Tag Archives: hardware

TEACHERS! It Is Time to Junk Out Your Files on the Server!

Organize Files

Follow these tips to stay organized!

We do a daily backup of information for staff and students using an offsite backup utility. It was generously donated to us with a 250GB storage limit.
However, I just received a backup error to say that we are over our limit!

I started to look through the directory to locate the source of the problem. Volume for teacher folders is rather large.

They are jam packed full of stuff!

I notice there are the essential files such as templates, lesson plans, worksheets, and assessment tools. Those cannot be deleted. However, there is a large portion of outdated files that can likely be removed from the server. On closer examination, I discover the biggest contributor to the storage capacity issue is PHOTOS! Since most photos are taken in a hi-resolution format they eat up space quite quickly.

Teachers are BUSY people. They barely have enough time to create a file, never mind take the time to delete outdated ones. It is a good idea to clean out your folder at the end of the school year. However, IF you ignored this request last year, it is a good time to do it now!

I know you don’t want to part with anything, because “you might need it”. However, there are definitely some files you can delete.

For example, do you really need the Pizza Day announcement from five years ago? The event is over.

What about the photos from the school trip in 2002? Those children have graduated and left the school.

Here are some suggestions to get and STAY organized:

Sort Files by Date: Open your folder and sort the files by date. Just because the files are OLD does not mean they are unnecessary. Take the time to open up your old files. If they are not necessary then delete them. If you want to keep them, organize them into folders so that you can find them easily in the future.

Transform Documents into Reusable Templates: There are likely parent letters, newsletters, or other publications you created that are reusable. Create a Template folder. Place the “master” files into the template folder and apply a read-only property. Now you can use the file over and over again.

Organize your Files into Folders by School Year: I understand that you want to keep files for the school year in case you need to refer to them at a later time. For example, school calendars or school trip forms might be something you want to store for the year. To stay organized, create a folder that includes the school year as the first label in the name, such as 2012 2013 School Calendar or 2012 2013 School Trip Forms. Store suitable files for the school year in those folders. At the end of the school year, you can quickly sort the folders by name and then delete all of the unwanted folders for that school year or move them to an external storage device.

Zip Old Photos: Today, digital cameras take photos at such a high resolution that the file size for just one image can be quite large. Combine that with all the photos taken over the course of a school year with the photos saved from previous years and your folder can easily reach capacity. If you are storing photos from a few years ago, but you have no immediate use for them, you can compress them. To do this, place the photos into a clearly labeled folder. Right click the mouse and select Send to and then Compressed (zipped) folder. A new zippered folder will appear with all your pictures. You can now delete the original folder.

Use an Image Resizer to Reduce File Size: An Image Resizer is software that will compress your images to make them a smaller file size. The Windows PowerToy and Image Resizer for Windows offer the unique advantage of small file size paired with scalability. Photos can be scaled to fill an entire Microsoft Word page or PowerPoint slide without losing their sharpness. Instructions for how to use these tools to resize batches of photos is explained in the blog, Resizing Images Without Losing Quality.

Archive your Photos to DVD: You are proud of the work you and your students have created. Deleting it can be difficult. A good idea is to archive the files instead. You can transfer the materials such as the school year book from four years ago to a DVD and clearly label the content. Place it in a safe place. Now you can access the files in the future if necessary.

Delete Photos as you Go: Preview the photos while they are still on the camera. Delete immediately any photos that are blurry or have a person’s head cut off. You aren’t going to use them, so get rid of them right away.

Be Selective of the Photos you Keep: Digital cameras let us take many picture of the same subject matter, so that we can be sure we have the “perfect” shot. This means often there are six photos of the same girl smiling. It is a good idea, that once those photos are transferred from the camera onto the computer to identify the perfect photo and immediately delete all the photos you did not like. Then take a few minutes to resize the photos you want to keep. This will keep the storage problem to a minimum and save you time in the future!

Computer Frankenstein

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween

Two lifeless machines are pushed in on the cart. In my office laboratory I replace dead parts with used components to make the computer usable once again. Can I fix these new ones?

