After deploying chrome books to each middle school student in our school and granting permission for the device to be personalized, now, three years later, students are steadily parading into the library with a common complaint, “My chrome book is just not working right.”

Hmm…. Could it be out of date? Not likely because students know to click the arrow for updates to be installed. Could it be full of cookies? Again, most students know to clear the cache when their device is acting wonky (is that even a word?). Could it be a hidden problem under the layers of extensions? Very likely this is the root of the problem; the layers of extensions, bookmarks and apps that have been downloaded year after year but not removed from the device for both the student and the teacher. Is it possible that we have unintentionally become cyber-hoarders? Take the short, yes or no, quiz below to reveal your level of digital hoarding for your students and yourself as the teacher. Then keep reading to see how to take charge of your digital footprint.

STUDENTS

Yes   No

Do you have extensions on your device that you downloaded but really did not work like you thought and you do not use them?

Are there extensions that you used one year for one teacher but have not used them the next two years?

Do you trust your classmates to download items for you on your device without really understanding why you need that download?

Are your bookmarks current on your bookmark bar?

Do you recognize and know how every download got on your device?

Do you make time at the end of the school year to remove or archive digital files you used in that year?

TEACHERS

Yes   No

Is your home screen full of icons where the background image is barely recognizable?

Do you only think about cleaning your email when prompted that your mailbox is getting full and you will be cut off from receiving and sending emails?

Do you ask your students to bookmark or add extensions for your class?

When you are not going to use your device, say over a weekend, do you power it down correctly?

Are you aware of the basic trouble-shooting needs about the devices your students are using for their learning?

Do you model for your students how to reduce your digital footprint?

In both quizzes, if you answered yes to the first three questions, and answered no to the last three questions, then you might have an issue with being a cyber-hoarder. Out of sight, out of mind. But really, digital still exists. A pile of trash to be removed may not be visible with digital files, unless you purposefully clean up your work.  The digital files that beg to be organized appear hidden inside your digital footprint.  You have a false sense of security that everything remains tidy. We have work to do so that we can model good digital citizenship to our students.

Folders

Learn how to create folders. Folders can blow your mind and aid in organizing your digital documents. Folders still need to be reviewed at least annually. In your email, name folders you will recognize. You could even have sub folders inside a main folder to move emails. Learn how to archive documents and again, create folders to store your information. Folders with school years may help easily retrieve information or delete later when no longer needed.

Physical maintenance

Make time to physically clean devices. There are special cloths you can purchase for the correct wetness to wipe screens and keyboards. Be proud of your tool and clean up stray marks, messing fingertips and food crumbs immediately to prevent a build-up that will be much more difficult to tackle. Teach your students to care for their device instead of assuming they will know how.

Digital clean up

Once you completed the folders and the physical parts of your device, you are ready to go one step further with the digital clean up. As indicated in the introduction, you want to keep your device up to date. While using it, you will be prompted to update with an arrow or message not to turn off until updated. Follow those instructions. Also, most websites drop a cookie to gather information about your use of the website so keep the cache cleaned. Depending on how often you use your digital tool, a monthly cleaning should keep your device running smoothly. Clean out bookmarks. My middle school students laugh when they see stuff from elementary school, and say “Oh, I haven’t used that in years.” I advise them to let it go. Examine your bookmarks and place current bookmarks so they are easily available, like the intention of bookmarks, instead of searching for your bookmark in a folder or excessive list. 

So little time?

All of this is good information, but we know the reality is that it seems there is so little time in the school day to take care of these areas. You can ignore all of this, but sooner or later you will join the crowd of those who remember once having a device that ran quickly. Some students learn to just deal with the slow machine; perhaps the problem occurred so slowly and masked itself as a normal machine. As educators, we need to model for our digital natives and share what we know about organizing and protecting information. We need to guard our students and be sure they have devices that operate quickly and efficiently.

Think you might have a tendency to be a cyber-hoarder? Then you have recognized the first step in recovery, naming the problem. Now, choose the path ahead of you to make your future brighter.

Teresa Young is the librarian at Westport Middle School, Springfield. She can be reached at tyoung@spsmail.org . In her district, students drop off their broken devices with the librarians, who write up the reports for IT. Sometimes the device has to be power washed to remove the downloads or the game levels. The district has an IT department and the high schools have an IT person, but not the elementary and middle schools.

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