Computer Labs…A Room From Our Past

Do you remember having ‘computers’ on your weekly class schedule? Every 7 days you would make 2 trips to the computer lab (a room with 30 or so computers) to learn how to type, to use the internet, word processing skills, and about other computer programs.  It was also quite common to have one (and sometimes more) computers in your classroom too.  I graduated from high school being very comfortable with my typing, word processing, and internet searching skills.

During report card time in my internship, I decided to take a look at my report card from grade four to compare with the grade four report cards that I was filling out.  The marking was the same, full of As, Bs, Cs, Ds, and Fs (As and Bs only for me of course).  With my report card comments, there was a letter attached addressed to my parents.  This letter was typed in complete sentences, with little to no spelling errors, and written in paragraph form.  I had typed this letter in grade four.  I remember typing it too; learning how letters should look using Word and checking my spelling with Spell Check.  I knew how to do all this in grade four!  Shouldn’t that mean that the grade fours I was teaching should be at least building these skills?

It is becoming more and more common in schools to not have computer labs.  The computers in the lab were given to classes and schools purchaced lap top carts.  The school I interned at had two carts, which spent most of their time in the senior end of the school.  The junior classes hardly used them at all, and the computers in the classes were used for interactive games (discovered by the teacher) or not at all.  My class used the lap tops a few times to make wacky web tales and brainstorming mind maps.  Sometimes, if someone finsished their recount or journal response early, they were allowed to type their work on the computer.  And there they were, using one finger, not sure where the enter key is or how to erase a spelling mistake.  They had not been exposed to the land of the computer, and if we are not exposing them in schools, where will they become familiar with it?  Kids play games on their computers at home, not practice their typing skills.  There may be a few homes that have interactive typing games, but a few is not enough. 

What is going to happen if we do not have computer class for the students to learn the proper use of this box with a brain?  Will computer labs become a room from our past, a room that schools do not have anymore?  Do we as educators just assume that these skills will just be magically learned, or are we expected to schedule the time to teach Mavis Beacon Teaches typing in our very busy day plan, which gets difficult when having to book the lap top cart a week (or sometimes more!) in advance?

Personally I would like to see the return of computer labs, a place where students go to specifically learn the tricks of the trade… why are they disappearing anyways??

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3 responses to “Computer Labs…A Room From Our Past

  1. Hi, I am in the ECMP 355 class this semester and I am also a Business Educator. It is so interesting for me to read your thoughts about the disappearing computer labs in schools. I spent most of my internship in a computer lab teaching grade 10 students Information Processing. That being said, most of my students had very little keyboarding or software skills at all. I think that there is a big myth revolving around youth and computers, that they know everything about computers and are technologically literate. WRONG, dead wrong…like you said, they play games, they Facebook, they Instant Message. They don’t know how to key properly, they don’t know how to use programs in their personal or future professional lives. They are not experts…or at least the vast majority are not.

    I hope that we never see the end of computer labs, or that will mean that my job might be in jeopardy, at the same time, grade 10 is too late. We teach students how to do everything else at an early age…why not teach them how to use computers and skills that will be beneficial throughout their lives at an early age?

    To answer your question about why they are disappearing I think that most people don’t see these skills as important, like English, or Social, or Math…or they believe in the myth! Either way it is not looking good for little Johnny or Suzie to learn how to key before they get to me in grade 10 and by then it is almost to late!

    Thanks for you thoughts and sorry for the rant!

    Tessa

  2. knightmichaelj

    I am so happy yet sad to read this blog post Sarah. I am a business educator like Tessa and during my internship I spent 75% of my time in a computer lab. The thing is the students don’t know how to use the computer properly. Sure they can get around but a concept like “Homerow” meant absolutely nothing to them. I tried but they don’t care about typing, they want multimedia. They want to be using photoshop, dreamweaver, comic life, audacity, imovie, and garage band. Who can blame them though when you are left with the decision of typing out a letter in word or punching in numbers into a spread sheet when you are given the alternative of making a movie or song. Truth is I think students need proper education on how to use a computer starting as early as possible. Kids are getting onto the computer at a younger age than we were and I think it is very improtant that they be taught how to use such a powerful tool properly.

    Mike

  3. It is interesting to hear that I am not the only one concerned about the decrease of computer skills. I would love to see computer class be slotted into the busy schedules and bring back ‘homerow’ and making a spreadsheet on Excel. Maybe educators should incorporate Google Apps into their computer lessons. It would be a great place to start. Yes students are getting onto the computer at young ages and yes they should be taught how to use the tools correctly before bad habits are made.
    LONG LIVE ALL THE RIGHT TYPE! (which you can download off the internet for free cant you?)

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