School Planning & Management, August 2001, page 36

Design of computer laboratories can facilitate an active learning environment that will introduce elementary school students to computers. This may require rethinking the current layout of a typical computer lab—a design that is more oriented to space allotments than to the needs of students.

Today, most elementary school computer labs are small rooms (900 square feet) that contain about 30 work stations. The stations are oriented toward the front of the room, from which an instructor can command attention. If learning to use computers and learning with computers are different than other kinds of learning—and most educators think they are—then this traditional layout is counterproductive.

Redesigning computer labs starts by understanding their purpose: a room in which students can use computers to obtain information—in print, sound, or video—and then use that information. With students as the focus, instead of the machines, movement and flexibility are at a premium.

A properly designed computer lab with 30 computers will be 1,200 square feet or more. Connections to the internet and the school’s network will be ubiquitous throughout the room, not just in a few spots along one wall. Other electronic machines, such as digital video editors, should be housed in equipment cabinets that can be rolled to different locations in the lab and in the school.

Also, classrooms can be redesigned so they can function as computer labs in miniature, easily facilitating the addition of extra equipment on occasion.