I was musing on the subway this morning about our computer lab — actually we have two of them. They take up a lot of space and of course are resource-intensive, needing continual upgrades in hardware and software. Does anyone still think we will need them in say, five years time?
Most of our students now have laptops. They’re more ubiquitous than ever and getting smaller, lighter and with longer battery life. And of course our students are more IT-literate than ever before — and that will only increase. Our libraries are wireless. Printing is wireless. In the future I don’t think we will need special rooms full of computers for students who will all have their own mobile devices. A few scattered computers will take care of occasional access needs.
What I say goes also for ‘hands-on’ training. Does anything think we will need to do that in the future? We started this way back in the 1980s with the first introduction of word-processing and CDROMs. Students really did need hands-on instruction – and with much that we would laugh at now like where to click the mouse (not on the screen) and how to save to disk. A multiplicity of platforms and search languages with the early CDROMs and online services continued the need for hands-on instruction. But now? With students who grow up from infancy knowing how to trawl the Web and online message? Do we really need to get them to follow an instructor inputting case-names into a box? And if anyone thinks we do – well, why can’t that be done in one of our increasingly electronic classrooms, with students using their own computers. Loaners available for those few without.