The Computer Lab: New and Improved?

By Frani O’Toole Co-Editor-in-Chief The new lobby isn’t the only part of the building that will surprise returning students this Monday. On the third floor in the upper school, both computer labs have been renovated to accommodate new products and technologies. The desktops are gone, the swivel chairs are gone. In their place are tables students can connect their laptops to; from there, students will be able to project their computer screens onto one of several monitors paneling the walls. The purpose of the new lab is, in short, to promote collaborative work. Encouraged to display their work on monitors, students are to use the technology to share ideas and build off each other’s work. Mr. Simon, Director of Technology, led the cumulative effort. He says that the lab “evolved from conversations about our Computer Science curriculum.” Because most of Latin’s computer equipment is on a replacement schedule, Mr. Simon says, every so often the department evaluates “what options are out there.” Then, if they’re interested in a new technology, they “often start by buying one or two units to test. If it looks promising, we try piloting it with a few users or classes and take it from there. Faculty can also can propose new technology purchases through a formal process that goes through the administrative team at the school.” Mr. Wrobel, who will be teaching Computer Science and has developed the curriculum for his courses, says his classes will be using the classroom for two periods a day. Since the Computer Science classes are fairly project-based, the new technology should be able to support that kind of learning. Mr. Wrobel also knows the Chicago Social Justice class has looked into using the space, though he believes “to the degree that people can schedule classes around the building, my understanding is that that’s how [the computer lab space] works.” In lieu of the stationary computer lab, the school has invested in a mobile one.“We have Ms. Cushing, who is the Upper School Tech Coordinator. So if students need the laptops, we have the laptops,” Mr. Wrobel says. “And if they need a computer lab type set-up, [Ms. Cushing] is able to facilitate that anywhere in the building.” As for the former computer lab, Mr. Simon says “The lab used for class use didn’t really have enough space to accommodate our largest classes and saw significantly decreased use over the last few years. The student use lab was originally designed to provide students with access to computers back when most students didn’t have laptops or access to computers. These machines had very limited use last year.” Nonetheless, the old computer lab space had its share of loyal patrons last year, the year before that, and so on. Bryce Tuttle, junior, spent time in the lab and says that the room “was a great place to get work done and socialize.” He admits that the desktop computers were not often used, but that “many students needed them for classes such as digital imaging and to print things out before class.” Riley Nelson, junior, also frequented the lab. He, like Bryce, saw the lab as just “a great place to be” and felt that the space “invited a lot of people to hang out.” He agrees the desktops were almost obsolete, but he says the social element was what made the lab special: “Other than the cafeteria it was the only place entirely grade-neutral (and I suppose with the tier rule the cafeteria isn’t even grade neutral) where you could socialize during the day. I’ll miss it,” he says. On Monday, the new computer space will be available for all students to see. As you see it in-person, let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. Maybe you can even use one of the laptops in the new computer lab to do so.  ]]>