspended ceiling, make sure to use either colored tiles (you can get them in many shades) and perhaps varying textures (you can get some to make the room look like something neo-classical or post-modern). DO NOT have adjustable swing arms for keyboards, as they aren't very strong and will break down quickly. Instead make sure the chairs are adjustable and the heights of the computers are adjustable, as they tend to last longer than the keyboard supports.

Stating the obvious here... (1)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466516)

Make sure the computers themselves are capable of running what you need them to run. Sounds obvious, but I'm currently enrolled in a college course that has us running IIS, Visual Studio and MS Office inside Windows Server 08, all inside VMWare. On a reasonably modern computer with plenty of memory, it would be tolerable. On the Pentium IV, 2GB RAM machines we're using, though, we spend as much time working as we do waiting for the computer to respond.

(If you're about to say "just use LAMP ffs", that's what I told the prof. He said MS is requiring the class be taught this way for them to maintain their MSAA license).

Re:Stating the obvious here... (2)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466854)

You might be able renegotiate that requirement. Invite your Microsoft MSAA liaison to a gourmet steak restaurant. Then stab him with a steak knife. Fucker.

Ideal College Lab (1, Interesting)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466528)

While this is perhaps a bit over the top for a High School lab, I think the ideal college computer lab would be one that puts an absolute prohibition on software going into the lab. The idea here is that competent computer science students ought to be capable of writing all of the software necessary for such a lab... including the operating system and even the TCP/IP stack and even the compilers. Since it is all being done there in the school.... document it and make sure that everybody knows what you are doing.

No, it wouldn't be something built in a single semester or term, but it would do a whole lot of good for people coming out of a college being exposed to actual hardware and working out the problems of how software is built, or why certain things are being done.

Of course this concept of a computer lab is something that professors and university administrators bent on producing an assembly line of future workers for IT companies would hate, because obviously they wouldn't be able to learn the "cool" tools being used elsewhere. But it would give them exposure to actual computer science and be able to understand how operating systems actually work rather than taking it on blind faith and assuming it is a black box.

In that lab, I'd also put paper copies of most of the RFCs from the IETF (or perhaps ASCII text files), as well as copies of the ACM and IEEE journals as well as other legitimate sources of information that competent programmers ought to be reading anyway. Games would be permitted, but it would have to be games that were developed inside the lab and not brought in from outside. Give access to this lab 24/7 to students, and see what some very creative people could actually come up with. Since the OS was just something thrown together by another student, encouraging students to rewrite parts of the OS would even be encouraged (and source code would be presumably available in such situations). Depending on school policies, encourage or even expect students to release everything developed in the lab under some sort of "open source" license (preferably GPL or MIT).

what kind of computer lab? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38466550)

A "computer lab" for teaching Spanish drills would be pretty conventional. A "computer lab" for computers should be a big empty space ready to receive about 300 late model used computers from the recycling center. That, screwdrivers, and Linux install CDs.

Clean (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38466562)

I don't care as long as it's clean and cleaned regularly.

One constant I've found between all school and university computer labs is that everything is fucking filthy.

And half of everything is broken.

If your lab has the software I need, the hardware I need, the space I need, it all works and it's not filthy, I don't think there's anything more I could possibly want.

Prepare them for the real world! (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466566)

Dark and dank - think mom's basement. A fridge with energy drinks, Twinkies, and supplied with dual floppy Apple IIs.

Mac Lab (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38466620)

As a student, I wish my school had a Mac lab. Purchase some iMacs and allow the students to choose between windows 7 and Mac os x. While the computers are more expensive, they will have much fewer problems.

Difused lighting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38466624)

Lots of low level lighting makes for a very pleasant environment for using a screen.

Some kind of library (1)

steveha (103154) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466650)

To go with the computers, it would be great if you had some sort of library. Even just one bookshelf with useful reference books: introduction to programming in Python, HTML 5 reference, vim reference, etc.

I'd like to suggest a Safari site license, if you can afford it. They might offer an affordable Safari license for schools?

http://safaribooksonline.com/ [safaribooksonline.com]

P.S. I hope the computers will have Linux available at least as an option.


My impression (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466656)

In terms of lighting, I would say windows perpendicular to the rows. I there is a lecture area, the computers can be facing into a center, with desks or tables in the center. If the students are going to have to practice techniques that you demonstrate, there should be at least three projectors facing the three directions. Some people have TVs set up, but no one can read those. If you have software to take over the computer and display what is doing, that doesn't work because students just disable or ignore it. Have an elmo so that you can show documents, also connected to all the screens. If you want, get some monitors to set at seated eye level around the room so that students with bad eyesight can look at the monitors. Basically everything you do is mirrored around the room on various devices.

I would recommend something that restores the computer to a known state on restart. I would have a server for each student to store work, and for the teacher to store materials the students much access. This can be done remotely, but even today the WAN is not 100% perfect, so having a LAN in the room i really helpful.If each student can have an account with space limitations, that is also good.

