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Health and safety: The key to the digital classroom

With electronics a big part of the classroom, Chris Neath looks at ways to create a culture of 'digital safety'

Posted by Stephanie Broad | April 27, 2016 | Technology

Technology is now as much a part of the school experience as desks and paper. Smart-boards, laptops and tablets are a constant feature within a school and are making a real difference to the curriculum.

However, as technology’s presence in the classroom increases, new challenges arise. The trend towards digitisation will continue and the digital classroom is in the not-so-distant future. Therefore, educational establishments must consider health and safety as the number one priority. After all, if technology is unsafe, then it has no place in the classroom.

So, to maximise the potential of the digital revolution in education, what must schools consider to ensure that their devices are stored correctly and in a safe manner?

Education

The majority of teachers, like most people, will often overlook the importance of treating and storing technology correctly, especially if you have a classroom full of children to manage. However, it can present a very real risk. Therefore, teachers should be trained and provided with guides on the correct procedures. Without education, the same mistakes will constantly be repeated.

Your storage solution

Schools, colleges and universities are fairly unusual environments for electronics, as devices are stored together en mass, despite the fact that many devices have not been designed for the storage solution you have. Therefore, you need to constantly monitor your devices and creating a checklist can be a good way to do this. Is it overloaded? Are there any wires frayed or fraying? Are the plugs in good condition? These questions are especially important if your storage solution also charges or syncs the devices.

Temperature control

Laptops and other such devices often rise in temperature when charging or in use, and it isn’t usually a cause for concern. However, as mentioned above, electronic devices will often be grouped together when stored in schools and other such establishments. In this environment, the rising temperature can pose a serious threat. Therefore, any storage solution chosen must have fire-retardant materials housing its electrical components, to negate any issues stemming from its electrics. Equally important, a storage solution must always have temperature limiters. Then, if devices do overheat, the storage solution will shut down all active components, such as the charger, and allow all elements to cool down, mitigating any risks.

The positioning of a storage solution

Just as important as the above, all devices should be stored and charged out of the way of harm. This protects both the electronic equipment, but most importantly, the students and staff. 

All of the above factors must also be used in conjunction with stringent safety regulation and certification. Unbeknown to most, safety certifications for components within electronic devices, including those used in the education sector, are often not stringent enough.

The universal marker of the Declaration of Conformity (CE) is generally considered to be the default stamp of approval. However, the CE is relatively easy to obtain and does not take in to account the complex environments devices are being stored in today. A device or a component within a storage solution may well be safety stamped as CE approved, and it will be safe on its own. But place it within an environment it hasn’t been tested in, and that certificate could well be rendered redundant.

With this in mind, schools should instead look to independent test houses such as TUV, Intertek and SGS, who take into account all factors, including context and storage, and test them accordingly and under much greater scrutiny than the CE. These certificates are not easy to obtain and are a true mark of safety.

Ultimately, for schools to embrace a digital future they must adopt stringent safety procedures. Being stricter on safety certificates is the first step. And, once this had been accomplished, education and consistent monitoring, including positioning and temperature control, are a must. Only once all of these steps have been taken, and a culture of digital safety created, can technology really begin to change education.

Chris Neath is Head of New Product Development, LapCabby

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