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Need for space forces some schools to convert computer labs

November 04, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

Growing enrollment in Washington County Public Schools has forced computers out of labs and into classrooms.

About nine schools have converted computer labs into classrooms to make room for students in recent years, said Arnold Hamman, director of information management and instructional technology for the school system.

Administrators said the changes, which have moved individual computers into teachers' homerooms, could give students more opportunities to use the technology.

According to Hamman, Clear Spring Elementary School's conversion of a lab earlier this year was one of the most recent changes to computer space.

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"They didn't want to lose it, but they didn't have any space," Hamman said Wednesday.

Clear Spring Principal Amy Norris said the computer lab was eliminated to make space for a pre-kindergarten class of 21 children.

"They were in the music room, and the music was on a cart," Norris said.

With the lab's elimination last month, the music room has reverted to its original purpose, and the computers have been divided among classroom teachers, Norris said. She said Thursday she believes the computers are used more often and more efficiently now that teachers have constant access to them.

According to JoEtta Palkovitz-Brown, executive director of early-childhood and elementary education, recent research indicates computers are used more effectively in the classroom than in the lab. Small groups of students can work on math or reading at their own skill levels on one computer as other children complete lessons in other groups, Palkovitz-Brown said.

Teachers can lose instructional time when they have to line up and walk their children to computer labs down the hall, Palkovitz-Brown said.

"I think having two, three or four computers in the classroom actually makes the instruction more effective for teachers and children," Palkovitz-Brown said.

Palkovitz-Brown said she heard from a principal Wednesday about possibly eliminating a lab next year to make way for classroom space.

Ideally, Norris said, teachers and principals could have both computer labs for whole-class instruction and individual machines in the classrooms, but making space is the first priority.

"The more computers, the better, so we didn't necessarily want to give up a classroom to have a computer lab, but I didn't want to give up a computer lab to have a classroom, either. So, I'd like to have both," Norris said.

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