But when I think of a computer lab I also think of maintaining the resources for all computer and providing the relative level of supervision that each student requires. That means that the teachers location is generally behind rows of computers rather than in front. Laptops are good from older or well trained younger students, but not for on level freshman. The reason is that laptops can be easily damaged, for example keyboard ripped up or screen broken, and the whole units has to be replaced. Laptops also have to be secured if they are not collected after every class, preferable with an alarmed cable.

This is an issue as students do not always have a clear way to express their frustration, and sometimes the computer seems the most obvious target, not only because it is a source of frustration but if the computer is not working then they cannot be expected to do work. Also, off task students can inadvertently or purposefully disable a computer. This if sometime done in an attempt to prove the student is smarter than the teacher, but it really doesn't. Defense is always more costly than attack, and a teacher who spends time fixing computers disabled by the smartest students is not teaching, so these smartest kids are denying educational opportunities to others. Therefore a lab has to be setup to minimize time spent on technical issues, and maximize the time the students spend learning fundamental concepts of computing.

Too obvious (3, Interesting)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466678)

Ask Slashdot: Ideal High School Computer Lab?

That's easy. Give every student a laptop and a copy of Ubuntu and let the world be their lab. Hire a few geeks to answer questions and help the students if they get stuck.

And please, no remote control cameras on the computers. Assistant Principals tend to be pervs.

Raised floor and HVAC (5, Informative)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466688)

1. Raised floor. 4", a short one. And get extra tiles. Tech changes and you'll need to reconfigure the room every couple years to keep up. With raised floor you can put network and power on flexible whips and move them around where you need them. This'll allow you to move desks, move computers, move everything. You're going to put holes in these tiles. Later you'll discover you need some of the holes filled in. That isn't possible. So you'll need the extra tiles to cut new.

2. Dedicated supplemental HVAC. A room full of computers will get hotter than the ordinary school HVAC can handle during the spring and fall. It'll get even hotter during the winter when the school heating system pumps out the heat. The normal solution - a thermostat-controlled duct damper - isn't going to do you much good. You need a small, inexpensive HVAC that can put out a couple tons of cooling supplementing the normal school HVAC.

3. Second dedicated HVAC for the server closet unless you're remoting the class servers in the school's IT room. In which case, make sure the school's IT room has a dedicated HVAC.

4. 200 amp subpanel in the room. You'll find you need to reconfigure the electrical when you reconfigure the room. Reconfiguring all the way back to a basement circuit breaker panel will be costly and problematic.

My Ideal Computer Classroom (1)

bryanandaimee (2454338) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466700)

Well as has been said, it depends on what you are teaching, but "High School Computer Teacher" may mean A+ computer repair, Programming, Microsoft office, etc. I taught computer repair, and the thing I wanted most was work space. It would be nice if the monitors could swing away under or behind the desks and have some hooks for keyboard and mouse on the side or something so you could clear the desk space for doing actual labs like tear down some donated computers and reassemble them, explore the parts etc. To facilitate this the computer should not be on top of the desk. In so many labs I've seen the computer/monitor/keyboard take up every inch of desk space so that you can't even find a good place for reference material, books, or other tools. If I go really crazy the classroom looks like this.

1. Small form factor computers under the desk or attached to the underside.
2. Pico projector and pull down/up screen built in rather than a monitor
3. Place to stow keyboard and mouse

The projector should automatically go to sleep when the screen is rolled up. Going from computers on to computers gone should take ~10 seconds. You do your lectures, labs and other exercises with the computers completely out of the way, and bring them right back up when they are required. Oh and the screens should be slightly translucent so you can see what the kids are doing from both the front and the back of the classroom.

Seriously....here's what you want to do. (1)

PortHaven (242123) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466702)

First off, drop the posters. I agree...

You want little neon lights strings illuminating the room so it looks like TRON.

You want posts of Yori & Quora. So girls know they can be programs too!

Seriously, I'm not sure the room is the biggest deal. But I would press for the following.

Two high res projectors or better yet 55"-65" LCD screens. On opposite sides from each other.

I would use L desks. Four workstations to an L. Two students on each wing of the L.


Because this facilitates paired programming, and small group programming (2,4). And if arranged in an offset (8) students.

All computers should be dual monitor. This will allow you to present and it be viewed on one screen while they work on the other.

Suggest putting in an order for a couple of Kinects as well. As these could provide an avenue for development that the kids might enjoy.

Arrange the room so that you can have two groups, each with a large screen and a Kinect. This can allow them to compete.


As for GLARE, it's really simple. Put up huge honking windows. But have them be completely covered with white cotton. Essentially turning all of the windows into large "light soft boxes".

This way the room is bright but glare is reduced. Try to get "matte finish" monitors.

