Got the kids ready for the new school year, what about the computer?

OK you bought uniforms, the fridge is full of juice boxes, and you have enough peanut butter in the cabinet to last though winter. You are ready for the new school year. Is your computer?  Has your computer spent the whole summer being your kids toy?  Now, it has to go back to work and become a serious learning and teaching device. So before the new year starts you can get your computer ready for homework and book reports.

Basic maintenance.

Inside a desktopTake some time to go through it; go through the programs and features and remove a software you don’t need or have not used. (Tip: if you have no idea what a piece of software is or what it does don’t mess with it. That’s when you have a pro look at it.) Also make sure that you have a good antivirus and malware software installed and that is up to date. If you have a desktop this is also a good time to give it a good blast with canned air. (Machine off and power disconnected please)

Setup User accounts

If you haven’t already setting up your student or students their own user account would probably be a good idea. This will let them have a separate place to keep their stuff, have their own desktop backgrounds, bookmarks, and shortcuts. This also means that they will not be messing with your files and settings.  Set them up as a standard user, not an administrator, also if you have not already, put a password on your account.  A standard user will need the okay of an administrator (parent) to install software (On purpose or accidentally) or make any big changes.
Also while you’re in there take advantage of the parental controls. This will allow you limit when your student can use the computer also you can limit what software can be used. (Unless your kid is doing your taxes, there is no reason why he/she should be able to launch Quick books)

Backups

Every one is backing up their stuff right? Yea I thought so. If you think that losing a report for work is bad when your system crashes, you have never told a third grader he had to re-write the report he has due tomorrow.  Now you could get your kid a flash drive to keep his stuff, but if your kid was anything like I was young, it will get lost in about two days (at best). This might be a good idea to show your kid the cloud.  Now One drive and Google drive are both good options. They both offer free storage up to 15 GB and Onedrive is already integrated into Windows 8 and 10. Just set it up so when your student saves it defaults to Onedrive and it will sync up to the cloud. (This also means that if Jr forgets his report at home he can log in from school to get it. No more forgetting homework)  Another plus is that both Google and Microsoft have online versions of their office programs. Granted these online versions are not as robust as the actual software but for but there offered for free online.

Software

If or when you find out you need some software, Microsoft office home and student is still fairly reasonable. Also check with the school. They might have preference or recommendations. Some software vendors do offer education discounts for certain programs so ask.

Printing

Now this feels counter intuitive honestly I keep pushing people to get away from paper but depending on your school, they want  kids to have responsibility of handing things in. Getting your kids their own printer might be a good idea.  Now I’m not talking about a $300 malfunction printer with fax and scan. I’m talking about the 40 basic inkjet printer you find on the Walmart shelf  from last year. This can give you an opportunity to teach responsibility. It is their machine meaning it’s their responsibility to make sure there’s paper in it, to know how to load the ink cartridges, what to do with the old ones.  It’s little more responsibility than an ant farm a lot less than a hamster. (This is also good for first year IT interns)
Now keep in mind this little guide is for the family with kids heading back or just starting grade school.  If you have kids that are 13 and over most likely they already have firm control of the family computer or they have their own. However this is a good opportunity to start your kids on good habits and to show them that a computer is more then just something to play games on.
logo2013Now here is the thing, I am not a teacher, I am not a parent, I am not a kid expert I am a computer expert. There is probably something I missed, (its been 25 years since 1st grade)  So I want to hear from the teachers, parents, grand parents I want to hear your computer kid stories. I am always open to input.  Also feel free to call me I am more than happy to get your systems setup for the new year for you. I will even show your young scholars a few tricks if you like. I am Joseph Serrago and I teach computers to behave themselves.
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