Every time you and your students create and save a document
using a computer -- whether a PowerPoint presentation or a Web
page -- you are creating a digital file. It can be difficult
and frustrating to locate digital files later if those files
are not carefully organized and managed. Fortunately, computers
are set up to make organizing and saving files a simple and
Although you and your students can save files
to the hard drive of the computer in your classroom, it
is best to save files onto the server, which is a
hard drive on a separate computer that is specifically built
for storing large volumes of files. The server is connected
to every computer in the classroom and computer lab, so
your students will be able to get those files from any school
computer they use. If your students begin a project in the
computer lab and need to finish the project using a computer
in your classroom, they will be able to find and work on
those files with no problems if the files are on the server.
To save work on the server, your students will first need
a login, which includes a User ID and password,
to log on to the server. The easiest way to create student
logins is to base the User IDs on their names. The User ID
for Teresa Sanchez could be "tsanchez." Your school may have
standards set up, so be sure to ask your technology department
or computer technician. To create student logins, write
a list of your students' names and a list of the User IDs
to give to your school's technology department or computer
Since younger users may find it difficult to remember
individual User IDs and passwords, you will probably want
to create one generic login. A generic login is just
a User ID and password that a whole class can use to access
the server. An easy-to-remember generic login for an entire
first-grade class might be a username of "First Grade" and
a password of "hello." You will need to work with your technology
department or computer technician to create a generic login.
It is important to closely supervise your students' access
to the files on the server if they use a generic login:
Your students will be able to access each other's work,
which means that they could accidentally or purposefully
modify or delete each other's files.
2. Organizing student
With all this saving to the server, files could potentially
be lost and precious class time wasted looking through hundreds
of documents just to find a specific file. That is why it
is critical to establish a strong and clear file structure
before work begins. You can organize digital files in digital
folders, much like paper files are stored within folders
in a filing cabinet.
All your folders will be created in a file structure, which is
simply a system for organizing your files in a logical way.
Unlike folders in a filing cabinet, which are usually organized
alphabetically, you have a lot of flexibility in designing
an electronic file structure. You can even create folders
within folders, called subfolders, to make
your file structure fit the specific needs of your classroom
For instance, let's say the file structure is organized
so that each student has his or her own folder to store
digital files. Your students are working on a history project
about the gold rush and you have asked them to create a
PowerPoint presentation displaying a timeline of important
events and a bibliography of their sources in Microsoft
Word. You can have your students create a subfolder called
"Gold Rush" inside their own folder. They can store their
PowerPoint presentation and Word document inside the "Gold
Rush" folder, which makes those files easy to locate.
First, you will want to check with your technology department
or computer technician to see how much freedom you have
in designing the file structure on the server. If you can
create your own file structure, the next step is to decide
how to organize the folders according to the amount and
type of computer work you and your students do. If your
students mostly work on projects, then it probably makes
the most sense to organize folders by project. If your students
do computer work for each subject area, you might want to
create a folder for each subject.
Take a look at our file management suggestions
to see some different file management options. You can also
use our creating a file structure guide if
you need help creating folders and setting up your file
3. Saving student
When your students are working on
their digital files, it is easy for them to accidentally save files
in the wrong place or in a location that they will not be
able to find easily again. That is why having a file
structure on the server is so important. A file structure
gives students an organized, consistent place to save their
Make sure to direct your students through the process
of saving files so they understand how the folders are organized.
You may find it necessary to demonstrate the process on
a large screen that all students can see, then continue
to guide your students through the process the first few
times they save files until they are familiar with using
the file structure.
As part of the saving process, have students save their
work to the hard drive of the computer they are using while
they are working. If the server goes down, students will
still be able to access their work. They can simply transfer
the files to the server at a later time. To manage these
temporary files, create a folder called "Temporary Work"
on the computer's desktop.
If your school requires that students save their files
to a floppy disk, always make sure that your students have
their floppy disks ready when they are working on the computer.
Floppy disks are fragile and easily lost, so it is best
to designate a special location in the classroom where students
can store their disks.
It will also be useful to give your students guidelines
for naming their files so they can find them again easily.
Make sure your students use a specific, unique name. If
a student uses a generic name, such as "My English Paper,"
it will be hard to determine later which student created
the file and what information is in the file. Also, your
students will accidentally replace one file with another
file if they use the same filename. Using a specific, unique
filename for each file will prevent that from happening.
