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Published January 18, 2016

5 Tips for Keeping Your Cool When Experiencing Technical Difficulties in Class

The year 2016 marks the debut of a new kind of article in Profweb. The "5 Tips" series aims to be a resource for CEGEP teachers that are integrating new technologies into their everyday teaching practice. This week, we are offering you the article 5 Tips for Keeping Your Cool When Experiencing Technical Difficulties in Class.

What teacher hasn't broken out in a cold sweat at the idea of having their Internet connection or sound problems or incompatible files completely ruin an activity that has been planned for their class? Whether you are an expert or a novice with new technologies, tell yourself that no teacher is completely sheltered from a technical failure.  So how do you react when such a situation arises?

1. Stay Calm!

Take a deep breath and try to defuse the situation. Remember that this type of situation happens to everyone and no lives were lost. Take time to think and avoid spiraling into a panic, which will only cause you to make bad decisions, and students will pick up on this. Here's a pro tip: If you are experiencing a system error, before anything else, try to reboot your computer and then start again. This simple trick will likely solve your problem.

2. Have Your 'Plan B' Close By

Play for time! This might be your chance to do that enrichment exercise that you never have time to do, or perhaps you can run a surprise activity that you had prepared in case of emergency. Technological tools are wonderful assets for teachers, but since a technical problem can occur at any time, it is important to take this possibility into account and prepare a plan B while you are doing your lesson planning. This little extra step in your planning will allow you to stay calm and quickly react when the wrath of the technological gods befalls you!

3. Identify the Problem

Take a moment to analyze the situation. Try to identify the problem and its potential causes. Is it an image that is not showing up, or a file that is not recognized by the system? Be as objective as possible in order to understand the nature of the problem. The ability to succinctly describe what is not working will make troubleshooting that much easier, if necessary.

4. Get Your Students Involved

Are you surrounded by technology enthusiasts and geniuses? Why not take advantage of their presence by having them help you find the source of the problem (and perhaps its solution as well). More and more teachers are starting to use participative pedagogical approaches. What an excellent opportunity to get your students involved!  However, make sure you don't worsen the situation by fumbling around with the equipment, as this can make the technical support team's job more difficult. If the problem seems beyond your reach, use this incident to discuss unforeseen problems and the importance of being prepared in advance of your presentation.

5. Use the Resources at Your College

When you are planning an activity that requires technologies, make sure that you speak to the resource persons available at your college, especially if you are a novice. The IT-Rep (ICT Education Advisor) at your college is a precious asset for helping you to plan activities involving technologies. She or he will know how to refer you to the most appropriate tool and accompany you while you are getting up to speed on this tool. Additionally, the technical support staff can help you sharpen your skills and give you advice on how to avoid typical issues. Depending on the availability of the computer labs, you could even practice your class with a technician on hand to help you get acquainted with the tools that are available to you before you use them in class with your students. If you inform them of the date, time and location of your activity, they may be willing to be ‘on call’ and come quickly to your aid should you encounter some difficulties.

Teachers: Have you had an unexpected technical issue in class? How did you react? What are your tricks to avoid this type of situation? Share your experiences with us in the Comments section below!

About the Author

Murielle Cayouette has been teaching languages and Adventure Tourism in the college network since 2011. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Language Instruction and a Master's in English Literature. Murielle has taught in a variety of contexts, as much with the pre-university sector as in technical programs and in continuing education. In parallel with her teaching career, Murielle has been working as a guide in the adventure tourism industry since 2007. She joined the Profweb team during the fall semester of 2015.

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