Empowering Computational Thinkers with Troubleshooting Tips for Technology – EDTC 6014 Module 3

As I continue my Masters in Digital Education Leadership through Seattle Pacific University, I continue to challenge my understanding of teaching, technology, and how to successfully integrate technology in a high poverty school. Part of my task this week was to continue looking at ISTE Coaching Standard 3e and 3g. Which led me to ask two questions:

  1. What strategies do schools use to troubleshoot and resolve tech-related issues?
  2. What does a tech toolkit look like for teachers and students?

Tech-Integration and the Digital Divide

Encouraged by my professors, I began looking for teacher resources offered by local school districts. There are so many resources out there for digital citizenship, but beyond that, how to school districts support teachers and students?  I struck out finding support on my own district’s website. According to research, I am not alone in lacking professional development and resources for digital learning. The digital divide extends beyond student access and also reaches professional development offered to teachers in high poverty schools versus the more affluent schools. A study conducted by Education Week Research Center in 2015, found that technology integration training has not increased since 2009 for 4th grade teachers surveyed (Herold, 2017).  The graph below provides visual representation of what I believe is also accurate for my region. Teaching 4th grade for the past three years, the only tech training I’ve received has been for mandatory testing, not integration of skills in the classroom.

Ed Week Graphic

Training Teachers to Support Students with Technology

My quest led me to a neighbouring district’s site, Renton School District . In contrast to the Back to School PD offered in my district (nothing tech related), they have a day to support teachers with tech integration and opportunities for teachers to share and learn from each other.

Searching for resources under “Digital Learning”, I was able to find two tabs that truly support teachers: “Digital Learning Best Practices” and “DLC Support for Schools”. In particular, under best practices, the first two points.

  • Provide Supports and Foster Independence (Encourage students to support each other)
  • Ask Supporting Questions ( Use open-ended questions to guide problem solving)

These points stood out to me as they connected with an article we read this week on Avoiding “Learned Helplessness”. As educators, we need to take advantage of teachable moments, allow students to support each other, fail, and learn from their experiences. How do we do this?  Ask open-ended questions!  Encourage students to think, reflect, and articulate their understanding.  Most importantly, encourage students to problem solve before simply doing it for them.  Having questions easily visible in the room to support learners can alleviate students sense of helplessness. If we want students to be “Computational Thinkers”, then we need to model problem-solving, perseverance, collaboration, predicting and analysing, identifying patterns, and synthesizing what we’ve learned.

Modeling Troubleshooting For Students

I was inspired by a former SPU grad, Annie Tremonte, and her infographic “Student Guide to Troubleshooting Technology”. However, Annie’s work targets middle school learners, and I want a toolkit for elementary classrooms. This led me to seek out resources for tech integration in  grades 3-5.  One such resource, Tech Happens…What To Do When You Have Technical Difficulties? offers a great self-help poster for 5th grade students. This tool supports learners with troubleshooting before seeking help from the teacher.  In particular, this teacher created a tool that students could use at home, since they’re part of a 1:1 iPad school, where students take the devices home.

This poster is great, but how else can students be taught to troubleshoot?  My building is not 1:1, which means when we have devices, we’ll be using a rotation model.  The last thing a teacher wants during rotation is to be working intensively with a small group, and see other students just sitting there helplessly.  How else can I support students working at a station with devices?

Wanting to foster Computational Thinking, I’ve developed a student friendly poster with “I Can” statements.  To help students overcome helplessness, I want them to try problem solving on their own or with their peers before seeking my support.

Computational Thinker Graphic

In addition to the poster, I want to provide tools with common tech problems and solutions.  How could this be done?  Susan Clark, a computer teacher for K-8 students in Illinois, created a PowerPoint with useful tips for her students (available for free on Teachers Pay Teachers).  Her rationale, “I made this Power Point because I kept getting the same questions from students about problems they were having with their computers”. These slides are a great tool that I’d like to build upon.  More than just having a PowerPoint, I’d like to create troubleshooting tips on index cards on a ring.  The index cards would include images of common problems with solutions for students to attempt to solve first independently before seeking peer support.

Preparing for the New School Year

Now that I have some ideas for how to support students in their troubleshooting, I’d like to conclude with some tips on classroom management. Again, without any professional development being offered this summer at the district level, I need to be prepared for integrating my new devices in the new school year.  Although slightly dated, Education World published Managing Technology: Tips from the Experts. The first tip that truly stood out to me was the index card idea.  Having laminated cards with common questions answered (ideally with some bilingual support for my student population), will put ownership on the student and lessen repetitive questions, much like Susan Clark’s philosophy. The article mentions 33 tips, mostly geared towards a computer lab set-up, but there are several tips that I can easily adapt into my classroom. I’ve compiled a list of 10 tips that I can modify and adapt for my needs this Fall.  

Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned about troubleshooting is to continue expanding my network of educators. Understanding there will always be situations arising that I know nothing about, I want to build up a support tech team from outside my district.  My initial list include my colleagues in this program and the professors we’ve had along the way.  Although I may not be attending any technology professional development this Summer, I feel I now have a few strategies in place to help me get started. My new toolkit includes: tech savvy colleagues, posters, classroom management plan when using devices, and work on creating laminated troubleshooting cards.


Digital Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved August 06, 2017, from https://www.rentonschools.us/Page/309

Herold, B. (2017, June 16). Poor Students Face Digital Divide in How Teachers Learn to Use Tech. Retrieved August 06, 2017, from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2017/06/14/poor-students-face-digital-divide-in-teacher-technology-training.html?r=1707448939&intc=EW-TC17-TOC

Miller, A. (2015, May 11). Avoiding “Learned Helplessness”. Retrieved August 06, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/avoiding-learned-helplessness-andrew-miller

Nording, C. (2016, August 06). Tech Happens…What to do when you have technical difficulties? Retrieved August 06, 2017, from http://www.ourelementarylives.com/2016/08/tech-happenswhat-to-do-when-you-have.html

Starr, L. (2004). Managing Technology: Tips from the Experts. Retrieved August 06, 2017, from http://www.educationworld.com/a_tech/tech/tech116.shtml

Tremonte, A. (2015, March 16). ISTE Student 6: Guiding Students to Troubleshoot More Autonomously. Retrieved from http://annietremonte.com/tag/troubleshooting/

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