4. Working in the computer
Your students may wind up doing some of their computer
work in the computer lab. How do you make sure students
can still find and use files created in the lab if they
want to work on those files later in the classroom? As long
as you have created a file structure on the server, your
students can save all of their work on the server so that
they can access those files from any computer in the classroom
or lab. The process for creating and saving files in the
lab will be the same as creating and saving files in the
classroom, but just to be safe, it is best to show your
students how to access the server from the computers in
If your students can only save their files on a floppy
disk, make sure they have their disks in hand before they
start using the computer. It is also important that students
have a floppy disk case to protect the disks from getting
A lot of emphasis has been placed on organizing your students' files to
keep their digital work orderly and easy to find.
But it is important not to forget your own digital files.
Your computer files, which could include lesson plans, advisor
letters, letters to parents, and school trip information,
are bound to become jumbled and difficult to manage unless
you create a file structure for yourself.
The file structure you build for your own files will probably
be very similar to the file structure you create for your
students. Our file structure suggestions provide
a jumping off point for thinking about organizing your files.
II. Maintaining Digital
1. Preventing damaged
and lost files
With so much work stored electronically, the prospect
of losing some or all of that work can be worrisome. The
best way to combat lost or damaged files is to prevent the
problem in the first place using backups. Backups
are copies of the files on the server. If the server crashes
and files are lost, if a file on the server gets damaged
or if a student accidentally deletes a file, you can retrieve
and use the backup copy of that file.
The key to successful backups is backing up files on
a regular basis. But how often should you back up your files?
The frequency of your backups will depend on how often the
files change. Although weekly backups are probably adequate,
it is best to create daily backups for crucial files, such
as grades. Your technology department or computer technician
may already have developed standards for performing backups,
so be sure to check.
If your school does not have a backup process in place,
you can back up files in two ways:
With the drag-and-drop method, you just copy the files you
want to back up from the server to your backup location, which
could be an external hard drive, a Digital Audio
Tape (DAT) or another server. Although the drag-and-drop
method is the simplest way to back up files, you will have
to remember to back up your files, and you will have to manually
back up the files every time.
- Using the drag-and-drop method
- Using backup software
Because it is easy to forget your backups or miss a file
using the drag-and-drop method, we recommend using backup
software, such as VERITAS or Retrospect. This software will
back up your files automatically, so you never need to remember
to use it. When you install backup software, it will take
some time to select the files you want to back up and to
set up a backup schedule. But once you configure the backup
software, you will never need to think about backups again.
2. Archiving files
Once you and your students have a body of digital work
stored on the server, you will probably find that you and
your students will want to have a portable copy of that
work. Students might want to take their work home with them
after a project is finished or they might need a copy of
their work for college or job applications. Teachers often
find it useful to keep copies of grades or to have a portfolio
of the computer work their students have done. If you archive
digital files, you and your students will be able to easily
view, transport and copy all of your digital work.
Archiving creates a permanent, portable record for storing
finalized files, usually on CD or DVD. Digital files are
archived at the end of a course or project, after everything
has been completed. To archive your files, first make sure
you have the files organized and named exactly as you would
like them to appear in the archive. At this point, it is
best to archive on CD or DVD since these media will probably
be around for some time. The choice between these two depends
on the size of the files you want to archive -- a CD can hold
up to 700MB
and DVDs hold up to 4.7GB.
Archiving on CD or DVD requires special software. Although
you should probably discuss archiving with your technology
department or computer technician, we have provided some
guidelines to get you started.
| For the Mac:
|| If your computer comes with a built-in
CD/DVD super drive, the computer already has software
to create CDs and DVDs. You can access the CD burning
software from the "Special" menu. If your CD/DVD drive
is external, you will have to use a software
package, such as Toast, to archive files onto CD or
| For the PC:
|| If your computer comes with a built-in
CD/DVD burner, the computer will usually come
with software to create CDs and DVDs. If your CD/DVD
drive is external, you will have to use a software package,
such as Toast, to archive files onto CD or DVD.
If you do not have a CD or DVD burner, you can use floppy disks
or ZIP disks to archive files. Bear in mind that standards for
digital media are constantly changing. Archiving on floppy
disks or ZIP disks, which are probably close to extinction, may
cause some problems. It might be necessary to re-archive
the files onto a different medium later.
3. Managing collaborative
If your students are working together on a digital project, there are
some special steps they will have to take to manage their files.
