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Digital Safety | Computer Rules Prevent Problems

With computers and other digital devices becoming a part of nearly every classroom, it's important to have clear rules for your students.

Student computer use often involves situations not covered by regular classroom rules -- and the rules those situations require might not occur to you ahead of time. They've occurred to the Education World Tech Team, however. Today, our experts share their rules with you!

Most likely, one of the first things you do at the beginning of each school year is post a list of class rules. Whether your rules are as general as "respect yourself and others" or as specific as "no talking after the bell rings," you know that rules help provide order and structure and create an optimal learning environment.

No matter how effective your class rules are, however, they seldom cover every classroom situation. Student computer use, in particular, often necessitates additional rules -- rules that can optimize your students' computer experiences. Those rules might not occur to you until unexpected situations arise.

They have already occurred to members of Education World's Tech Team, though!

Today, to make sure that your technology lessons are as orderly -- and as valuable -- as all your other classroom activities, our experts share their rules with you.


"One of my [most important] rules concerns printing from the Internet," Pat Bihon, a technology specialist at Lincoln Roosevelt School, in Succasunna, New Jersey, told Education World. "I have a rule that students must clear any Internet printing with me before they send material to the printer. Students must know how many pages an article contains and whether they need the entire article or just part of it. There's nothing worse than printing ten pages when only the first two pages contain necessary information. I also encourage students to copy and paste the information they need into a text document or WordPad. That way, they have only the information they need and they create a note page for later reference.

"A second rule," Bihon continued, "is that students record the URLs for the Web sites they use. Again, I encourage them to copy and paste the URLs into a text document and record the Web sites for a bibliography. That also helps them realize that, for example, is not the site the information came from; it's just the search engine they used. This concept is difficult for many students to grasp.

"I also have rules forbidding fooling around with the computer's C drive, removing the mouse ball, and changing icons and wallpaper on the desktop," said Bihon. "I tell students that they are in my living room and shouldn't change things around, any more than I would go into their living rooms and rearrange the furniture. Moving icons in particular drives me crazy. If the icons are left in place, I can easily direct students to the correct column and row for opening a program. If the icons have been moved, it wastes my time and the students' time."

"I post station numbers on disk boxes by each computer," said Libby Adams, a computer resource teacher at Troost Academy, in Kansas City, Missouri. "On the first lab day, each student is assigned a station. After that, the rules are pretty simple."

  • Remain standing at your station until you're invited to sit down.
  • Sit quietly until you know what's expected of you.
  • Turn your station box over if you have a problem.
  • Never touch another student's computer.
  • When class is over, close all windows, stand when asked, and push your chair into your lab station.

"Students also know," Adams told Education World, "that sometimes we work solo, often we collaborate, and occasionally we cross-pollinate. This lets them know the permissible noise level."

"The beginning of the school year is a good time to think about rules," said Betty Kistler, computer technology coordinator at Tuckahoe Common School District, in Southampton, New York. "Here are my Big Five!"

  • Keep your hands off the keyboard and mouse until you know what we're doing. When kids start messing around as soon as they sit down, they invariably end up somewhere other than where they need to be, and they probably aren't listening to instructions.
  • Work quietly and stay on task. Make every effort to do your best.
  • Spell-check and proofread before printing. Print to a color printer only when color is needed.
  • Get permission if you want to use the Internet for anything other than the day's assignment. (I have a brightly colored card to give students who have permission.)
  • Leave your workspace the way you'd like to find it. This means exit all applications, close the server connection, and put any removable media where it belongs.


Tech team members also provided these simple lists of rules you can post in your classroom, media center, or tech lab.

From Fred Holmes, webmaster at Osceola High School, in Osceola, Nebraska:


  • Respect the hardware and software.
  • Have all necessary applications open and active.
  • Read the instructions on the computer screen before asking for help.
  • Do not surf the Internet or read e-mail when you're supposed to be listening to the teacher or working on an assignment.
  • Stay out of other people's files.
  • Log off when you're finished.

From Julia Timmons, instructional technology specialist at P.L. Dunbar Middle School for Innovation, in Lynchburg, Virginia:


  • Bring only necessary materials to the computer lab -- no backpacks. (This keeps backpacks from knocking plugs loose and minimizes obstructions in the rows while I'm walking around helping students.)
  • Do not bring food or drink, lotions, or combs near the computers.
  • Do not alter anything on the desktop or hard drive.
  • Store documents in network folders, not on the hard drive.
  • Get a teacher's permission before using a disk.
  • If you finish assignments or have extra computer time, work on other school projects.
  • All computer use must have an educational basis. No game playing.

From Madeleine Decker, sixth-grade teacher and webmaster at Washington Intermediate School, in Pekin, Illinois:


  • Use only the "safe surf" search engines posted on the bulletin board.
  • Access only teacher-bookmarked files.
  • Do not install any programs without the teacher's permission.
  • Do visit the Washington Intermediate School Web site at any time.

From Kim Logie, third-grade teacher at Cesar Chavez Academy, in Detroit, Michigan:


  • Log on using your own name.
  • Don't eat or drink near the computers.
  • Respect your time and others' time.
  • Take turns using programs.
  • Ask for help if you don't understand something.
  • Have fun!

From Eve Datisman, library media specialist at Forks High School, in Forks, Washington:


  • Boot correctly and follow established log-on procedures.
  • Respect yourself -- don't give out your log-on name and password.
  • Get organized -- have your task at hand and use your time wisely.
  • Respect others -- don't hog the machines.
  • Report malfunctions and glitches -- it saves time and energy.
  • Take responsibility for your actions -- clean up your site.
  • Log-off -- leave the station ready for the next person to use.


Finally, Jennifer Wagner, technology coordinator at Crossroads Christian School, in Corona, California, provided this acrostic, sure to make following the rules a little easier and a lot more fun!

Come to class with clean hands.
Operate the equipment properly.
Make sure you listen to directions.
Push your chair in when you are done.
Use your inside voice.
Touch the keyboard lightly.
Eat and drink outside the computer lab.
Remember to take your printouts with you.

Learn something new each time you come to the lab.
Always work toward your best, not your neighbors' best.
Be careful handling CD's.

Related Articles from Education World

Who Are They?

The Education World Tech Team includes 40 dedicated and knowledgeable educational-technology professionals who have volunteered to contribute to occasional articles that draw on their varied expertise and experience. Stay tuned in the months ahead as members of the Tech Team share their thoughts on a wide variety of topics.

Article by Linda Starr
Education World®
Copyright © Education World


Updated 06/14/2011