Teachers’ Most Common Tech Issues—and How to Fix Them
After fielding his fellow teachers’ tech problems for two months, the writer has an eight-step DIY plan for addressing them before calling the IT department.
Using technology in the classroom is challenging. Take the same devices and implement home learning, and we’re talking about a big problem (though the schools and teachers who are unable to send school devices home have it even tougher). And trying to get iPads and MacBooks, Chromebooks, Windows PCs, and Amazon Fires all to communicate with each other is no small task even for a tech department. Add the fact that the device users are children, who may not be fully motivated to resolve issues, and that their families are attempting to install and use unfamiliar software, apps, and devices.
What we have as a result is technology departments that are swamped with work orders for everything from installing new apps to instructing students how to remove a silly picture they put up for a video chat avatar.
My biggest technology challenge was when our school iPads were sent home on day one of home learning and families were unable to connect to their home Wi-Fi—the iPads were locked down to access only the school’s Wi-Fi. We couldn’t bring the iPads back in the building, so a coworker of mine set up a Wi-Fi hotspot in the hallway near our flagpole and arranged for families to drive up, park by the flagpole, remain inside the car, and wait five minutes for the iPad to connect and update. When they got home, they were able to connect to their own Wi-Fi.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve scoured Facebook professional learning community (PLC) groups that have popped up since the crisis began. I keep seeing the same questions, many of which have a simple solution.
Before submitting a tech work order that may take days to even be routed to the correct person, try these suggestions to see if there’s a simple fix to your technology issue. After each tip, retry the task.
8 Quick Troubleshooting Tips to Try Before a Work Order
1. Try one more time: Most people do this—in fact, they often click the trackpad so many times that they make matters far worse and get the spinning beachball of death. So I repeat: Try only one more time, and then proceed to the next tip.
2. Try a different browser: If you’re having problems with a website, using a different browser may help.
3. Check your Wi-Fi signal: With everyone in the family working and learning online, often using video, they’re spreading out to get some privacy. That can cause Wi-Fi connection issues if you’re in a remote part of the home. Make sure you have a strong signal.
4. Quit the software: This applies to web browsers or apps—and make sure you also close unnecessary tabs on your browser. Here’s how to quit an app on an Apple iOS device and on an Android device.
5. Update the software: Companies are updating frequently now because of the demands of home learning, so make sure your software is up to date. After updating, restart the device.
6. Log out and then log in again: But first, make sure you remember your password.
7. Clear the web browser’s cache and cookies: This helps the device start with a fresh slate of information. Here’s how to clear the cache and cookies on different browsers and devices.
8. Restart the device: Restarting is like a getting a full night’s sleep—it clears memory and restores the device’s inner workings.
You’ve tried your best, but no luck. Give it time. Our digital infrastructure is currently overloaded, and sometimes there are bottlenecks that resolve themselves in a few minutes. All around the world more people are at home learning, working, streaming video, gaming, or video conferencing. The internet is being overworked, websites and servers are being overloaded, and companies are being inundated with new customers.
There are so many variables in this virtual education engine that we’re revving up that it will often overheat. So how do we find answers quickly when the tech department is swamped?
Facebook PLCs: There are dozens of new PLC groups on Facebook, like Global Educator Collective, which has over 125,000 members answering home learning and technology questions from around the world. The group also has Facebook subgroups in nearly every subject area.
Company FAQ pages: Search the tech company’s Frequently Asked Questions page. And use Google: Include four to six keywords for the issue—if you have a problem, most likely someone else has too.
Need help with anything Google? If you’re having issues using Meet, Classroom, Docs, Slides, or YouTube, try the free workshops from The Learning Accelerator, which are taught by educators. There are workshops for Zoom and screencasting as well. You can also join the Facebook group Teachers Using Google Classroom, or follow Alice Keeler on Twitter.
Need help with Seesaw? There’s a 60,000-educator-strong Facebook group called Seesaw Teachers as well as specific groups for most grade levels and subjects.
Need help with Flipgrid? There’s a Facebook group called Flipgrid Educators.
Need help with video conferencing? When your students are having issues with Zoom or Google Meet, exiting and rejoining the meeting can often help. Students should also know that internet speeds are vital to the success of video chats—remind them that if unnecessary streaming or gaming is being done in the house, it can affect their connection quality.
If many students are complaining about your video or sound quality, you should restart the meeting.
Proactive Technology Tips for Home Learning
The best tech solution is to keep things simple—don’t have students and families use more software, apps, websites, or messaging systems than you need. Keep information centrally located for students as well as the adults at home.
Orchestrating a home learning system based on technology with little time to prepare and plan has been a complex task, and many of us were asked to take it on with little formal support or PD. Do the best you can.
And if you can’t get the technology to work, send your students off to play, submit your work order, go walk your dog, and wait for the pros.