Towards keeping the planet green …

Sunday, September 26th, 2010 | Sustainability | 4 Comments

We are all into keeping the planet green.  One way of doing this is by being conscious of paper consumption.

One tree can yield about 8 000 sheets of paper (of course, it depends on the size of the tree and the type of paper, but I’m using averages and round figures for illustration purposes here).  Imagine an average school in South Africa with 800 learners, and suppose 100 pages are used by each learner for class tests and examinations throughout the year: in such a school 80 000 pages are used during the course of the year.  This equates to 10 trees.  With 22 000 schools in South Africa, it means that 220 000 are falling victim annually to satisfy the demands of assessment.

Some people go to great lengths to find other ways to produce paper.  An alternative to trees is elephant dung.  Yes, elephant dung!  Each elephant can produce 50 kg of dung per day, which could be processed to create 115 pages of paper.   Such efforts must be applauded!

Potential paper source

If my maths is correct, it would take 700 elephant days (roughly two elephant years) to produce enough paper for one school; or 44 000 elephant years to produce paper for the entire country for every school year.

The problem is: where do we find so many elephants?  And what is more, each elephant consumes about 200-250 kg of vegetation per day to produce 50 kg of dung.

Isn’t there an alternative?  How about harnessing electronic means to assess students?    Tools such as assessment software and clickers are used by many teachers to cut down on the volume of paper used in the classroom.  This must be an easier and cleaner way for a teacher to make a contribution towards keeping the planet green.

Click here for an Afrikaans version of this posting.

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How can I keep the surface of my interactive whiteboard clean?

Sunday, February 14th, 2010 | IWBs | 1 Comment

Some types of interactive whiteboards are more difficult to keep clean than others.  The greatest dirt factor is dust, turned into dirt when oily fingers write on the board.

In the case of interactive solutions that do not need a physical board – where images are projected on a wall and interactions take place by means of a stylus – there is no board to clean.  All you need to clean is the device that interprets the signals coming from the stylus.  An occasional coat of paint on the display wall is enough to guarantee clear images.

A hard board makes use of a stylus, thus reducing the dirt caused by fingers.  Of course, one of the selling points of the hard board is that you can rest your hand on the board while you are writing.  This means that the natural oil on your hand will come into contact with the dust on the board, leaving a dirty deposit.  Two simple things can be done to reduce dirt build-up

  • wash your hands before using the board
  • dust the board surface with a soft cloth before using it (perhaps at the beginning of each day).

The soft boards where you use your finger are the most likely ones to get dirty.  Here you can also apply the two principles mentioned above to reduce dirt.  Some teachers use a soft brush to write rather than allowing learners to use their fingers – in some cases an alternative stylus is provided by the board manufacturer.

Chalk dust contributes to grime formation.  For this reason these boards are usually removed from a classroom when an interactive whiteboard is installed.

Regardless of the preventative measures you may take to keep your board clean, you will find it necessary to clean it from time to time.  Don’t attempt this unless you’ve consulted the manufacturer’s manual – then follow the instructions to the letter.  This is particularly important if you want to clean the mess caused by someone who wrote on your board with a normal board pen.

It is not difficult to keep your interactive whiteboard clean.  Common sense measures – such as washing hands and regular dusting – will keep the dirt away, and a little effort when the board appears a bit tacky will ensure that it remains clean.

Click here for more information about interactive whiteboards.

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What must I do to ensure that my laptop remains clean?

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009 | laptops | 1 Comment

There are two basic rules that you must follow:

Don’t expose your laptop to dust and dirt.

Remove dirt as soon as it becomes visible.

Dust is a big problem in many areas, particularly in informal settlements, or in places where there are dirt roads, or frequent sand storms.  In these areas it is particularly important to keep your laptop clean, but it is true wherever you are.

A few simple guidelines will help you to keep your machine clean:

Keep your working environment as dust free as possible.  Close the door and windows if you work in a room near to a dust road, or while a sand storm is raging.  If environmental factors change while you are working, change your location.

