The best computer lab rules are ones that are focused on promoting a positive learning environment and good ‘netiquette‘. Make sure your rules set high expectations for your students, but also only set rules that are achievable.
The following list of computer lab rules are my list of rules that I’ve used in my computer rooms in the past to set positive classroom norms. We’ll provide a shortlist then go through each one at a time,
Best Computer Lab Rules
1. Eyes on the Speaker
It is so frustrating when you start speaking and … the whole class keep clicking away at their screen.
For some reason, computers are just so addictive for students. They will be so engrossed in their task that they totally ignore your voice.
That’s why my number 1 rule is eyes on the speaker.
As a teacher, you need to be very strict on this rule from day 1, minute 1.
2. Turn Monitors off when Asked
Another way of reinforcing the “Pay attention to your teacher!” rule is to make all the students turn their monitors off when you’re giving instructions or having a class discussion.
When monitors go black, the computer stops being a distraction. It’s rendered impossible to use.
If you’re in a lab with laptops, this rule would change to “Close your Laptop when Asked.”
Or, if it’s iPads, simply: “Turn screens facing down”.
This is a really effective way of forcing concentration when you’re giving instructions.
3. No Going on Websites that are not Approved
This rule can be a catch-all for preventing the distractions of endless (and unrelated) internet searches.
One way to do this is to create a list of “approved sites”. However, I’ve found this restricts students from having the freedom to make the most of the internet.
So, instead, consider a list of websites that you don’t want your students to use, such as:
- Social Media Websites.
- Gaming Websites.
- Sites Unrelated to the Task.
4. No Food or Drinks
I actually like letting my students have food and drinks in class. I usually approve of drink bottles on the desk to sustain hydration and general health.
But I don’t let students have food and drinks around technology – ever.
One spill and that’s the end of a $700 piece of equipment. Eeek! Your boss will be mad as hell at you for letting the students get food and drink anywhere near this valuable tech.
5. Wash your Hands Before using the Computer
Rule 5 follows on from rule 4.
Students walk into the classroom with dirty, sticky and snooty hands all the time. This is especially true of classes that take place straight after a lunch break.
I enforce a “wash your hands before class” rule.
No one wants sticky keyboard that, so one or later, will end up with with broken and useless keys.
6. Only Use your Assigned Computer
It can get really frustrating when students keep jumping back and forth all around the classroom trying to find the “best” or “fastest”computer. We’ve all been there. A student wants “their” computer because it has solitaire installed, or they have a file saved on the desktop (nooo!).
My solution is to assign computers. You can rotate assignments to achieve fairness. But by assigning computers, a lot of fights and arguments can be prevented.
7. Don’t Change the Settings
Ever logged onto a computer and realized… damnit, a student has done something here. Some smart alec has made the cursor move really fast, or made it make a fart noise every time you click. Or the computer’s default language is now Russian.
The most common one, though, is a new background screen … made on MS paint, of course (hello, 1995).
So I simply reinforce the rule: don’t change the settings. Any settings. At all
8. Ask Permission to Download
This rule is a catch-all for preventing all bad downloads. It prevents downloading of games, viruses, software, different browser versions, updates, etc. etc. etc.
Usually, I simply say to my students that there is no reason to download anything. If there is, I’ll usually manage the download in a very controlled, teacher-centered scenario.
So, the “Ask permission” rule could, depending on what you’re teaching, change to simply: “No Downloading. Ever.”
9. Save Often
A diligent student has worked all lesson to write some code to create their own graphing calculator. Or, she has created a lovely interactive presentation. Then that generic 15 year old boy suddenly had an insane compulsion to unplug her computer from the wall.
The solution is to save … often!
(In fact, I have recently gotten my students to move from Word to Google Docs because it autosave more frequently).
One alternative solution is to set a 5 minute timer on the interactive white board at the front of the class. Every 5 minutes, everyone has to click the save button!
10. Ask Permission to Print
Ever had a student try to print one page but … oh no, they printed the same page 100 times!?
My solution is to ask permission to print.
I have trained my students to put their hands up whenever they want to print.
I come around, check what they want to print, ensure it’s only printing the right pages the right amount of times… then give the tick of approval.
It saves paper, ink, time, and frustration.
11. Report Bad Behavior
This one is difficult.
