The computer lab, like any classroom, has its own set of unique challenges. However, at the end of the school day, teaching in a computer lab is incredibly rewarding. Here are some suggestions for working with the challenges of computer labs.
Increase Collaborative Learning. As Mary Beth Hertz points out in her article, The Pros and Cons of Computer Labs, group projects can be difficult in a computer lab. Until more schools acquire laptop, tablet and wireless technology, computer labs are virtually impossible to rearrange. Group projects can become mayhem as throngs of students gather around a single computer. To combat this, talk to administrators about larger indoor spaces that may be reserved on campus. You can have students meet an alternate classroom for a class or two as they work out the details for their project. Then they can return to the lab to work on individual portions of the project.
Academic Resource Station. Many primary/secondary schools have had to shut their library doors due to budget cuts. Your college students may arrive with a shocking gap in research skills, having never been properly trained. Teaching in a computer lab is about more than teaching computer literacy. It provides the chance to teach adult students how to use the internet for academic research, determine if a website is a reliable source of information, and/or how to access academic journals and publications. These are critical skills for the returning student.
The benefits of teaching in a computer lab far outweigh its challenges.