I’ll be taking a week (or so) off–until after the New Year–to prepare for my son (visiting from Kuwait), edit/format my website, work on writing projects with a deadline, prioritize life. I may drop in on you-all as you enjoy your holidays, but mostly I’ll be regenerating.
I wish you a wonderful season, safe and filled with family.
See you shortly!
This week, I’m providing tips for end-of-year technology maintenance. These are activities that could (or should) be done once a month if you’re active on your computer, but AT LEAST do them yearly.
Two critical maintenance tasks that lots of people skip are:
- image your computer
- back up your documents
Every computer must be reformatted eventually. Every time you download from a website or open an email attachment or update one of your online tools or software, you collect digital dust and grunge that affects the speed and efficiency of your computer. Performing the clean up items suggested in 13 Ways To Speed Up Your Computer helps, but eventually not enough. The only way to return your computer to its original speedy youthful self is by reformatting.
I hate reformatting my computer. I lose all the extras I’ve added (like Jing, cookies, Printkey 2000 which is out of production). I forget which software I have (sure, I remember MS Office, but what about Google Earth and Celestia?) And then there are all the personalizations I’ve put on that get lost with the reformat. It takes me hours–days?–to return my computer to its prior user-friendly state. As a result, I resist reformatting for as long as I can. Usually, until a virus has made my computer unusable. Then, I have no choice.
A few years ago, I discovered imaging. When you image your computer, you take a picture of what your hard drive looks like, including all the programs and extras, and save in a secure back-up area (I have Carbonite do it for me on a regular basis). When you reformat, all you have to do is copy the image back to the computer. Mine is on a terabyte external drive. Even if my two internal drives explode, I’m good.
Here’s what you do:
- Click the start button.
- Go to Control Panel
- Select ‘Backup and Restore’
- On the left sidebar, you’ll see an option for ‘create a system image’. Select that.
- Follow directions (it’ll ask which drive to use for the image–stuff like that)
Like this week.
That’s right. It’s a new year, which means Pre-Spring Cleaning. Set aside the brushes and mops. Grab a comfortable chair, put on your problem-solving hat, and get started. The goal: To make your computer faster, more efficient, and more reliable for all the work you’ve promised to complete over the holiday break.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Make sure your firewall is working. Windows comes with a built-in one. Maybe Mac does too. Leave it active. It’s under Control Panel>Administrative Tools. Sometimes, they seem to turn off by themselves (I have no idea why). Check to be sure it is active. This will keep viruses and malware out that slow your computer.
- Defrag your computer. To quote Windows, Fragmentation makes your hard disk do extra work that can slow down your computer. Removable storage devices such as USBs can also become fragmented. Disk Defragmenter rearranges fragmented data so your disks and drives can work more efficiently. Never mind all that geek speak. Here’s what you need to know: Run Disc Defrag by going to Control Panel>Administrative Tools>Advanced Tools.
- Run Spybot or a similar spyware programs. Spybot is free, which is why I like it, and I’ve had good luck with it. Download.com says this about Spybot: The program checks your system against a comprehensive database of adware and other system invaders. The Immunize feature blocks a plethora of uninvited Web-borne flotsam before it reaches your computer.
- Run Ad-aware once a week to keep malware off your computer. It has a stellar reputation and is also free (although there’s an upgrade that you can pay for).
- Keep your antivirus software active. If you’re paranoid like me, run an antivirus scan weekly to be sure nothing is missed.
- Sort through your Documents and get rid of those you don’t need anymore. It’s intimidating, like a file cabinet that hasn’t been opened in months–or years and is covered with dust, even spider webs. Do it, though. If you don’t, every time you search, the computer must finger through those unused and worthless files. It doesn’t understand the difference between ‘unused’ and ‘important’.
- Back up your files to an external drive or cloud storage. If you have an automated system, skip this. If you don’t, consider getting Carbonite or similar. If you use Windows, try their backup program. It’s easy to find: Click the Start Button and search ‘backup’.
- Empty the trash. Don’t even look in it. If you haven’t missed a file by now, it won’t matter if you throw it out.
- Learn to use that program you’ve been promising you would or delete it. Evernote is a great example. Use it (and you won’t be sorry) or delete the email from your best friend exhorting you to try it. Move on.
- Go through your programs and delete the ones you no longer use. Here’s what you do:
- go to Control Panel>Programs and Features
- peruse the list and pick the programs you downloaded by mistake, meaning to use, or used to use and no longer do
- don’t look back
- Update any software that needs it. I don’t mean BUY a newer version. I mean click the free update that’s been nagging at you (Adobe Reader and Windows, for example)
- Clean the junk off your desktop. Put it in folders or create a folder for ‘Working on’. Don’t know how to create a desktop folder? Just right click on the desktop and select ‘New>folder’
- Clean up your Start Button. Remove shortkeys you no longer use (with a right click>delete). Add those that have become daily go-to sites
For most teachers I know, life zooms by, filled with lesson planning, meetings, classes, collaborations with their grade-level team, parent meetings, and thinking. There are few breaks to update/fix/maintain the tech tools that allow us to pursue our trade.
But, that must happen or they deteriorate and no longer accomplish what we need them to do. Cussing them out does no good. Buying new systems takes a long time and doesn’t fix the problem that the old one wasn’t kept up. If they aren’t taken care of, we are left wondering why our teacher blog or website isn’t accomplishing what it does for everyone else, why our social media Tweeple don’t generate activity, and why our TPT materials languish. There’s a short list of upkeep items that won’t take long to accomplish. The end of the calendar year is a good time to do these:
- 12 Days of Christmas
- Christmas—history—fun video
- Gift Hunt–updated version of 12 Days of Christmas–just as much fun
- Holiday collection
- Holiday Crossword
- Holiday Elf Games
- Holiday hangman
- Holiday Hangman II
- Holiday music
- Holiday music II–sing along with the music–the site provides the words
- Holiday—Design Gingerbread House
- Holiday—find the word
- Holiday—match game
- Holiday—Math Facts
- Holiday—North Pole Academy
- Holidays around the world
- NORAD Santa
- Penguin Show
- Reindeer Orchestra
- Santa Tracker
- Is Your Online Presence Up to Date?
- Once a Year Blog Maintenance–Are You Up to Date?
- Back up and Image your computer
- 13 Ways to Speed Up Your Computer
Join me! You’ll come away feeling ready, re-energized, and geeky.
Creating a shortkey will quickly become a favorite with your students. I use it for the snipping tool–because we use that a lot in class–but you can create one for any program you use a lot. Depdending upon the device you use will dictate how you do this.
- Go to Start
- Right click on the desired program
- Select ‘properties’
- Click in ‘shortcut’
- Push the key combination you want to use to invoke the snipping tool. In my case, I used Ctrl+Alt+S
Here’s a video to show you:
Now all I have to do is remember the shortkey!
Called hotkeys. These are built in on some devices and require an app on others. On the iPad go to:
Settings > General Settings > Keyboard Settings
Scroll down and click “add new shortcut.” The one drawback is that it does not include new paragraphs on the ipad/ iphone. To do that you’ll need Text Expander, but because Text Expander isn’t supported in every app, I just use this. So, for example, at the top of every Journal Entry I like to have:
Use the Auto Hotkeys program
Creating a macro is a quick, easy programming exercise that students fifth grade and up can accomplish with moderate supervision.
By fifth grade, students appreciate technology for how it can speed up their homework and class projects and seek out ways to use it to make their educational journey easier.. Take advantage of this by introducing pre-programming skills like creating macros. Here’s a video I shared during Summer PD: