OK, I don’t really think there’s a secret, but….

Expect that things will go wrong.


A think a big part of my role in teaching my students technology is teaching them how to be problem-solvers when something goes wrong.

I feel like I have this conversation on a regular basis:

“Ms, it won’t turn on.”

“Hmm… why do you think that is?”

“I don’t know. I pushed the button but it won’t turn on.”

“Well, what else could it be?”

“Maybe the battery is dead?”

“Ok, how could you test if you’re right?”

“I could plug it in?”

“Good idea – try that.”

I know for sure it frustrates some of them that I won’t just help them or tell them what to do (at least, not at first). Truth is, I don’t usually know what’s wrong any more than they do. Any time I “fix” a problem, it’s just a series of best guesses. Trial and error. Process of elimination. Even if I’ve encountered what seems to be the exact same problem before, chances are it could be a different cause this time.

Where you start to feel confident is when you’ve had enough experience with problems to start to develop a repertoire of “go to” strategies.

These are mine, typically in this order:

  • Is everything plugged in? (Power, cables – check all of them one by one.)
  • Is everything plugged in the right spot? (it’s usually not possible to plug cables into the wrong spots as they’ll only fit where they’re supposed to go but sometimes there are labels such as “input” and “output” if two similar slots have different purposes.)
  • Is it the outlet? (Try another outlet or try plugging in something simple like a lamp.)
  • Try turning it off, waiting 15 seconds, and turning it back on again
  • If it’s a software issue, try updating the software or reinstalling the software
  • Browse through every menu, read every settings option, try every button, etc… explore every corner
  • Google the problem to see if anyone else has had the same one and has suggestions
  • Ask someone else (two heads are better than one  – sometimes others see something obvious I may miss)
  • Tweet out a question
  • Think of a workaround
  • Contact technical support

I will also walk away if I feel my frustration level rising too much. I don’t usually troubleshoot as well in pressure or stressful situations. Personally, it can be tough during a presentation or other moment where tech was planned and everyone’s watching. To compensate, I try to setup well in advance to give time to test and troubleshoot without pressure.

My frustration in dealing with, say, relatives (love you all, I promise) who have tech issues is that they can sometimes give up and let the feeling of frustration take over without trying anything. I get that. If you expect things should just work and then they don’t, you’ll be upset and it will be harder to access that logical step-by-step process of figuring it out. So, expect that things will go wrong. Know that you can figure it out.

1 Comment

Ken Waller · March 11, 2016 at 9:33 am

Great advice Erica! I really like your level headed approach to problem solving and pursuing solutions to technology “glitches”. Keep up the positive thinking.

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