Whatever happened to …

… power bars?

As I look to my left, it looks like it’s time for a little cable management here.

The inspiration for this post came from a private Twitter conversation that I had with Andy Forgrave.  He was working late and shared some pictures of his classroom and what was needed to make all his gadgets work.  If you know Andy, you know those would be significant needs!

In the beginning, I was pretty lucky.  In the Business Department of my high school, we had two keyboarding rooms, a business machines room, and a computer room all built into the school when the structure was built.  So, putting computers in place of electric typewriters was a no-brainer.  It also gave the Business Department the sole ownership of the first rounds of technology.

Like many classrooms, every other room (except for the shops) basically had two outlets in the classroom.  One was at the front for an overhead projector and the other was at the back near the sink.  Neither were really good options for plugging anything student computer-y into them.

Later, as a consultant and visiting older schools, I came to realize that those two outlets were to die for in some of the older structures.  A more common solution was to have one outlet per classroom – again near the sink.  Whaaaaa?

Putting computers into schools is a costly factor.  In the beginning, there were typically one or two machines for each classroom.  Even here, you needed one outlet for the computer and, for some models, another outlet for the monitor.  The quick fix was to drop into Canadian Tire and buy power bars to make things work.  It was obviously a very short term solution that needed a bigger solution as time went by.  Before long, computer acquisitions always involved conversations and pricing with the Facility Services people to pull electricity into locations where we’d guess the computers would be used best. That always didn’t work like we thought though. With new schools, it was an essential part of the planning.  Thousands and thousands of dollars were spent to put in electricity and often the additional circuits needed to get the technology at the point of student instruction.

After a while, it wasn’t just for computers.  You might add a SMART Board and/or a data projector and then all the things that Special Needs students require.  It seemed like a never ending story of implementation.

Then, things got a great deal different.  Hey, we could buy carts or tubs that only require one outlet and it charged laptops and tablets that were placed inside.  There was a huge compromise; these were less powerful environments than a good desktop computer.

You’d think that this would be a “problem solved” scenario.  But, kids are kids and it’s common that plugs and outlets would get damaged from use.  Or, you’d think that you had enough in place and a storage room became an educational space.  Or,  sometimes, they would go missing and you always have to be careful about last class of the day use of the technology.

That’s the thing about a lot of technology.  It needs power and a lot of planning to work!

How about your situation?

  • Do you have enough electricity in your classroom?
  • How many power bars does it require to make things work?
  • Have you moved to a UPS (uninterruptable power source) instead?
  • Does a rechargable device (laptop, tablet, …) meet your needs or are there times when you really need that desktop computer?
  • Do you still have a “computer lab” or has that been disbanded?
  • Does your school support BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)?  Are students able to get through the day or do they require charging services as well?

Please share your thoughts via comment.  Andy and I would love to read them.

Do you have a thought or idea for a nostalgia type post?  Please share via this Padlet.


4 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. A great topic, Doug! We have two power bars in our class: one to charge iPads and one for our computer space. We have a desktop computer from the school that runs the SMART Board. Most classrooms have one because the school disbanded the computer lab and put the computers in the classrooms for this reason. I also bring a couple of ChromeBooks, which we tend to use with the kids for research (on different topics of interest) and some coding websites. A laptop would meet our SMART Board needs, but since we have a desktop computer, we use it.

    I used to have and use a lot more “gadgets” in the classroom. Now many of our devices are never used or used differently than I used them before (ie, to capture and record learning instead of to use a specific app or program). I wonder if this is because of the age of my students or my evolving thinking on technology (and particularly technology in the early years). I’m curious to hear what others say about these questions of yours.


    P.S. Would love to see a picture of Andy’s classroom (and technology) set-up!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the comments, Aviva. What became of the former lab? I think many schools have got that route and disbanded technology in order to put it in the classroom. That way it becomes part of a routine rather than an event that everyone marches to the lab to do.

    I’m sure that Andy will be good for the challenge. He has an amazing setup from the pictures that he shared with me. Maybe we should start a meme and ask everyone to share classroom design for the common good. I know that Peter McAsh is big into rethinking classroom design.

    It would make for a nice BIT17 presentation – “The best of Ontario technology using classrooms in pictures”.


  3. Love that idea! I would love to see this too. Could lead to some very interesting discussions.

    I wasn’t at this school when the lab disbanded, but I think that the reasons were what you indicated here. The desktop computers are in each of the classrooms now. There is some good thinking behind this, I think.



  4. I got a huge kick out of this. I have a bar underneath the desk with the docking staton for my laptop. That manages dock, document camera, speakers, SMART board, and my old from-home laptop that we use when we need to play a DVD. There’s a power wheel on one countertop to charge individual students’ assigned laptops, and power our 3D printer. We have 3 desktops in our room, so they have a power bar as well. In our back room are two more bars which charge our assortment of portable devices, a couple of Chromebooks, our Sphero and Go Pros. These double during the day as chargers for my students’ own devices, and they are most busy at the beginning and end of the day, as many of my students have older devices, which need to be recharged after long bus rides in the morning, and before long bus rides in the afternoon.

    And even with all that going on, I still have outlets left to plug in our kettle, or microscopes (going from a 102 year old school to a a 27 year old school makes a big difference that way), and that makes me happy.

    On the other question, we have not yet split up our lab, but I expect it’s coming soon as we look at reconfiguring our lab/library space.


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