The Case for Saving Desktops in Schools

For an assignment in one of my courses, I was required to design my ideal classroom. I have included a description below:

This learning environment is designed to maximize student learning when a variety of learning styles and preferences are present. Social students can sit with others, while more independent students have their own space. The café aspect is best for discussions. The kidney table can be used for assistance and conferencing. Classroom computers can be used for inquiry and presentations.

Made with

My instructor offered some interesting feedback on how I decided to include 4 desktop computers. Here is her quote:

“You have shown 4 classroom computers along the top wall in the classroom.  I can say that in our board (and many others, but not necessarily all), there is a move away from desktop computers, towards mobile technology so that students can have the technology in their hands in their learning space (without having to get up and move over to a computer).  This is something that obviously costs money (as do desktops), but we are seeing a trend towards this (mobile technology) and away from the computer labs and/or computer stations in classrooms.  That is not to say that you won’t see computer stations because there are some schools/boards that are not ready to adopt these sorts of changes in terms of embracing mobile tech.”

Lately, there has been an exciting amount of funding devoted to providing portable computers for students. This is an exciting time for educators, as many can attest to the fact that a full set of mobile computers is a gift from the heavens. My best teaching days for STEM have been those days where we have a full set of Ipads. It makes me very happy that more schools are adopting portable computers, because kids love them and they make learning engaging, fun and flexible.

My love for portable computers does not mean that I would get rid of desktop computers, and I will use the next few paragraphs  to explain why ditching desktops is not necessary.

I am probably preaching to the choir as many of you who are reading this probably have a  high level of experience with computers. I am basically writing this as a way to communicate how I would approach an administrator who wished to remove desktop computers from my classroom in favor of the new wave of iPads and Chromebooks as the classroom computers of  choice. Here is my spiel:

Some students, especially students with disabilities, may be more productive at using applications with a desktop computer vs. an iPad or Chromebook. Sometimes, this boils down to ergonomics. Having a large screen at eye-level as well a full-size keyboard separate from the screen superior to a small keyboard attached to a screen (or just a touchscreen). Also, the mouse is highly helpful for students with fine motor skill difficulties.

Another aspect that portable computers have not been able to keep up with is quality and control. Contemporary desktop computers typically offer more computing power than a laptop of a similar price. They often have larger screens with better resolutions, and have easier and better customization options for software and hardware due to their highly modular design.

Of course, students can adapt to the smaller screens and do not need an external keyboard and mouse to learn effectively. However, they will have to work harder for design-intensive processes. Often, touchscreen versions of an app or website are frustrating. I know that personally, I would rather complete an online course on a desktop computer than my iPhone. Most LMS systems run on D2L’s Brightspace platform, which favors users on standard laptops or desktop computers. Of course I can do the course on my iPhone, but I would spend twice as much time doing so. Much like us teachers, students would most likely appreciate a better tool to help them complete their work. That tool is going to be a desktop computer for most people.

I hope this clears up why I have chosen to include a few desktop computers in my ideal classroom.

What are your opinions on computers in the classroom? Would you miss your desktop companions if they were replaced by their miniature counterparts?