You don’t want your students to be endless tattle tales.
But you also want your students to be diligent and help you enforce a positive classroom culture with high expectations.
My solution here is to regularly talk with the students about the effects of nad behavior and our job in collectively preventing it.
A part of the collective positive culture is to have a no tolerance for bad behavior and to reinforce that it’s our collective civic duty to police it. As a group. As a team.
12. Keep Passwords Secret
I use dramatic, slightly over-the-top stories about password sharing.
Like: “did you hear about the one where Student X downloaded a malicious virus when they were logged on to Student Y’s account? Student Y got suspended from school for it!!!”
The moral of the story is, simply, you can have your identity stolen. Do you really want that?
13. Log Off before Leaving
This one follows on from “keep passwords secret”.
Reinforce to students that logging off is necessary for protecting your identity.
I usually spend the first two months of the year doing a very explicit, guided ‘Log-Off’ task. I end the class 5 minutes early to give time for saving files and logging off.
As my students get used to it, I become less structured and explicit about this.
But, it’s always a rule on my lab rooms rules chart on the wall.
14. Do Not Remove Anything from the Lab
Computer labs are full of very valuable items. Some of them – like a tablet or computer mouse – are small enough to slip into a backpack and disappear.
Even things that might appear not to matter may be important. It might be a poster or even a post-it note someone has left on a computer from a previous lesson. But, because computer labs are shared by so many people in the school community, it’s important to leave things where you found them.
15. Wait for Permission to Log On
I always, always enforce this rule. Otherwise, students run into the classroom, boot up their computers, and they’re off and away fiddling around on their screens.
This is a sure fire way to lose your class before it even begins!
In my classes, students enter in an orderly fashion, sit at their computer desks, and wait for instructions. Enforce this early on and students will become well trained not to turn on computers until told.
16. Turn the Volume to Mute
Don’t you hate those websites that start blaring video ads at you straight away? When I’m working away at home, it’s annoying but manageable. When it’s a class of 25 teenagers, things get a little harder. The minute music starts playing, the whole class is distracted!
There’s an easy solution. Ask students to mute their computers at all times. It’ll save a lot of distractions, arguments, and hassle for you and your students.
17. Do Not Install New Software
You would think this was common sense. But I can’t count the amount of times a student has downloaded a different type of web browser to change the interface up … or downloaded a .docx to .pdf conversion app. Who knows how many viruses that thing’s got on it!
The IT guys have put a lot of effort into setting up those computers. New software adds bloat and vulnerabilities to the computers.
So, simple rule: no new software.
18. Never Save to the Desktop
I don’t know about your school, but at my school sometimes a student will save something to the desktop. Next class, they demand that same computer because their document is only saved to that computer.
That’s why I enforce the rule of saving documents to your folder or your cloud so a student can access it from any computer on the school’s intranet.
19. Keep Volume Levels Respectful
We’ve all experienced the sudden burst of sound from a student’s headphones that can be heard across the room, disrupting everyone’s focus.
To prevent this, students must keep their volume at a level where it cannot be heard by others. If I can hear your music or your video from across the room, that means it’s too loud.
Headphones are a must, and if you don’t have them, work in silence or with the computer muted.
20. Respect the Equipment
This is a big one. The computers and peripherals are not just another piece of furniture.
They are expensive and sensitive pieces of equipment. No banging on keyboards, no swinging mice around by the cord, and absolutely no pulling on cables.
Treat the equipment with respect. If something isn’t working, raise your hand and I’ll come to help. Don’t try to force it or fix it yourself.
21. Stay Seated Unless Given Permission
In a computer lab, it’s easy for students to get up under the pretense of asking a friend for help and then wander around, causing distractions.
Therefore, the rule is to stay in your seat unless you’ve been given permission to get up. If you need to throw something away, sharpen your pencil, or just stretch your legs, ask me first.
This helps maintain a calm and orderly environment where everyone can focus on their work.
Having classes in computer labs can he really tough. It’s one of the more difficult environments for classroom management.
Computers are enormous distractions. They’re bright and make lots of fun noises. I get it. It’s hard for a 14 year old to control their impulses
That’s why it’s important to set clear and very strict rules around computers.
I hope this list of computer lab rules has given you some ideas for your own IT classes.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]