When not in use, keep the machine in a bag and close the bag.

Wash your hands before you use your laptop.  This is advice that is given to learners, but which adults often ignore.

Regularly clean the outside of the laptop.  Remove dirt when it becomes visible to you.

Have the inside of your laptop cleaned at least once a year.  Don’t attempt to do this yourself, unless you have technical expertise.  It is a task best left to an expert.  If the machine is still within its warranty period, first check what the warranty implications will be if you open the machine to clean it.

Don’t eat while you are working with your laptop.  Crumbs and pieces of food may fall between the keys of the keyboard and may even penetrate the circuitry.  Eating could make your fingers oily or sticky – touching the keys with those fingers makes the keys gluey and when dust settles on them, the result will be gooey mess.  If you ever cleaned a dirty keyboard, you will understand why it is important to keep food away from the laptop.

Avoid the temptation to drink coffee, tea or other beverages while working with the laptop.  Spilled liquid makes the machine tacky and when combined with dust, it becomes grime.  Liquids could also cause short circuits which may corrupt your data, or cause permanent harm to some of the electronic components of the machine.

It is not difficult to keep your laptop clean – just use your common sense.  Remember: prevention is better than cure.

Click here to find answers to more laptop related questions.

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How must I clean the rest of my laptop?

Friday, April 10th, 2009 | laptops | Comments Off

Once you have cleaned your laptop’s screen, keyboard, casing, and even wiped the cables, what else is left to be cleaned?

The touch pad – also called mouse pad – is in contact with your fingers all the time.  Sweat from your hands, dust particles and other pieces of dirt combine to create a deposit on the touch pad, unless it is cleaned regularly.  If you do not remove the grime, it may accumulate to the extent that the pad would not respond if you touch it.

Use the same damp cloth with which you wipe the casing to wipe the mouse pad. Clean the mouse pad before you clean the rest of the casing – or make sure that the cloth is rinsed – otherwise you may transfer dirt to the pad.  Wipe it gently and take care that you do not scratch it.  Ensure that the machine is switched off before you clean the mouse pad, otherwise you will make the cursor go wild and you may inadvertently click on something that you do not wish to click on.

The cooling vents – those slots where air is sucked into the laptop to cool it down – are often clogged up with dust.  To clean the vents, you may use compressed air to blow out the dust, but be careful that you do not blow too hard.  A slightly moist cotton swab is useful to remove remaining dust particles and obstinate dirt that won’t be blown out.

The importance of cleaning your laptop can not be overemphasized.  It is an expensive piece of equipment and regular cleaning will serve a number of purposes:

It will keep your machine in pristine condition – an item to be proud of.

It will lengthen your laptop’s life.

It will be an example to learners how they should treat valuable equipment.

Click here to find answers to more laptop related questions.

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How must I clean my laptop’s keyboard?

Friday, April 10th, 2009 | laptops | 1 Comment

The keyboard of your laptop is possibly the most awkward part of the machine to clean. Since the keys are often very close together it is difficult to clean between and underneath them.  Yet it is important to do so since dirt can render the keyboard useless – if too much dirt accumulates the keys simply won’t function.

Unlike the keyboard of a desktop PC, the keyboard of a laptop cannot be replaced. It is expensive to fix – the sensible thing is to keep it in optimal functioning condition.  Keeping it clean is one way of doing this.

If big pieces of dirt are visible, turn the laptop upside down and gently tap the bottom to see if some of the dirt will fall out (of course, the laptop must be switched off before you do this).

Use compressed air to get rid of dust and smaller pieces of dirt underneath the keys.

Use cotton swabs (ear buds) to clean underneath and around keys.  This is a tedious job – but do not let this deter you from doing it.

If keys can be removed (check in the manual if this is possible) do so carefully so that you will know where to replace them.  Remove one key at a time, clean underneath and then replace the key – otherwise your letters may be mixed up.

