October 30, 2012

Yes, I’m Resilient, but I Wish Computers Were More Dependable

In a post by Bill Ferriter (Education Week Teacher in ISTE’s Learning and Leading with Technology magazine) about “Our never-ending reliance on digital resilience”, he thinks because tech teachers are so quick to adapt to problems (computers don’t work so we pair up students–that sort of thing), that we’ve enabled the chronic problem.

It made me think about the many times I’ve had to adapt because tech equipment didn’t work–despite the efforts of my excellent tech people:

  • a website doesn’t work so I try it in a different browser. If that doesn’t work, I go to an alternate website–which I always have at hand
  • a website doesn’t load correctly so I log in as admin and download fixes. They’re fast, but during a class, that’s an eternity
  • class computers won’t print despite that my lab printer is loaded to their list. I’ve learned to load the IP address of my printer as a more reliable connection, but why don’t they print? And a bigger question: Why periodically–with regularity–do the printers I’ve loaded disappear from the computer?


  • students click a link on the computer and nothing happens. I now teach them to check their internet browser on the task bar to see if it loaded behind the current window (for no good reason). This happens a lot with Everyday Math Online–with kindergartners! They cheerfully comply with my work-around, as though that’s merely part of the process.
  • a program works fine with one grade-level class and not at all with another. Murphy’s Law dictates the breakdown always happens when I’m being observed.
  • I have a beloved software program that is glitchy on Win 7. Rather than dump it, I use the experience to teach students to problem-solve
    • Alt+F4 to close a crashed program
    • Ctrl+Alt+Del to reach the Task Manager and end the task
    • Alt+Tab to toggle to a previous window
    • Flying Windows to bring up the taskbar (hidden behind the program) and click on the desired window

The truth is, computers will always be a step-child with core teachers until they are more dependable, until teachers aren’t stopped ten times a day by a computer problem that stalls their lesson. They hope they can reach IT and we can get there in the next six seconds to fix the problem that is fundamental to their entire lesson plan. Many teachers in my school resist using technology for fear it will not work at that critical moment–not because they don’t like what it brings to the educational party.

This is one of the reasons iPads are such a hit. They load instantly, are sturdy, and you know what likely problems are (i.e., battery run down). Rarely do I see an iPad lesson turned upside down by a computer meltdown.

What do you think? What are the show-stopper problems at your school?

Jacqui Murray is the editor of a K-6 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, creator of two technology training books for middle school and six ebooks on technology in education. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog, Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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