I am slowly getting to more presentations from the conference and today I watched “Design Matters”. I have been thinking about this for awhile. Whether it be our classrooms, offices, textbooks, powerpoints – everything deserves our attention because as human beings we respond on a level that isn’t even always conscious to our first exposure to something.
My lab is straight rows of computers all facing the front. From the standpoint of me sitting at the back and being able to see if there is a problem it’s great. From the standpoint of an instructor being at the front with access to the data projector it works well.
Unfortunately it’s ugly. I hate it. I look at it from the perspective of someone wanting to learn and I have difficulty concentrating in there. Of course it was put together about nine years ago (I think). It has the obligatory chalk boards at the front with florescent lighting. The students bring their backpacks and have them between the rows so it is difficult to get to them if they need help. They bump the back of machines as they move down the row and loosen connections (and occasionally swap the mouse and keyboard for fun) I realize that there was no way we could foresee where we would be now and even less possible to imagine where we will be in twenty or thirty years.
I’d like to see some images of computer labs at other schools, particularly ones where thought was given to designing for aesthetics as well as purpose. In my mind I keep going back to a center oriented layout. I imagine centers for multimedia, centers just for wordprocessing, an area with something like study carrels where students who are easily distracted or just have a need to concentrate can work independently. I’d like adjustable lighting that can be dimmed as low as needed.
We need storage, both lockable for extra cables and equipment and open for backpacks and books. I’d like an area with a white board and a table where a group could sit comfortable and watch a presentation. It would be wonderful if there were a way for a group to have headphones that hooked to the same source for the group to use or a way to close the area off if needed for small groups to to staff development or view and hear media. One of the worst problems in the average lab configuration that I can see is that as more and more of the information on line is multi-faceted. It’s visual, audio and interactive and in a group it is impossible for an individual to see and hear and not bother everyone else around them. I’ll be talking about this subject in future posts – not just about my lab but about design in general.