Some people use a vacuum cleaner to remove dust and dirt from the keyboard, but caution is required.  Some keys are not clipped tightly into position and may be sucked off by a strong vacuum cleaner.  If you find it necessary to vacuum clean the keyboard, first pull a piece of strong netting across the keyboard to keep the keys securely in place, and then use the vacuum cleaner.

When you become aware of dirt in your keyboard, for instance when you dropped crumbs or had a coffee spill, clean it immediately.  If you do not remove all stickiness, dust will settle there and before long you will have sticky keys.

Click here to find answers to more laptop related questions.

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How must I clean my laptop’s casing?

Thursday, April 9th, 2009 | laptops | 5 Comments

The outer shell of a laptop is called the casing.  Cleaning the casing of the laptop is very simple – it is not much different from cleaning the outside of a microwave oven, a DVD player or a cell phone. 

The cleaning material you need is nothing special and could be found in your home.  The only equipment you need is a soft cloth – a piece of old T-shirt will do – and cotton swabs (ear buds) to get into the corners.  Water and a mild cleaning solution are the only cleaning products you require.

Use a damp cloth to wipe down all visible parts of the casing, removing all dust, fingerprints or other dirt that may stick to it.  Clean the cables and power supply in the same way.  A slightly damp cotton swab will help you to remove dust from grooves or spaces that are awkward to reach with a cloth.

Cleaning your laptop will be a safe operation if you keep a few simple rules in mind.

Always switch the laptop off before you clean it, and make sure that it is unplugged from an electrical outlet.

The cloth must not be too wet – it must only be damp.  To test that it is not too wet, it should not leave any droplets of water if you wipe any smooth surface with it.

Don’t use harsh cleaning agents, such as the liquid you use to clean the toilet or your oven.

Avoid using abrasive cleaning materials, such as steel wool or a rough cloth that could scratch the surface of the casing.

You should never spray any cleaning solution on the casing, since it may penetrate to the inside of the laptop – rather spray the solution on the cloth and use the cloth to wipe the area that needs to be cleaned.

Cleaning the casing of your laptop will ensure a continued good appearance.  More important, it will remove all dirt that may find its way over time into the delicate components under the shell.

Click here to find answers to more laptop related questions.

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Which parts of my laptop must be cleaned, and how often must I do it?

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009 | laptops | Comments Off

All visible parts of the laptop must be cleaned regularly:

  • the outside of the computer, commonly referred to as the casing
  • the screen
  • the keyboard, including the individual keys
  • the cables
  • the battery charger.

You will be surprised how much dust and dirt accumulates in the bag you use to carry the laptop.  Vacuum clean the bag as part of the cleaning operation, otherwise the dirt will be transferred to your clean laptop, the next time you put it in the bag.

Read the manual before you clean the laptop the first time to make sure that you are following the right procedure.  Each time you clean it, first switch the machine off. 

Cleaning the outside of the laptop is the easiest part of laptop maintenance and can be done by you even if you have never used a computer before. Removing dust and dirt from your laptop is a simple operation, but it is an important activity that may not be neglected.

The inside parts of the laptop must to be cleaned too – perhaps once a year.  If you do not have technical knowledge, do not attempt to do it yourself.  This is a task best left to the experts.  The warranty may be rendered void if the machine is opened by an unauthorised person.

How often should the laptop be cleaned?  It depends on how often you use it and how clean the environment is.  You may decide on a weekly cleaning routine, but if you notice that any part of the machine becomes somewhat grubby, it may be a good time to clean it.

Click here to find answers to more laptop related questions.

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How bad is dust for your laptop?

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009 | laptops, Maintenance | Comments Off

If heat is the greatest enemy of a laptop, dust is a close second. 

