They say computers make life easier. I say they sometimes make our lives miserable.

During the past two years, I’ve visited Apple’s Genius Bar eight times. I’ve watched a student cry in front of her PC after she found a Word document she had worked on for days corrupted. I’ve witnessed someone spill coffee on my colleague’s MacBook, and then felt enraged when he had to spend almost half its price to make the thing work again.

Now you may ask me: What’s going on with our computers? Well, there is nothing wrong with the computers. It’s us. It’s our bad habits that led to these tragedies.

That’s what I’d like to share with you today: four good computer habits every teacher should have in the digital age. These habits may affect your productivity, data security, and health. Health…seriously? Yes: A survey claims that Americans spend two hours a week waiting on their slow computers, which are sources of immense frustration and constant stress.

Let’s jump right in. How many of these habits are a part of your teaching life?

1. Back up your computer: This may sound old-school, and you’ve probably heard people say it all the time; but let me tell you again that backup is the single most effective way to prevent data loss.

You may think data loss will never happen to you, but it happens to everyone at some point. It’s often too late when you realize it, the moment when you accidentally deleted a student’s assignment from your flash drive; worse yet, when your computer crashed all of a sudden due to unexpected errors. Having an up-to-date backup will avoid frustration and save you time to restore.

How to do? If you are using a PC or Mac, you can set up Windows System Backup or Time Machine to backup your computer regularly. For those important files, such as the students’ assignments and your teaching materials, make sure you also save at least one copy saved to an external hard drive. Another alternative that’s also convenient nowadays is online backup. For example, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, or Dropbox all make it easy for us to upload files to the cloud and their services are free to get started. See also: An appliance approach to data backup.

2. Clean your desktop and hard drive: We all like to save files and folders to the computer desktop to make them easier to access. You probably never locate a file by clicking “This PC” (for Windows) or “Macintosh HD” (for macOS) because it’s a waste of time. But if your computer desktop looks cluttered with dozens of files, folders, or shortcut icons, it’s time to clean them up a little bit. Not only does a cluttered desktop affect your productivity, as files are harder to find, but it can even slow down your computer if you use a Mac.

Likewise, clean up your hard drive. Research shows that the first 50 percent of a hard drive performs better than the second 50 percent due to the way disk storage works. Also, if the internal hard drive of your computer is almost full, chances are everything will slow down and you’ll wait longer for your PC to fully startup, and apps won’t run any quicker than before.

How to do? Start by transferring large files to an external drive, then delete duplicates and remove third-party programs you no longer use. Last but never least, be more organized by having fewer folders to categorize all the files you have—your computer will be more productive and so will you.

(Next page: Good computer habits for teachers 3-5)


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