Computer labs, you love ’em, and you hate them. On days when everything goes well, the lab is an awesome resource for teaching. Those other days though, boy, it makes you wonder why you even got out of bed in the morning. They can be a huge time sink, there are many ugly little gotchas that require serious time to sort out. I’m curious about the state of computer labs today. Let’s review some of the common computer labs types and dump on them a little, but we’ll come around and not be completely negative.
The traditional computer lab
Usually made of Windows Desktop computers, anywhere from 5 to 50 spread out in a room. Smaller labs are great, they offer more flexibility, but can also become a pain as the software becomes outdated, and problems start to crop up. The larger labs are usually automated and locked down so the experience is uniform across all computers.
The mobile laptop lab
When your school doesn’t have enough space to host a computer lab the convenience of a mobile lab is very attractive. The Laptop computers can be put on a roll cart and offers many of the same conveniences as a desktop lab, that is until the wear and tear starts to set in. Keyboards, screens, plugging and unplugging all take heavy toll on the poor laptop. They are often not as fast as a desktop lab, but with today’s processor speeds that seems to matter less and less.
Everyone knows Macs are better
The Mac lab, I haven’t been in an lab of all Mac computers. I have managed a Mac XenServer before but for a different purpose. I see Apple has provided server software to make a mac lab possible. I’d be interested to hear about the benefits and trials of running a Mac lab.
But does it scale?
Networked computers offer relief of managing each computer separately. Learners profiles can travel with them as they move from computer to computer, gone are the shared passwords that foster problems. You don’t have so many problems with learners and users treading on each others profile. There is a greater level of privacy afforded to the Learner. The computers themselves can be locked down to prevent unwanted practices from causing problems. There can be a tendency to assume that all computers are exactly the same, but somehow there always seems to be an exception. hopefully you find it before your students.
Each of the Labs are great in their own way, that is, until problems occur. Regardless of how well a lab is setup, things change, software becomes outdated, security is always a concern, as is privacy. Computer parts fail or are abused, Instructors laptops connecting to the projector, and Printers are a never ending chore. What about accessibility, different font resolutions and different devices are always keeping the technicians on their toes.
I put together a poll to find out more about the computer labs out there, could you take a minute to answer a few questions?