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Technology in the Classroom – Troubleshooting Tips

Jacqui Murray

It's a new school year. This year, you have laptops, Chromebooks, a pod of desktops, and a cart of iPads. Your IT folks will do their best to support you, but you know--without a doubt--it will fall on your shoulders when the lesson is about to start and the computers don't work.

Before you say words students shouldn't hear, try these six quick technology in the classroom solutions. You can even teach them to students:

Is the Power On?

When you're talking to tech folk, their first question always centers around whether your computer system is getting power. Surprisingly, this is often why it doesn't work. Clear this as a reason before moving on by making sure all the working pieces are getting the power they need. Here's a checklist:

  • Are all plugs in wall sockets?
  • Are all cables connected to the computer? An easy way to check both of these is to make sure the power light on the keyboard and the monitor is on.
  • Is the Internet working? That has plugs too, so check those.
  • Are headphones plugged in?

Are You Logging In Under Your Name?

Everyone knows to confirm their password, but few people think to check the login name. School computers are often shared, from carts or classroom pods. That means students log in with different user names. They're supposed to log out, but that doesn't always happen. The student having the problem may have forgotten to check. Make it part of the log-in routine to check the user name.

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This can even be the problem on your personal computer used at school. Someone might have accessed their online or networked account through your computer and forgotten to return it to your settings. If you can't log in, or your desktop doesn't have files and folders it should, check the log-in name.

Technology in the Classroom: Try a Different Browser

All Internet browsers are not created equally. I have a lot more problems with IE than Firefox, and more with Firefox than Chrome. Yes, you counted right. I have three browsers on my computer because they are all quirky at times in their delivery of websites. If I can't load a site in one browser, I try another. I don't care WHY it won't work in one if it works in another. All I care is that I got to the website. It's become the first troubleshooting tool I use when a website doesn't work.

It's not just me, either. You'll often see suggestions on websites--Works better with the *** browser. Coding and scripts and stuff are different in different browsers, which makes them act differently on websites. That's as technical as I can get about the reasons.

In the geek world, which browser to use is best is a hot topic. The only point Chrome and Firefox users agree on is they're better than IE. Here are a few articles on this debate:

Switch Computers

One other filter you can use in identifying the cause of tech problem is to try a different computer. If it works there, it means the problem is your system.


If something doesn't work the first time, do it again. Why is this so often effective? It's called “user error.” You typed a password in wrong, or left a blank space without even knowing it. This is why forms always ask you to type an email address twice. It's not likely you'd have the same typo twice. Even websites are starting to recommend this. Learn from the experts and adopt 'repeat' as a viable solution for tech problems.


This works more often than you'd think, in my experience, at least half the time. Here's why: When you turn your computer on, it goes through lots of organizing and prioritizing steps to get your desktop looking just the way you want it. Over time, that arranging gets undone by your activities. Pieces get lopped off and forgotten, like DNA mutations. It’s not your fault, it’s just the way it is. The computer still works, but not quite the same.

When you shut down and reboot, it closes everything, stores them away, and then brings them back out in the proper order. Be sure you “shut down” from the Start button (for Windows folks), not by pushing the power button.

That's it from my end, but check Lifehacker and FoxNews for their list of common problems and solutions.

More on problem solving:

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Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of dozens of technology training books that integrate technology into education. She is webmaster for six blogs, CSG Master Teacher, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, a tech ed columnist for, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out next summer.