I start my analysis of the first computer. Nope, this one is not going to make it – the motherboard has failed.

The dissection begins. Video, network, and sound cards are removed. I look over the RAM stick. Yes, that can be reused. I dig it out.

I look around my computer graveyard. There are skeletons of old towers. Stacks of useless monitors block the floor. Soon I will need to properly to dispose of this mess. But I have more important things to do.

My attention returns to the problem at hand. I begin troubleshooting the second machine. This one has a failed hard drive. I rummage through the tidy plastic drawers that hold vital computer parts. I grab a gently used hard drive and pop it into the machine.

I plug in the computer. No lightening is required (although that would be cool). It’s alive!

It is time to reformat this computer and get it student-ready.

Happy Halloween!

Three Steps for Managing Technical Issues in the Computer Lab

managing technical issues in the computer lab

Technical issues can derail a lesson in the computer lab.

When a math teacher tells students to turn to page 32 in the textbook, there is confidence that the content will be the same in every book, the page will not be missing, and the questions will not disappear half way through the lesson. Unfortunately, the computer teacher cannot operate with that same level of confidence. This is because often there are technical issues when teaching lessons that use the computer.

In the ideal world, there would never be any computer-related problems. The machines would always work properly, programs would not freeze, and the network would never crash. However, since this is not the case, it is a good idea to be prepared.

Troubleshooting Process

When a problem occurs, follow a three-step process to manage the issue:

  1. Step 1: Move the Student and Continue to Teach
    If you are in the middle of teaching when the issue occurs, you should not stop the lesson to fix the problem. This is because the other students will become off-task while you are busy working on the computer. In addition, you will waste valuable instructional time repairing the computer instead of teaching the students. It is better to move the student with the broken computer to another machine or have them pair up with a partner. Once they are situated, you should continue the lesson. When you are finished teaching and your students are busy working on an assigned task, you can then study the problem in more detail.
  2. Step 2: Log Information about the Problem
    Your immediate response to the problem might be to restart the computer, as often this action will temporarily resolve the issue. You must resist the urge to seek a “quick fix.” Although restarting may solve the problem temporarily, it is a good idea to log the problem first. This is because computer related problems tend to be intermittent. This makes them particularly difficult to solve. For this reason, take a minute to record details about the problem. Record the computer number or other identifier, program the student was using, action the student was initiating, and the error message on the screen. This information will help to troubleshoot the problem later.
  3. Step 3: Troubleshoot the Problem
    Even if you have limited computer knowledge, there are simple steps you can take to try to repair the computer. For example, it is a good idea to check for power or loose cables and then restart the machine. If you know a bit more about the computer, you may also want to conduct a virus scan, run disk defragmenter, and check for Windows updates. If you have an advanced skill set, you can research the error message using the Internet, check for software and driver updates, inspect for recently installed programs or updates, study the computer hard drive to determine if storage space is limited, or look at the amount of RAM to see if there is a memory problem. Once you have exhausted this list, you will need to contact a technician.

Don’t Throw it Out! Salvage Parts to Repair Computer Equipment

Storage Cart of Computer Parts

Store salvaged computer parts in clear plastic bins.

Don’t throw it out! You can extend your IT budget by salvaging components from old computers. These parts can be used to repair other equipment, saving you from having to make a new purchase.

I regularly repair computers using hardware from other machines. When a machine is no longer useable I will remove the network, video, and sound cards, as well as any RAM. These parts commonly fail and can easily be used to fix other equipment. The extra RAM especially comes in handy when I need to upgrade the memory on a donated computer.

I have a simple system for keeping everything organized. It is a portable clear plastic shelving unit. It has three drawers that are see-through. In each drawer I organize the hardware. To make it easier for me to find things I have labeled the drawers. (I love my labeler!)

I don’t keep motherboards, computer cases, or cd drives. Those parts I usually throw out. I only keep the good stuff!

Do you Salvage Computer Parts?

Am I the only one that saves old computer parts? Let me know if you also fix computers using salvaged parts? What is the downside to making a repair with used computer parts?