Is it plugged in?

I really thought that most of my users were beyond the "Is it plugged in?" mode of tech support.
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor on

I really thought that most of my users were beyond the "Is it plugged in?" mode of tech support. I've trained and empowered and, quite frankly, it is 2008. Most folks are at least savvy enough to make sure that cables with unique ends are at least plugged into the only holes where they will fit in a computer. Alas, I was wrong.

A teacher came to me yesterday noting that a student had "messed up a computer when he installed speakers." Suddenly, she said, she couldn't get on the Internet. Hmmm. Of course, I promptly forgot and went back to work, but when she mentioned it this morning, I walked down to her class, pulled the computer out from the wall, and saw the Ethernet cable hanging away from the back of the computer. Not surprisingly, when I plugged in the network connection, she was able to get online. Go figure.

Another teacher couldn't log into her machine after a student had logged in. Windows, of course, retains the username of the person who last logged in. She just couldn't figure out how to switch it back to her username. I know it's the end of the year and we're all a bit fried, but for teachers not to understand the basic concept of a login is a problem. Apparently, she asked her friends in the English department before she asked me, but none of them could help either. Maybe she should have asked a math teacher.

I guess this means it's time for some more professional development. Most of my teachers and paraprofessionals aren't this clueless, but quite a few are still afraid that they will break their computers. Another contingent simply wants to be able to maintain their computers individually or learn more about specific applications. So here here's my professional development strategy for the end of the summer:

  1. Differentiated instruction for the teachers. I'll run breakout sessions and after-school sessions for remediation as well as my gifted and talented teachers. It works for the kids; hopefully it will work for the teachers.
  2. I need more champion users: training the trainers has worked in the past, but we need to formally identify "go to" teachers for those who can't figure out how to plug in their Ethernet cables or log in when someone switches their username.
  3. Documentation - there's a reason that the "for dummies" series of books is so effective. A few cheat sheets for the technologically challenged on logging in (to Windows, to their webmail, and to the student information system) would be really helpful.
  4. Creation of a tech support Wiki. If the more savvy users can post useful hints and the less savvy users can post FAQ-style questions to be answered, I just might get a sense of community among users, not to mention taking care of the documentation piece above.

What have you done to help your, err, less skilled users?

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