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Setting Up a Room
Setting up your Room
Of course, an Inspired Classroom involves more than just moving some desks and a few computers, but you have to start somewhere. The classroom should be arranged to best accommodate the learning teams and the computers, wires and cables. Remember that one of the goals of the Inspired Classroom is to bring an end to the “sage on the stage” idea. So, when setting up the student desks, you no longer have to be locked in to the "front of the room" concept. In setting up an Inspired Classroom for the first time, it is suggested that a teacher rearrange the student desks a few days before introducing the technology and the new workflow to the students.
We recommend that classrooms use five student computers if resources allow. This would accommodate five groups of four students each in a perfect world of a twenty-student classroom. Of course, if a class had more than 20 students, this arrangement could easily be expanded to accommodate up to five groups of five. The intent of Inspired Classrooms is to get the technology in the hands of “most of the kids, most of the time.” A four-to-one ratio seems a reasonable way to achieve this.
Moving the student desks and computers is the first step in getting started. A lot of times, teachers will have already experimented with arranging student desks in learning teams in their classrooms. When we throw computers into mix, however, special considerations have to be made to appropriately deliver power and internet access to those computers with the least amount cord-related problems.
The star pattern allows for a central location for all of the wires, cords, etc. to be kept out of the way from student traffic. By backing the computers up next to each other, it also allows for fewer cords to be used when delivering power and network/internet to each computer.
I set up second grade classroom last March, and a few days later the teacher had made a fantastic modification. She moved the two desks that were farthest away from the monitor to directly face the monitor, rather than facing each other. This let's those kiddos still feel like they have a front-row seat, even if they aren't using the mouse.
NEW Room Arrangements!
We have uploaded graphics for
NINE additional room arrangements
to help find a way to make this fit into a variety of classrooms. Check them out and let us know if you have found another way that works for you. We'd like to share it.
The great benefit of going "wireless" (wireless internet access is discussed below) is the freedom to move the desk-groups to different areas of the room. Remember, most rooms have many power outlet locations, but only one network drop location. When you are wireless, all you need to physically plug into is power. Move the desks near a power outlet and loose the network cables!
One of the reasons that the computers have always lived in back corners or against walls in classrooms is because that's the best way to hide all of the cables. When moving computers away from the wall and into the middle of the room, you need to decide how best to deal with the mess. The biggest obstacles to overcome are getting (1) power resources and (2) network/internet access to the desktop computers that have been moved to the center of the room.
Technical Considerations –Delivering Power
If you are setting up five computers in a clasroom, you will have ten power cords that need to be plugged in. It's also possible you may have an additional plug for a network hub (see below). We recommend two 6-outlet, 15-foot powerstrips for most classrooms. This will give you up two twelve outlets. The powerstrip cord length needs to be long enough to reach from the wall outlet to the center of your “star” setup in the middle of the room. We also reccommend setting up the "star" pattern so that one of the spokes is pointing directly towards the wall outlet. That way, the cords can run under those desks. Of course, the use of a cable covering will further reduce the tripping hazzards and protect the cables.
Don't let anyone tell you that this poses a fire hazzard. While it could be considered a "tripping hazzard," this isn't a fire hazzard. You most likely already had your four or five computers plugged into two power strips into a dual power outlet when they were back against the wall. With the exception of possibly one extra network cable (discussed later on this page) there are no extra wires, cords or cables to make the move.
Technical Considerations –Delivering Network/Internet
Even though many campuses are becoming wireless, most desktop computers are not. Your two options for delivering network access are (1) adding wireless capabilities to all the desktop computers or (2) running network cables. The most cost effective approach to converting a room is running a single network cable from the network drop on the wall to the center of the "star" setup. Then, use an eight-port network hub that will allow you to plug in your five desktop computers with the short cables that you were already using before the conversion. This is the "do-it-yourself" way and may not necessarily be the first choice of your networking department.
Wireless connectivity is quickly becoming a more viable solution for many campuses. There are two pieces to making this happen: (1)each of the desktop computers will need a wireless card and (2) a wireless access point would need to be installed in or near the classroom. While more expensive, this option presents a great long-term solution. Make friends with your local network administrator and work out a deal (bribe) that could get you wireless.
Student Workspace Considerations
Ideally, the mouse and keyboard will be shared among the four (or possibly five) team members throughout the course of the day. Unfortunately, most of the most common mouse and keyboard cables may not be long enough to reach from the computer to all of team member's desks. For many classrooms, it may be most convenient to designate one desk in each group as the "driver's seat" and let the kids simply get up and swap seats as they take turns operating the computer. We refer to this option as the "musical chairs" option. It's definately low-tech, but it is free. Ideally, students will have opportunities during the day to work on many different tasks, that will provide plenty of "driving time" for all team members.
Some teachers prefer that all team members have equal access from all desks in the seating arrangement. Those teachers may purchase three-foot USB and PS2 extensions for the mouse and keyboard. These extensions are realitively inexpensive and will allow the mouse and keyboard to be passed from desk to desk, reaching all four desks in the arrangement. This option provides a little more freedom of movement than the stock cable lengths do.
Wireless mice and keyboards are also an alternative, if not cost-prohibitive. Going wireless would be a great option for keeping the tops of desks clean and clutter free. This option would also allow for the greatest flexibility of sharing these devices among all team members. Two concerns of this option would be (1) theft or loss and (2) signal interference between the five sets of RF devices.
Classroom Traffic and Safety
Once everything is connected, you will have only one bundle of cords (two power and one network cord) that will run from the center of the desks out to the wall outlet. Teachers can cover these power and network cords (three cords total) with a heavy-duty cord cover so that it doesn’t pose a tripping hazard in the classroom. We also recommend the use of twist-ties or zip-ties to secure the mice and keyboard cables to the back of the CPU. This will decrease the likelyhood of these coming unplugged as the devices are passed around.
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