The cooling mechanism of a laptop works like a vacuum cleaner: it sucks air from one side and blows it out at the other end.  But unlike a domestic vacuum cleaner, a laptop does not have a filter bag to catch dust and other dirt particles as air is circulated to keep the inside cool. 

Over a period of time dust will coat the electronic parts inside the machine, preventing them from being cooled.  This will eventually cause these parts to stop functioning.

Dust also clogs up the cooling vents – those slots where air comes in.  Blocked vents prevent cool air from being sucked in and this leads to overheating.

Even in a normal environment there will always be dust particles in the air.  In addition, pet hair, human hair, cigarette ash, paper dust and polluted air contribute to dirt that could infiltrate your machine.

It is important to keep the environment in which you work as dust free as possible.  Avoid dusty areas such as building sites.  Keep in mind that chalk dust is also a form of dust – be aware of that when using the laptop in a classroom where a chalk board is used.

Regularly remove all dust on the outside of the laptop, since it may find its way to the inside.  Pay particular attention to the air vents and keep them unblocked.

Periodically, say once a year, have the inside of the machine cleaned as well.  Do not attempt to do this yourself – this is a task best left to a professional.

Dust is bad for your laptop – it can destroy it.

Click here to find answers to more laptop related questions.

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How must I clean my laptop’s screen?

Saturday, March 28th, 2009 | laptops, Maintenance | 5 Comments

It is important to clean the screen of your laptop regularly – dust and dirt may cause scratches when the screen is touched.

Always use a dry, soft cloth to remove dust, fingerprints and smudges from the screen.  If this does not completely remove the dirt, try a cloth slightly dampened with hot water.  For persistent dirt spray cleaning fluid on the cloth (or use cleaning wipes) and gently wipe in one direction – left to right or top to bottom.

Special cleaning materials for computer screens are obtainable commercially.  Often these materials are in the shape of anti-static, pre-moistened wipes.  If these are not available, you can make your own cleaning solution by mixing one part water with one part isopropyl alcohol (also called rubbing alcohol).  If you do not have isopropyl alcohol, you may use a small quantity of vinegar instead.

When you clean the screen, there are a number of things you must avoid.

Don’t use paper towels or tissues – even though they appear soft they could scratch the screen.

Don’t use an abrasive cloth that has the potential to cause scratches – for best results use a piece of cloth cut from an old T-shirt.

Don’t use household cleaning fluids with an ammonium base (look on the label of the cleaning fluid) – ammonium will dissolve part of the protective top layer of the screen, leaving a dull, smudged effect.

Don’t spray liquid directly onto the screen, as some of the spray may penetrate the machine.

Don’t apply too much pressure when cleaning the screen – it could be damaged in the process.

Follow two simple rules as preventative measures.

Don’t touch the screen with your fingers when using the laptop – this will save cleaning time.

Don’t leave the lid of the laptop open when it is not in use – this will prevent dust from gathering on the screen.

Sometimes you do not realize how dirty your laptop’s screen is until you look at it from an angle.  Make a habit of cleaning it regularly, thereby extending its life.

Click here to find answers to more laptop related questions.

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How clean should your computer centre be?

Friday, September 26th, 2008 | Maintenance | Comments Off

In many computer rooms a notice is displayed, stating:


Sometimes a list of rules is pasted up as well, which may include the following:





One can’t dispute the fact that a computer facility must be kept clean. The question is: how clean must it be?

Clean is a relative concept: what is clean to one person may be filthy in the eyes of another. Different cultures have different views on cleanliness and within one culture, standards often differ from community to community.

Even within one family there are different perceptions of clean. The mother may tell her teenage son that he lives in a pigsty, whereas the person occupying the room may be perfectly comfortable.

What is the ideal level of environmental cleanliness of a computer room? One wants to maintain a standard that guarantees the protection of sensitive electronic equipment; but learners should never be hesitant to use the facility and must always feel at home in it.

Where does one draw the line? In your opinion, what is the definition of an acceptable level of cleanliness for a computer facility?

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