Applications to Install in the Lab

Question: What applications should be installed on our lab computers?

The IT Guy says:

The types of applications to install in the computer lab should be driven by the functionality required by the lab’s users: both students and teachers. A Web browser and basic productivity software, including a word processor, spreadsheet program, and presentation software is a given. Depending on the level and experience of the students using the lab, however, other software programs can still be installed on the computer but not immediately visible or accessible to the user depending on the network login used.

In an earlier era the limited size of computer hard drives substantially restricted the number of software programs that could be installed on a lab computer, and if those older computers are still in use this may still be the case. In such a case it may not be wise to load an entire clip art library onto the local hard drive. However, those resources can either be loaded onto a shared network drive or accessed directly from the CD when students or staff need them. Of course, today’s larger hard drive capacities make these restrictions less of a factor.

Separate student login accounts can be established which present users with different desktop and start menu/dock icons depending on their needs. These login accounts can automatically “mount†certain shared directories on the network file server which students can use for file access and saving.

Much more prevalent in educational computing labs, and with good reason, are the new graphic organizer software programs. As a useful tool in the writing process, computer graphic organizers can help students formulate ideas for research, take notes, and prepare a well-organized essay.

Web publishing software has been generally limited in use to upper level courses where students learn basics of Web design, but the ability for students to create websites that are published locally on school “intranets†opens up new possibilities for the publication of student work. Instant messaging and even third party Note that Email clients are likely not needed on lab computers, since users can access Web mail if needed and really should not enter personal account information into a public-use computer for an application like Email.

Newer operating systems like Windows XP and Macintosh OS 10 permit the creation of non-administrative user accounts that prohibit installing new software programs. Use of these limited accounts can protect lab computers from unwittingly spreading malicious viruses (at least those which spread from executable files) and from being loaded with unwanted / non-educational software programs.

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