Education is Not Rocket Science
The Case for Deconstructing Computer Labs in Schools
2006 - 100 pages
ISBN Paperback: 9789077874783 ($ 28.00)
The dominance of computer labs in our schools is the result of a long struggle among teachers and technicians for control of precious computer resources. As technicians gain power and influence, this is expressed in the ‘row on row of machines’ installed in literally thousands of computer labs in schools around the world. While labs are in some ways, ideal for learning about technology or computer programming, they somehow seem ill equipped to assist teachers with a lesson on language arts, geography or for helping students conduct a scientific experiment. As a result, the huge investment in computers seems like so much wasted potential: labs are not influencing teaching in the ways we had hoped for, and in fact, their use may even be harmful to students. These observations are based on five years of experience as the director of a centre for educational technology at a leading Canadian university and, on the results of three international studies I conducted in Australia, Canada and Malaysia. A reversal of the current ‘techno- trend’ would mean teachers would reclaim computers for ‘their own’ classrooms, and relegate the idea of the computer lab to the scrap heap of history. As educators, we need to discard the ‘once size fits all’ strategy which computer labs imply about teachers’ instructional needs. This is reinforced by the apparent failure of computers to transform teachers’ practice despite significant investments in computer technologies. Some critics describe this as a ‘management problem’ as computer labs reinforce ‘top down’ ways of thinking about knowledge. Unfortunately, once such models are adopted, undesirable uses of technology-- such as the computer lab -- become entrenched in a bureaucratic mindset, limiting the effectiveness of these expensive tools to support teaching and learning.