Debugging or Tracking Down Errors

Several of the past tips have highlighted different suggestions from Jacob Nielson's Life-Long Technology Skills. What Nielson suggests is that we should not be teaching students how to do Excel or to use other specific software which will definitely change before the students finish school. Instead we should focus on Life Long Skills.

Nielson uses the term "debugging" and explains it as the "logical process of tracking down errors". Debugging also applies to technology integration. The lack of such skills is a huge barrier to much technology use in the classroom. The inability to troubleshoot small problems keeps many teachers from using computers with students. Technical glitches can be extremely frustrating. It is understandable that many teachers decide to not even try to use technology because of this.

This has many devastating side effects for technology in the curriculum. For those teachers who do try to use it without the troubleshooting skills, the stress level is high. Because of this many computers in schools sit unused. Either the teacher is afraid to try OR he/she has tried, something did not work, and they don't know how to fix it.

Someone who is comfortable with technology is able to remain calm when there are glitches. Here are some tips that help these people deal with those glitches:

  • ALWAYS have a plan B (that might be a non-technology way to deal with the same lesson or another lesson that can run at the same time. One summer school class I taught involved doing Email with key-pals, but we were also creating displays about their key-pal's country. This could be done without the computer and so there was always something productive to do.)
  • Check all of the plugs
  • Check the brightness and darkness settings
  • Restart the computer
  • Be aware of the procedure for getting help. If you have to put a "help" ticket in do it promptly so that you can remember the issue and also so that the school district is not wasting funds on a non-functional computer.
  • Write down the error message (even if it makes NO sense to you!)
  • If there is a technical skill that you are missing (maybe the audio is not working and it could be because you are not sure how to work it) know who to ask for help and keep learning rather than complaining.

Next Tip: Online Communication Skills