We were assigned to a lab that apparently had been a former classroom. There were rows of computers with boxy CRT monitors sitting on tables with chairs pulled up to them. Now note I am not criticising this set up for this school. I wish my own school would take a section of my instructional area in the library and create an additional lab–tables, chairs, and big, boxy CRT monitors are just fine with me! Not my idea of ideal, but when your in need, who’s going to complain? The room looked much like the picture here. Replace those kiddos with adults (and probably most high-schoolers) and you get a crowded situation. Forget aesthetics.
Layout from Hades!
Here is a drawing I made to represent what we faced in our presentation. The flat side of the pentagon represents the screen of the monitor, and the students sit and face their monitor and the front of the room where a Promethean Board/Projector resides. I’m sure you can pick out the teacher’s computer.
My question for this set up is this: How can you or even neighboring students maneuver to collaborate or help each other? Not conducive at all for that type of activity. Not only that, but even standing at the back of the room, it would be VERY difficult to monitor what is going on in here. I can envision kids a multitasking away if the assignment is not that engaging (which is a totally different problem and another post for another time) and their teacher would never be the wiser.
So how can it be fixed?
If this were my assigned teaching area, I would ask permission to re-layout the room. Now I know some schools are limited by where their drops are, but there are ways around it with switches and other equipment. Here is how I would change this room if it were assigned for my instruction. Not the BEST situation still, but at least those helping could walk around and be able to look over the shoulder as communication takes place. Also, me as the instructor or any visitors with one stroll around the class can see that students are on task. The adult in the room can visually see 65-70% of activities at all times despite the crowded room.
Would it have made a difference?
Had we a layout like this yesterday, we still would have had problems because there were just too many people there. But the collaborative nature of educators would have worked in our favor as they probably would have helped one another more freely–as I know from experience students do.
Not the best layout by any means. IMHO, if it HAS to be a lab, an over-sized room with all workstations on the peripheral walls is best, with tables in the middle for planning or other types of work. Of course best scenario is laptops (and/or other smart handheld devices) and flexible seating arrangements.
So what do you think would have worked better?
Image: ‘Another view of working students‘