Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Green Learning Commons

Prompted by "What Happened to the Computer Lab?" I was asked by Idris Sulaiman if there are any Australian guidelines on Green Computer Labs. This is a good question. Computer labs are evolving into general purpose computer equipped teaching spaces in the information commons and spreading across university campuses, as well as vocational education and schools. As a result there will be more computers using more energy (and causing more e-waste) at educational institutions. Green guidelines for these are therefore becoming more important.

The guidelines for university teaching spaces in Australia are mostly about how many square metres of space to allocate per student. The allocations for computer equipped labs are much higher than for traditional classrooms. This will cause a further environmental problem for education, as computer equipped spaces become the primary form of teaching space on campus. This could result in a doubling of the environmental footprint of the institution, as well as greatly increased costs.

As I teach my green ICT students, the the best and primary way to reduce the environmental impact of computers is with efficient, cost effective design. Building a computer equipped classroom which requires half as much space per student will reduce the materials required and energy use. If it is cheapr to build as well, that will make it more likley it is built.

There are some good examples of computer equipped learning centres in Australian universities, some of
which I have visited and commented on in my blog under the headings classroom design and flexible learning centre.

Perhaps we should look at writing some guidelines and build two prototype green computer labs.

Some time ago I did a short exercie to see how one of the ANU Computer Science computer labs could be adapted for belnded learning. With this I propsoed to double the number of students the room could hold and allow for individual, group and whole class learning styles.

Also I proposed a portable centre, which would be a airline carry on wheeled bag with enough equipment for a dozen studnets.

Perhaps we could build some prototypes using ALTC funding and provide some guidelines. The results can then be incorporated into free open access e-learning materials, in a similar format to my Green Technology course, but perhaps with some more video and audio.

Others might like to join in this work.

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