It is not a secret that the emergence of technology has an enormous impact on teaching practices and students’ outcomes. Computer labs can be viewed as an effective tool in teaching practice in schools. A number of researchers are sure that utilizing computers in classrooms “has a positive impact on educational outcomes, especially students’ performance”¯ (Ismail et al., 2012, p. 266). Ā Today computer labs can be found practically in every American school. According to Gary B. Shelly and colleagues (2008), “a computer lab, or technology lab, usually is a designated classroom filled with computers and technology for students to use individually or in groups”¯(p. 328). As a rule, computer lab includes 20-25 computers located in one classroom to be used as a contemporary laboratory for the appropriate instructional purposes. Many school systems incorporate the wireless mobile computer labs. Although the issue concerning the use of computer labs in schools is a debatable one, and many researchers want to phase out computer labs, there are still many people who know about the major benefits of technology use in the classroom. The majority of teachers know that the use of computers at the point of instruction not only allows them to schedule time, but also helps to enhance students’ learning experiences and increases motivation.
Computer labs allow teachers to organize their work in a proper way scheduling time for the entire class period, as well as using computers for a number of other educational purposes, including whole group instruction practice, small group learning activities, and individual student-centered learning practice. For example, Sadiq Ismail and colleagues (2012) state in their study that technology plays a crucial role in assisting today’s students to learn reading and writing skills. Other significant findings of their research reveal that “technology helps teachers in assigning extracurricular activities and communicating with students”¯ (Ismail et al., 2012, p. 265). In schools, computer labs are introduced as a powerful tool that assists language students, including students with lower language proficiency to improve their reading and writing skills, communication and thinking skills, which may eventually contribute to the students’ academic literacy. According to Sadiq Ismail and colleagues (2012), computer labs help teachers to check students’ assignments electronically and give feedback about their progress in this or that activity. It is very important to integrate technology into all areas of the curriculum within the lab setting.
In addition, computer labs improve administration process and access to information. It has been found that computer labs allow teachers and students to make important projects and useful information available for collaboration via the school network system, according to Johnson et al. (2005). Computer labs can help to solve many educational dilemmas. According to the recent research, computer labs which include computers and related technologies are more effective when they are successfully integrated into the subject content and when they are included in the classroom activities at the point of instruction (Shelly et al., 2008). Today teachers use computer labs not only for drilling and practice, but also for collaborative learning and Internet research. It is known that in computer labs, students have an opportunity to learn new technology skills in isolation. A computer lab which contains new computers, the Internet access, scanners, printers, projectors, and other technologies for students can help to better integrate “computer related skills into subjectĀ directed curriculum areas”¯ (Shelly et al., 2008, p. 416). Those teachers who integrate the use of the Internet in classroom activities help students to develop problem-solving skills and critical thinking skills because students are offered the opportunity to be involved in scientific research. They not only search and locate the research information, but also make conclusions.
Moreover, computer integration has positive impact on students. Computer labs help to increase students’ motivation in learning. According to the research, “computer integration had increased students’ interest in learning within a given academic subject”¯(Xiufeng, 1998, p.11). The fact that the use of computer labs helps to increase grades, make students schoolwork easy, increase collaboration between students, and make students more creative should be taken into consideration. Computers in the computer laboratory can be used individually in order to increase student’s interest in this or that subject. In some cases, small groups of students can use computer labs to create a scientific experiment or research, or to solve some problem. In computer labs, teachers provide their students with immediate assistance and feedback and provide extensive drilling exercises and practice. Additionally, technology is perceived by most students as less threatening than traditional forms of instruction in the classroom. What is more important is that a computer lab allows a student to work at a pace that meets his or her needs. According to Chris E. Stout (2009), “computer labs can have the added effect of improving attendance and reducing attrition rates by providing an incentive for students to stay in school”¯ (p. 24).
Although Zandvliet (2006) and other researchers state that “computer labs are ideal for learning about technology and computer programming”¯, and they are ill equipped to assist language teachers or geography teachers or help students with scientific experiments, computer labs increase student’s motivation which plays a crucial role both in the learning process and teaching practices. Of course, computer labs will be effective in schools if teachers know how to use them in order to enhance the process of learning. It is known that “11% of colleges and universities are either phasing out computer labs or planning to do so,”¯ but the majority of schools realize the benefits of computer labs and continue to use technology to achieve the major educational objectives (Terris, 2009, p. 21).
Ā Ā Ā Ā Ā Ā Ā Ā Ā Ā Ā In conclusion, it is necessary to say that computer labs offer teachers a variety of instructional opportunities that cannot be applied in one – or two ”“ computer classrooms. All students should be involved in the process of learning and should use computers individually or in groups to solve common problems. Of course, teachers should learn to integrate technology into curriculum in order to achieve the established learning objectives and the best students’ outcomes. Computer labs should not be phased out because they help to facilitate both the process of learning and teaching practices, increase both students’ and teachers’ motivation. Ā However, computer labs should be used in a way that makes educational sense.Ā Although today the majority of American students have their own laptops and can use them in the classroom, it would be wrong to phase out computer labs which are specially designed for students to enhance their performance. Computer labs can be used to teach students technology and to integrate technology into instruction. In this case, technology is used for all subjects.