George Lucas Educational Foundation
Technology Integration

Keeping Classroom Computers Clean During Flu Season

Apparently, the keyboards of classroom computers can be germier than toilet seats. Here’s some advice to keep the seasonal bacteria and viruses at bay in classrooms.

March 9, 2016
Photo credit: Intel Free Press via flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Parents, please don't send your kids to school when they are sick. There, I said it. Now that it's said, however, I know full well that kids will still be sent to school, if not with fevers, then at least with grossness dripping from every orifice on their face.

We tell them to do the new "vampire arm" when they sneeze. We keep disinfectant at stations by our front doors and a new box of tissues at every table group. Yet still they come -- the germs.

The children walk into the classroom like zombies during this time of year, shuffling in with virus and bacteria in their wake. There is a score behind every lesson of sniffles, sneezes, wheezes, and nose blows. We need hazmat suits to just do our job.

I get it. I really do. I'm a parent, too. With every day off to look after a sick kid, that's one day off I can't take when I'm sick, too. Over the course of the school year, my husband and I use up every sick day, every year. There are no rollover days from the prior year for the Wolpert-Gawron home.

But this time of year is simply gross. The custodians are working twice as hard to disinfect every surface, and we teachers try to keep a subtle distance from students, creating an invisible circumference around us like an unseen moat. Like that will do anything to keep the germs at bay.

Sometimes it breaks your heart. Sometimes it's a kid who clearly has nowhere else to go, and the parents simply can't take off work for fear of being fired. Sometimes the child doesn't want to miss the field trip, and we realize, too late, that Typhoid Mary or Tom has boarded the bus, making it an incubator of both noise and ick.

Nevertheless, it also sometimes feels like we are all in this together. Somehow, during this time of year, you also see a lot of kindness. Kids walk each other to the nurse's office in support. Sometimes you find kids online from their beds at home, trying to communicate to the class that they know what is happening at school. Just today, one of my students was on a Google Doc from her bed, commenting on a peer's essay. I called her name and praised the quality of her advice before realizing she wasn't in the classroom personally. Hat tip to Google Apps for Educators (GAFE).

Anyway, in addition to commiserating with my fellow educators, I also wanted to share a few tips on keeping those remarkably awesome and remarkably dirty devices clean during this time of year.

Keeping Those Computers Clean

While we all know to preach the power of the hand wash as the number one way to avoid getting sick, the fact is that, according to data, the keyboards of our computers are more germy than toilet seats. So here's some advice to keep the seasonal bacteria and viruses at bay in your classrooms.

1. Use Mr. Clean Magic Eraser: This product works great to clean up the appearance of your shared devices. They return my class set of gray Chromebooks back to white again in no time. Fingerprints gone. But just know that these erasers also take off any permanent marking pen or other ways you've developed to number or name your devices.

2. Use slime: I just recently saw this video and plan to try this with my own computer before moving ahead with my class set of laptops. It looks like a fun project to do with kids or students, and it's followed up by using the project to keep the learning environment cleaner. I look forward to trying it, but if there are any teachers or parents out there who have tried this already, please share in the comments below.

3. Use a disinfectant wipe, any disinfectant wipe: According to a 2006 NPR story, "Disinfectant Wipes Safe for Computer Keyboards," a study conducted by the University of North Carolina determined that "all of the disinfectants we used were effective in removing the microorganisms that we intentionally contaminated the computer keys with." In fact, "Even the sterile water worked. And one class of disinfectants, which includes Sani-Cloth Plus, Cavi-Wipes, and Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, kept bacteria from regrowing for two days or more." Make sure you squeeze out the drippy liquid from the wipe before using it gently on the keyboard itself. Then, run a dry cloth over the board to pick up any remaining wipe fluid.

Take care of yourself this time of year. Much like when a parent gets sick and the family can't run as smoothly, so does a classroom when the teacher is down. Sleep, sleep, sleep, and drink fluids. Apologize when you can't give the hugs you want to give, but find an emoji that might help them smile. You can't be blamed this time of year. It's gross out there.

Keep well, and let us know if you have other ways to keep the germs at bay in the classroom.

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