Friday, 25 March 2016

The DIY Computer Lab

Teaching computer technology has me expanding and
enhancing our program to make it as current and
relevant as possible - the DIY lab is a key to that.
My ECOO16 presentation suggestion:

We're used to being handed locked down, turn key computer labs by our school boards, but this approach doesn't teach technological understanding.  The future of technology is diverse and individualized and we should be striving to encourage a deeper understanding so that students can find the devices and software that suit their needs.  Many boards have suggested BYOD as a solution, but this amplifies socio-economic differences that public schools should be trying to mitigate.  There is another way.

I'm a teacher who gave back the lab that was given to me.  Over the past two years I've developed a digital learning space that is made by students at the beginning of each semester.  Students build PCs, upgrade parts and install and maintain software.  In doing so they learn how to build current and relevant technology to suit their own needs.

In this presentation I'll explain the process, costs (and free things!) as well as how the lab works on a day to day basis.  DIY computer access offers students a chance to become authors of their technology use instead of being mere users.

Interested?  I'll be presenting on this at ECOO in November.  This whole post is pasted out of my application to present.

Learning Goals
- how to make DIY technology work in the classroom
- using current (like, made THIS YEAR!) software in a classroom
- learning technology by building it rather than just using it
- developing technological fluency in students and staff
- exploring educational freeware
- exploring beta software available for free use
- how to source hardware (suggestions based on experience)
- changing students & staff from users to authors of technology

Windows 10, the latest in graphics and processor technology and twice the memory of your typical school PC.  What do we
do with all that horsepower?  We run Unity (professional license given freely by Unity for our educational needs), and
build 3d models in Blender.  None of this would be possible on existing school board basic Dell PCs.
With flexibility in how we build a lab, we can pursue advanced technology, giving our
students authorship over their technological fluency.
Agility is key if you want to keep up with technology - you'll never develop it if you're kept as a pet user.

A Blender model made by one of our grade 12s last year - this kind of experience allowed her to build the kind of portfolio
that got her into the heavily contested Sheridan College video game design program