One cardinal rule of file management is that students can
never work on the same document at the same time --
the file will become damaged and unusable. To prevent
this, have your students work on separate files when they
are collaborating on a project. When it is time to combine
the work, one student can work on the "final" file while
the other students sit at the computer and direct where
the content should go. If students need to continue their
collaborative projects outside of the classroom, they should
email each other with their changes.
To keep track of each student's contribution to the project,
have each of them pick a different color to represent their
work. One student can make comments in blue, another can
make comments in green and yet another in red. The colors
will help students and teachers sort out which students
have produced each piece of work.
4. Transferring files
between school and home
Since access to the computers in the classroom or the
computer lab is often limited, students with a computer
at home will probably want to work on some of their files
and do homework using their home computer.
Teachers and students have several options for transferring files between
school and home. First, ask your technology department or
computer technician if students and teachers are able
to access the school server from home. If you do have home
access, there is no need to transfer files -- you
can simply log on to the school server from your home computers
and open the files you need.
The next option is to email files from school email
accounts to home email accounts. Teachers and students
can download files to home computers, work on them and then
email the files back to school accounts when finished.
If it is not possible to email files between home and school, you
can copy files onto a floppy disk or ZIP disk. Floppy disks
and ZIP disks can get lost or damaged, so try to avoid
this option, if possible. Make sure that students using floppy
disks always carry the disks in a special case -- the
data on floppy disks can get damaged very easily.
It is important to note that working on files at home
can pose some problems:
- Many files will only work in a specific software
For instance, PowerPoint presentations can only be opened in
PowerPoint. Some home computers may not have the necessary
software to work on a file, so be sure that you and your
students check your home computers first.
- If a file is created on one operating system
(such as a Macintosh), but you have a different OS at
home (such as a PC), it may not be possible to work on
certain files at home. Our saving for the Mac and
the PC guide will help you transfer files between the Mac
and the PC.
- You may be increasing the risk for infecting school
computers with a virus, which is a computer program that
is specifically created to damage digital files or interfere
with email. It is essential to make sure that the computers
in your classroom have the latest virus software installed.
5. Maintaining electronic
The computer work that teachers create may include electronic records that
need to be carefully managed, such as grades and communications
with parents. It is possible that most of the
work has already been done for you -- many schools use
a system to manage electronic records, so check with your
technology department or computer technician first. If you
school does not use a system to manage electronic records,
you can design and build your own database or spreadsheet
using a database application (such as Filemaker Pro) or
a spreadsheet application (such as Excel). Unfortunately,
these programs demand a lot of computer knowledge. We recommend
using specialized grade management software, such as Gradekeeper,
Grade Machine, Autograde, or Classbuilder.
When you are researching your options for managing electronic
records, don't forget to confirm with your technology department
or computer technician that all confidential documents,
such as notes about students, are secure and inaccessible
to students. Some schools will have separate academic and
administrative servers for just this purpose.
If your school does not have security standards set up,
you can save your confidential files onto a floppy or ZIP
disk and place them in a locked drawer or file cabinet when
you are not working on them. Another option is to use security
software, such as Active Directory (Windows) or Mac Manager
(Macintosh), to protect your files.
III. Managing Computer
computers in the classroom
With so many students and teachers working on computers and creating
digital files, it is important to monitor the computers themselves.
The first step is to keep your computers consistent --
make sure all your computers have the same software
applications installed and that those applications are all
the same version of the software. You can use our computer
checklist as a guide for making the computers in
your classroom as easy as possible to use.
You may find it necessary to work with your technology department
to ensure that your computers are consistent and ready for
use in your classroom. For a complete list of issues to address
with your technology department, take a look at our questions to ask the
It is especially important to confirm that your computers
have security software installed, such as Active Directory
(Windows) or Mac Manager (Macintosh), to prevent your more
adventurous students from making unwanted modifications to
computers or other students' work.
Viruses can also cause unwanted changes to your computer.
They can even erase information from the computer's hard
drive or from the server, so be sure that your computer
has the latest virus protection software, such as Norton
Antivirus or McAfee Virus Alert.
2. Using Macintoshes
and PCs in the same classroom
If you have Macs and PCs in your classroom, there are
a number of problems your students might encounter when
they transition between computers:
- The files created on one computer
won't open in another computer.
- The files open, but the information
is scrambled or unusable.
- The files look different or are missing some formatting.
To deal with these problems, take a look at our saving
for the Mac and the PC guide, which has some tips to help
you transfer files between the Mac and the PC.