_Getting Beyond the Classroom in the Jungle_

According to Michael Bookey, a computer network designer, stand-alone computers are like cars in a jungle. Equipped with air conditioning, radio communications, even a horn to scare away the animals, they are a multi-purpose wonder; and in awe of these capabilities, we might not realize that the “real magic of the car comes in conjunction with asphalt.” Ironically, while many universities have embraced the networked computing paradigm, thereby placing the car in conjunction with asphalt, the layout of most computer labs is like a parking lot. Side by side, in row after row, complaints about teaching in “computer-assisted” writing classes abound. The general complaint: the conversational medium, i.e., the magic of the writing class, is lost in a jungle of monitors and cpu towers.

In this paper, the pedagogical problems with the current layout of computing classrooms will be investigated. First, the “parking lot” style of networked computing labs will be redescribed in terms of Katherine Hayles’ use of the concept of skeuomorphs. Then, descriptions of the layout and “philosophies” behind a few alternative compuyting environments will be presented, like Xerox’ PARC. Finally, a few ideas will be presented for faculty and departments facing this problem. For example, if a lab is being designed, how might faculty argue against the “traditional” parking lot set-up. And if the parking lot is all you have, ideas on making the environment more conducive to group conversations will be mentioned.

Presenter: David Rieder


Target Audience: Advanced

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