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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

As the new school year gets underway, there will be plenty of times when the "techy" teachers are going to be asked to help others get their classrooms set up. As I spent the first few days helping my friends put their digital lives together, I made sure to follow some important tips I learned over the years. Follow these tips and helping teachers get ready will be a breeze.

1) Listen

It seems simple enough, but I've seen too many tech support people just come in and plug computers in and re-start programs without really listening to what the problem is. Take a moment and listen to their specific problem, and ask the questions you need to ask. This makes the person feel better about the whole situation.

2) Avoid Saying "It's Easy"

Just because it is easy for you, doesn't mean it is easy. The phrase has a way of making people feel stupid if it was not easy for them. Just tell them you will be happy to help.

3) Show, Tell, and Let Them Try

It is important that you show them the process of fixing their problem. The saying about teaching someone to fish applies here. It is easier to just do it, but if you can show them how to resolve the problem on their own, they might not need to call you for help next time. Even better, they might be able to assist others who might have called for your help.

4) Follow up

I feel it is always important to follow up in the next day or two. Sometimes the problem doesn't stay fixed or another issue comes up and they are afraid to bug you for more help. A follow-up lets people know that you are still available to assist if needed. Helping teachers with tech is as much about relationships as it is fixing things. If people feel comfortable, they will be more willing to ask for support and take advice.

These four steps have helped me help many teachers over the years. Consider them the next time you get a distress call for serious tech support. Happy teching!

Comments (6)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Terri Schoone's picture
Terri Schoone
Associate Professor

I agree with your tips, but I think you forgot one, sometimes you have to say NO. You can be taken advantage of and kill yourself helping everyone else that you don't get your own work done. I'll admit, this is something I'm still not good at, but I am trying to do better so that I can focus on my own work.

Steve Dembo's picture

Totally agree with the Show, tell, and then let them get their hands dirty. But will go so far as to say, once you hit that point, you aren't allowed to touch the mouse again. When someone isn't doing what you want them to, it's sometimes crazy hard not to just grab the mouse and do it for them. But the second you do that, they get discouraged and are less apt to take further initiative. It beats them down. So no matter how hard it tries your patience, let them figure it out.

But nothing wrong with a hint here or there :)

Janet Moeller-Abercrombie's picture
Janet Moeller-Abercrombie
International Educator, Certified by the NBPTS | Educational Leader, Licens

I don't allow the "teacher" to touch the "learner"'s computer. If we followed the same philosophy when helping other teachers, they'd overcome the fear of clicking "the wrong thing."

Also, if you can make one of the teacher's students an "expert", the student can trouble-shoot a great deal.

Janet | expateducator.com

Lisa M.'s picture
Lisa M.
Teacher, Blogger - "Diary of a Public School Teacher", Global Collaborator

2) Avoid Saying "It's Easy"
Just because it is easy for you, doesn't mean it is easy. The phrase has a way of making people feel stupid if it was not easy for them. Just tell them you will be happy to help.
How true! The other day while helping a colleague set up her computers. She asked what I thought was an obvious question, and I made a face. I immediately apologized because I could see she was offended. We are there to help,not judge.

Corey McKinnon's picture
Corey McKinnon
Middle School Teacher from Minnesota

I have to say I really appreciated this article as it relates to providing assistance to others who may need help. I often find myself right in the middle of the technology spectrum. I have many areas of technology knowledge that I am asked to help and assist others. When these situations arise, this article serves as a great reminder to be patient with those who are struggling. I also know what is like to be in need and, again, this article reminds me that while I have a need, the person I am seeking out may not have the time, patience, or knowledge I am seeking. I feel fortunate to know what I do and am humbled when I do not...It is always good to be reminded that we are all in this technology endeavor together and that all learning is done from progressing form the "unknown" to the "known". These reminders allow us to be patient when on the giving and receiving end of technology assistance.

Piper Lee's picture

If your job is not to provide technical support for pay, but you are tech savvy, people can quickly become dependent upon you to solve their own tech work issues. You DO have to say no or risk being extremely stressed out while your own work goes undone when someone expects that you'll come running every time they stub their little tech toe. Some people completely divorce themselves from having to learn tech and will use anyone and everyone they can as their personal tech crutch. Don't be a doormat. Say NO if you are not the campus techy. Your sanity depends on it.

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