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Solve Those Tricky Classroom Tech Problems

Jacqui Murray

No longer is the worst problem you face at
school a broken pencil or a coffee pot filled
with decaf.

Now, on a daily basis, you’re
expected to find files lost on the network,
computers that turned on yesterday but won’t
today, a Smartscreen that broke just as you were
starting your lesson, and a network that’s down -- with it, the test you were going to give. All sorts of issues arise related to using advanced technology in the classroom.

long for the world long ago when teaching
meant talking with students, reading real books,
and having a desk-mounted inbox for
homework. One of your tech-savvy students has been helping you, but she’s already tired (and it’s only September).

I can fix this for you. I know a secret: 80% of the technology in the classroom problems you face are caused by the same 20 problems. I’m going to not only share those with you, but how to solve them.

Trust me. They’re easier than you think. I routinely teach them to 3rd, 4th and 5th graders, and then they teach their parents.

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Here they are—in reverse order (and these are for a PC, not a Mac):

20. A File is Deleted

Who knows why? Students swear it’s a nasty classmate. You bet it was an accident. First step: Check the Recycle Bin. If it’s in there, right-click > restore. If it’s not in there, push Start Button > Search, and type the file name in. If it’s anywhere on the network, this will find it. Chances are the file owner saved it wrong.

19. Can’t Exit a Program

There’s no X in the upper right corner. Nor is there File > Exit. Back before File > Exit was born, everyone used Alt+F4 (hold down Alt and then push F4). It still works 95% of the time.

18. Can’t Find Word

There used to be a shortcut on the desktop (or the start button or wherever it used to be), but that disappeared. Easiest way (one I learned from a student) is Start > Search and type in Word. Don’t push enter -- just let the list populate. Word will be at the top. This works with any program and is a common issue associated with technology in the classroom.


17. Keyboard Doesn’t Work

Anytime a piece of computer hardware appears to not work, I check first. With the keyboard, push Num Lock on the right side. If the Num Lock light goes on/off, the keyboard is working. If it doesn’t, replug cord into back of tower or reboot. Most of the time, that’ll fix it. Sometimes, your keyboard really is broken and you need a new one.

16. Mouse Doesn’t Work

Like with the keyboard, check it first. Move it around to see if the cursor moves. If it doesn’t, do the same as you did for the keyboard -- replug cord into back or reboot

15. Start Button is Gone

This doesn’t happen often, but it will happen at the worst possible time. Luckily, it’s easy-peasy to fix: Push the Windows button in the lower right corner of the keyboard. It brings up the taskbar and start button. That’s all you need.

14. No Sound

There are so many reasons why sound stops working. Usually it’s one of three issues: 1) Volume is muted, so unmute it. A cousin to that is that many times, the volume is low, so all you have to do is turn it up. 2) Headphones are plugged in, which means you can’t hear sound through the speakers. Unplug them. 3) The computer bumped sound out of the operating queue. Maybe your system resources are low. Who knows. All you have to do is reboot.

13. Can’t Find a File

You’re sure you saved it right, but it’s not where you put it. No worries. Push Start > search. When you find it, take note of where it is. Better yet, resave it to a location you will remember

12. Menu Command Grayed Out

You go to use a menu command, but it’s not available because the program thinks you’re in the middle of an activity that doesn’t allow that action to be taken. Push Escape 3 times. This gets you out of wherever you were (and didn’t know) and makes the command you’d like to use available

11. What’s Today’s Date?

I never remember the date. By lunchtime, I’ve stuffed so much junk in my memory banks, it starts falling out the back end. The date always goes first. Luckily, it’s easily solved. Hover over the clock in the lower right corner.

10. Taskbar Gone/Moved

This usually happens when someone borrows your computer and decides to rearrange things. No biggy. You can probably see an edge peeking up from the extreme bottom of your monitor. Click- drag that up and it will bring it back. If it’s been moved, click on an open part of the taskbar and drag it to the bottom of screen (or wherever you prefer it to be).

9. Desktop Icons Messed Up or Missing

That same tricky troublemaker who moved your taskbar also moved your desktop icons around until they formed his/her first initial (a favorite with my students). This is a quick fix: Right click on the desktop, select “Sort by” and pick how to arrange. If the Pesky Person hid the icons, right click > view > show desktop icons.

8. Computer Frozen

Truth, usually the computer isn’t frozen. Usually, there’s a dialogue box that wants you to answer something before it’ll let you move on. Look around the screen, clear the box, and all is good.

7. Program Frozen

You might be able to clear this the same way as the “Computer frozen” problem, but let’s say that didn’t work. Look at your taskbar. There’s probably a blinking task there. Somehow you got out of the program (which is why it won’t work). All you have to do is click and get back in.

6. I Erased My Document/Text

This is where I am a hero for at least a day -- maybe longer. Sometimes, students highlight their 20-page document to change margins (or who knows what) and accidently delete the entire document. No worries. Ctrl+Z (hold Ctrl and then push Z) will bring it back. That Undo shortkey goes back 200+ steps in case it happened a long time ago.

5. Screen Says “Ctrl-Alt-Del”

There are a lot of reasons why this might show on your screen. What you want to remember is: Do what it asks. Hold down Ctrl and Alt and then push Delete. This will either bring you to the familiar login screen or to the desktop

4. Program Closed Down

It might have, but before you throw your hands up and scream, look around the screen. Is it open on the taskbar? If so, click on it. If not, reopen the program, see if the right sidebar shows that it saved a back-up, and select that to open.

3. Tool Bar Missing at Top of www

The Internet is difficult without that toolbar. If you lost it by going “Full screen,” simply push escape. Anything else, push the F11 key.

2. A Document is “Read Only”

This is happening more often as we all work harder to protect privacy. All you have to do is save the doc under a different name. Then it’s yours.

1. The Catch-All Solution

Whatever goes wrong, there are two solutions to always start with: 1) Check power. Is everything plugged in? If not, take care of that. 2) Reboot. Start everything over. Don’t laugh -- it works.

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the 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, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blogger, a columnist for and TeachHUB, Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a monthly contributor to TeachHUB. 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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