6 Ways to Handle Ed Tech Fails… and 4 Ways to Prevent Them in the First Place

Sometimes educational technology fails, just when you most need it to work. We’ve compiled a list of ways to help prevent an tech fail and, if one happens anyway, to handle this frustrating situation and keep your cool.

An Ounce of Prevention…

  1. Practice New Technology
    Test out new technology with a colleague, before using it in class. You will have a more clear idea what your students sees and see how well things work, before you have to use that technology in the time constraints of class.
  2. Know Your Tech Gurus
    In my doctoral classes, we have a student whom our faculty have come to rely on, for pesky Zoom issues. Nick is clearly the most tech-savvy student in the cohort, and he is always happy to help an instructor or student presenter fix a screenshare issue or a persistent mic feedback problem. Students who are particularly tech-savvy are often happy to lend their help when things go awry.
  3. Have a Back-Up Plan
    Ahead of time, figure out a way to accomplish what you want to accomplish, without the new technology you’re attempting to use. Trying out new technology is much less daunting if you’ve come up with a quick back-up plan involving less complicated technology or technology you’re more familiar with. Instructional technology coach Angela Watson writes, “I embrace the tech failure. Expect it. Plan for it. Take away its power to catch me off guard.” She considers back-up plans an integral part of avoiding fear of tech fails.
  4. Use the Right Browser
    Most programs work best in Firefox or Chrome, and many will not work at all in Internet Explorer.

If Something Goes Wrong Anyway…

  1. Don’t panic
    Most problems really can be fixed. Panicking never helps, and generally makes things worse. Students and faculty alike will have technology fails from time to time; staying calm and dealing with technology hiccups is a vital workplace skill in the 21st century.
  2. Consider How You Would Want a Student to Act
    Watson points out that we ask students to welcome healthy risks, push through difficult academic situations, and implore them to have patience when learning new content. Ed tech fails are the ultimate test of our mettle; can we model the persistence we ask of our students? Can we embrace the role and risk of being a learner and show them how to handle tech fails with maturity, humor, or aplomb?
  3. Turn it Off and Back On Again (Yes, Really)
    Even in the 21st century, many tech problems can be attributed to using too much RAM. Restarting your computer (or smartphone, or iPad) wipes that temporary memory. Be sure to wait a few minutes before restarting, too.
  4. Clear Out the Cache
    Clearing out cache protects your personal information and helps applications run better. Learn how to do it here.
  5. Shift Gears
    Assuming there isn’t a way to accomplish what you intended to without the failed technology, can you shift your plans and jump ahead to the next lesson, lecture, or discussion you had planned? Can you review some particularly tough material from previous lessons and come back to your plan for today at your next class, after you’ve reviewed the technology issue? Flexibility is key, here.
  6. Consult a Professional
    The Teaching Innovation and Learning Technologies (TILT) staff offers support for a number of approved educational technology platforms. We are here to work with you, as you Check out TILT-supported tools here.

McGauley, J. (2017, December 6). Why does turning things off and on always seem to fix them? HuffPost. Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/why-does-turning-things-o_b_8638994

Murray, J. (n.d.). Technology in the classroom: What happens when it fails? Teach Hub. Retrieved from https://www.teachhub.com/technology-classroom-what-happens-when-it-fails

Tech Advisory (2014, September 18). What to do when technology doesn’t work. Tech Advisory. Retrieved from http://www.techadvisory.org/2014/09/what-to-do-when-tech-doesnt-work/

Treichel, S. (2019, March 25). Classroom technology fails: How to prepare for disasters. Medium. Retrieved from https://medium.com/innovate-624/classroom-technology-fails-how-to-prepare-for-disasters-607839691c86

Watson, A. (n.d.). Technology FAIL: Embracing tech when it doesn’t work. The Cornerstone for Teachers. https://thecornerstoneforteachers.com/technology-fail-embracing-tech-when-it-doesnt-work/

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