What is the best computer suite layout?

We only have one computer suite, and it has been in two different layouts from the time I was involved in it. The first one had all the computers around the walls of the room and people faced the walls when they worked. The teacher could see everyone’s screens from the front of the room and everyone had to turn around to face the teacher and thus leave their keyboard alone when it was time to receive instruction.

Then the computer suite got moved from its small upstairs room to a larger downstairs room, and then for some reason, the tables were all lined in up in rows facing the front, just like a lecture theatre. The teacher at the front could see everyone’s faces, but he/she couldn’t see their computer screens. Or the teacher could sit at the back of the classroom and see all the screens, but they couldn’t instruct effectively.

Then the computer suite moved back upstairs, only this time into the larger room right next to the small room that it used to be in, and so there was a fresh opportunity to change the layout. But we decided, and I was involved in this, to keep the front-facing-rows layout.

Now, we’re looking at what other schools have done, and what the Polytech, where I’m doing MCSA papers, has done, and thinking about putting rows that are at right angles, so the teacher can easily see right down the rows what everyone has on their screens, and everyone has to turn to face the front of the classroom when the teacher is instructing. It turns out that by doing this, we might also make our use of space in the room more efficient and be able to use some of that space for something else. We might even be able to use a projector without taking over someone’s desk, and use an existing wall as a screen.

Over the years at different sites including the Polytech I have seen all kinds of different layouts, but from what I can see the right angled rows layout is the most common/popular and probably the most practical for this type of situation where there are effective “dividers”, in this case created by computer screens. The traditional layout works best in classrooms where the teacher can see all the desks regardless of how they are arranged. This principle has important application in all classroom design.