Ask to have all computers equipped with two hard drives. One which contains the core OS and software. A second which can contain a virtual machine software and for which students can muck around and learn.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/buy/Standard-Softboxes/ci/1337/N/4276734332 [bhphotovideo.com]

I did this once in 1988... (4, Interesting)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466704)

I designed a small space for 6 workstations that was used for 2 years, it was pretty popular among the students, they hung out there and worked all hours of the day and night, usually 4 or 5 of the workstations were occupied during "normal working" hours. Then, I was asked to design the upgraded lab with 18 terminals in a larger space. The main thing I asked for from a lighting/facility aspect was workspace spotlights (in those days, incandescent lights in a can which throw a spot on the desk but not on the screens - today I'd go LED), and I asked for 72" desks because our students worked in pairs. I arranged the 18 desks in a sort of random/scattered layout (both for the 6 and 18 terminal labs), which put most workstations in a semi-isolated space, usually with at most one other workstation in a "hey, can you tell me..." line of sight asking distance.

Well, it was 20+ years ago, so I don't remember if I actually got the can-spots or not, what I do remember was that the man in charge said "thanks a lot for the design, but we're going to lay them out in rows so that when a visitor looks in the window from the hallway they will see all the screens, it's impressive." Yeah, it was impressive alright. The desks shrank to 54" to make 3 rows of 6 work in the available space, people were on each other's elbows all the time and, generally speaking, no more than 3 or 4 workstations were ever occupied at a time because people felt cramped if more than half the terminals were full, so they generally stayed away except for absolutely required lab time.

High School (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38466754)

One thing that I noticed in my high school computer labs is that if there was a seperate "classroom" and "computer" section, we tended to do MUCH better. You see, when you put a high school student in front of a computer, his/her mind shuts off. If they don't have an assignment, they immediately go to the internet and start looking at Facebook, Twitter, etc. This makes lectures impossible when students are sitting in front of a computer. For that reason, you should do all your lecturing either in a completely separate room, or at computer-less desks clearly separated in another part of the room. The other suggestion I have is to have all your computers at little islands in the room that you can freely move about in. Have maybe 3 or 4 computers at each island, facing outwards. Give each island a power strip, and comfortable rolling chairs. This will make it easier for you to keep track of what the students are working on, and encourages collaboration within the small groups.

From a school district techs point of view (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38466788)

Make sure for every one computer you have 1.5 Ethernet jacks (also make sure its at least cat6) and 3 power plugs, don't think about what will suit today, think about the possibilities of tomorrow and what you will need before you have to throw extra power strips and ethernet switches in. Also make sure your desks are as free as possible underneath (no dividers between stations) so when you buy new equipment 5 years from now, if its larger or smaller you can easily adjust.

Skip the projector screen and get the wall it will be pointed at painted for the projector, or look at the promethean or smart board setups. Wire a sound system in.

As for windows just make sure the sun doesn't shine directly through them in the morning or afternoon on to where the computers will be or be line of sight for students looking at their monitors. Also if its in the budget get the remote operated blinds for all the windows, for when you need that extra darkness.

Support it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38466832)

Do all of the support for the lab so you can truly understand how it all works.

highschooler here (2)

freezway (1649969) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466862)

Our computer lab was awesome until the district fucked it up. The computers all autoreimaged themselves from a seperate partition on reboot, so you could fuck it up hard and nothing bad would happen. Everyone was admin. It worked great! Need a program installed? No problem! Seriously, do this.

Index or Railgun? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38466872)

Ever seen anything about Academy City?

start by asking students (1)

cohomology (111648) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466884)

A good way to start is to ask current and former students, and teachers at other schools. Also think about the type of environment you would like to learn in.

When I was in high school ( class of 1972; IBM 1620; punched cards ) I loved my computer course so much that I came in before first class to read manuals and do stuff on my own. I was not aware of my physical environment.

Also, please make sure some attractive, physically mature, but reckless young women are in each class.

Some way they can show off (2)

goldcd (587052) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466890)

One of the lovely things about IT is that (theoretically) one person can make something that can instantly be used by millions.
Possibly that's a little bit optimistic, but the best motivation for anything I've made is somebody looking at something I've built and and just saying "I like that"
Or maybe even better - "I would like it even more if it did x", then building "x" and then getting the feedback (mainly when you realize not including x was a retarded over-sight).
I'm not quite sure how you support this in the design of the room, but maybe find a way of allowing those not in the class to see what's happening. Windows into the room, something that people can look at if they just wander in - maybe even just a 40" screen outside pointing to stuff available to all on a site of what's been made in the room that day.
I guess my point would be that the room shouldn't just be for people making things (50 ergonomic workstations are lovely - but they'll only ever look like 50 ergonomic workstations) - it should help show the rest of the world what's being produced in that room. 'Selling' what's being made isn't really for the people they're selling to, but to provide encouragement to the creators.
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