For the first time in my teaching career, I have access to a computer lab. It simply was never possible before. My classes will only visit the lab three times in the semester (beginning, middle, and end) for design-work but I am just now incorporating this into my pedagogy. I am embarrassed to admit that this is the first time that I am understanding how significant the changes in pedagogy are based on the lay-out of a computer lab. I have read about these issues, for sure, but honestly, I ain’t read all that stuff closely. What I need to think about all of this for when my students’ university-supplied laptops die at the second year? Or what if we ain’t got no labs? Those texts didn’t relate to me and maybe I was hatin a little bit on them folks with resources. I shoulda been listening though.
So here is what I have worked with:
- classrooms where all students have a laptop that they bring to class with them
- a large lab with long rows and computer-station/screen at front
- a medium-sized lab with concentric squares and computer-station/screen at front
- a small lab with desks with the computer-station at the back of the room and the screen at front
- no tech at all (very few students have laptops, there are no labs, and there is a long waitlist for a classroom with computer and screen).
By far, I like #4 the best though that spy-cam stuff could give the same effect (where you see what each student is doing on their computer screen on your own screen). I also like #1 for everyday classroom activities but when you are doing design or introducing CSS, there’s just something about those large, television-sized screens that really offer a unique dynamism.
Your whole body movements shift in these labs. For #1, you are sitting at small group tables with students. For #2, you are pacing rows after you demo some design issue but you can walk to the back of the room and get a sweeping, panoramic view of what everyone is doing. For #3, you are circling rows after you demo some design issue (there is no room at the back so you never get the panorama). For #4, you are hidden from view, only your design elements are visible to students. You offer highly individualized instruction because you can see what your students are struggling and hesitating with as you look on their screens during your demo. Each room lay-out offers different possibilities that I now need to think about before I select the lab location.
All in all, my students’ CSS design so far is impressive. They still have some work to do and I did not teach things like left navigation hovering (I barely understand it myself), but all is good. There are ironies though. For the first time that I have this much ability to design my e-pedagogies, design is not really valued as composing, literacy, or thinking in the 21st century here. There are more ironies. I have many colleagues across the country where ePortfolios are mandated or saturated across the curriculum who often complain to me, quite bitterly at times, at how unthoughtful and uncritical their students’ visual design is. On the contrary, I asked my students to think of what they want to convey— just with color— in the context of a course that makes culturally relevant pedagogy central, and they soared with flying colors on that (pun intended). But hardly no one around them seems to see or value that as literate behavior or 21st century composing. It’s a damn shame. I’m not worried about students though because they are entering a digital world with a whole different set of expectations and requirements than the digitally-illiterate folk who marginalize them. To my students: keep flyin high. I see you!