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Solve 50 Percent of Tech Problems with 16 Simple Solutions

Simple solutions can solve tech problems
Tech problems iStockPhoto

No, you don't need a new computer. Try this first. 

The Number One reason—according to students—why their computer doesn’t work is… It’s broken. As a teacher, I hear this daily, often followed by their preferred solution, “I need a different computer.” My students innately think computer problems are something they can’t solve. I asked them what happened in class when I wasn’t there to fix the problem, or at home. I usually got a shrug and one of these responses:

“My classroom teacher can’t fix them.”

"My mom/dad can't fix them."

"The school tech people couldn't get there fast enough." 

Which got me thinking about how these problems that bring learning to a screeching halt really aren’t that complicated. They don’t require a Ph.D in engineering or years of experience in IT. So why not teach kids how to troubleshoot their own problems?

I started with a list. Every time a student had a tech problem, I wrote it down and then ticked it off each time it happened. It didn’t take long to determine that there are about 16 problems that happen often and repetitively. Once students learned how to solve these, they’d be able to fix half of the problems that bring their education to a screeching halt. I spent the school year teaching the solutions authentically as they arose starting in kindergarten. By the end of second grade, students felt empowered. By the end of fifth grade, they rarely asked for help.

Here’s my list but yours may be different. Include those that arise in your school’s educational endeavor. For example, if you use Macs, right- click issues won’t be as big a deal.

Once students have these in their toolkit, they realize they can solve their own problems, they can troubleshoot, and they can act independently.

Not only does this impact how they use technology but every other part of their lives.

16 Simple Tech Solutions

  1. The starting point for many problems
    Turn the computer off  and then on; close down and reopen the internet; turn the modem or printer off and then on.
  2. The website doesn’t work
    Check to be sure the URL is entered correctly, not missing letters or the HTTP. If that doesn’t work, change browsers.
  3. I can’t exit a program
    The universal exit command for Windows-based computers is Alt-F4.
  4. I can’t find a program
    Type the name in the Search field. Most MS and HS students prefer this to finding the program other ways.
  5. ____ doesn’t work
    This could be the mouse, the keyboard, the monitor, speakers, or some other piece of hardware. Make sure it’s plugged in and turned on. If it is, unplug-replug.
  6. Sound doesn’t work
    Is it muted? Are headphones plugged in (which means the sound is going into them, not your speakers)? For little ones, do they have the right headphones on?
  7. I deleted ____
    If it’s part of a document, use Ctrl+Z to Undo. If it’s a file, check the recycle bin and restore if it’s in there.
  8. The font is too small
    Zoom with Ctrl+ (or Ctrl- to zoom out).
  9. I can’t find ____ in the file
    The universal Find shortkey is Ctrl+F. This works not only in documents but online.
  10. The document is ‘read-only’
    Save-as under a different name and edit.
  11. I’m worried about security
    This is a massive topic but two solutions that work for even kids K-5 is to 1) cover the webcam, and 2) put smartphones in airplane mode (to cut access to the Internet)
  12. The program froze
    Is there a dialogue box open that’s waiting for an answer?
  13. The Shift key doesn’t work
    Is caps lock on?
  14. Double-click doesn’t work
    Push enter after the first click.
  15. I can’t remember how to ____
    Right-click. This reveals the most common actions for the context you are in.
  16. The Internet toolbar disappeared
    Push F11
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