Computer lab

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Here are a few rough guidelines for setting up computer labs from a couple of people who have set up and administered a number of computer labs all over the world:

  1. Physically place the computers in one of the following patterns:
    1. In a U shape so that the teacher can see all the screens at the same time. This has many advantages including:
      1. All wires and cables are away from the students, so nothing is pulled by mistake (and purposeful removal is more obvious)
      2. The teacher can see what is happening on each screen. (catch the mistake before it is learned wrong)
      3. Maximizes space available and can be expanded easily to UU.
      4. Easy maintenance and access to each computer when updating or imaging.
    2. In a U shape, but have additional computers within the center.
    3. In a traditional classroom style, with students facing the front of the class.
  2. Use Cloning software such as Ghost, DeployStudio, or Clonezilla. Make one computer exactly how you want the lab to be and then clone it to all of the other computers, updates, programs, special files and all. That way if something gets messed up simply reclone the computer and you don't have to worry about it. Any problem solved simply by reimaging the system.
    • You can also use Deep Freeze or similar software to allow systems to be reset simply by rebooting the computer.
  3. Because of the cloning software, don't permit students store things on the hard drive, instead tell them to bring in their own portable disks such as a USB flash drive. This means if there is a problem with a computer, you don't have to worry about saving peoples stuff before re-cloning it, as cloning will erase the stored files.
  4. Use a virtual CD/DVD drive such as the open source solution MagicDisc to load interactive educational CD/examples. This allows original CDs to be kept safe without scratches or loss.
  5. Assign every computer, monitor, printer, etc. its own ID such as C01, C02, C03 for computers and P01, P02 for printers. This will be the same ID given on the network. This makes it very easy to identify each piece of equipment and track problems.
  6. Assign each student a simple unique ID for tracking purposes S100, S101, S102... Names are spelled differently and can be the same, so do not use them.
  7. Before students can use a computer, they must sign in with their ID. The ID of the computer, date and time can be tracked automatically by the computer. You can also supplement tracking by a paper log to detect purpose. This allows for tracking problems and creating statistical reports...
  8. Locks. Locks are a very small, but critical part of any lab that you don't spend 100% of the time monitoring. Depending on location and visibility, the locks don't even have to be tough, just enough semblance of security so you don't loose mice, headsets, or anything else you don't want to replace all of the time.
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