teach, Work

Are you enabling or disabling?

Enabling teachers to transform learning experiences for students and disabling bad habits is what this post is about….just to be clear 😉

After visits to many schools of various types around the world, I have noticed a pattern. Too often, tech support personnel are going about their job wrong. Not that they mean to approach it wrong, quite the contrary. It just happens that as much as they scramble to fix things with a machine or a network, they also scramble to do things for other adults in the school. The doing is what I have a problem with.

From the elite to the most struggling, schools boast of being a “learning community”, fostering “lifelong learning”, and of creating “digital citizens”. When one looks under the hood, however, most of what they boast about is usually expected from students but not seen modeled by adults enough. IT personnel compound the problem by doing things for the adults.

You can see now why I don’t have a caravan of fans 😀

There are a few things I insist on with my teams if we are to work together:

  • Back up a user’s data before doing anything on their device
  • Provide clear, consistent and constant communication when someone requests help
  • If the issue is not with the computer but the user, walk them through the solution, and let them do the driving – Do not do it for the user! Adult Interest is key here.
  • KISS (Keep It Simple Sam) do not go into long technical explanations when asked “what happened?”, or “what was wrong?”

I’ll provide a bit of context for all points, but I’ll focus on the 3rd point on the list first.

All too often, adults approach me with their arms extended, holding a device for me to “fix”. The first thing I say is “hold on, take your device back. You’re doing the driving”. I want to ensure the person needing the help is the one tapping the keyboard/screen and working the mouse/pad.

There are 2 things I want anyone looking for my help to know:

  1. What my process is for finding a solution to a problem
  2. They can solve future problems themselves, if they are interested in learning something new.

Not doing things for a user” means walking them through navigating to a solution on their own rather than doing it for them. The goal is to get myself out of the middle of a tech problem and its solution. I want to enable users to find their own solutions to tech problems.

I love Let Me Google That for You because it walks a user through finding their own solution when searching the web using Google. It’s exactly what I’m trying to do when showing someone how to go to their device settings and finding the switch they needed to find and flipping it themselves. One time may not be enough, but it may get the ball rolling so that they will try it themselves next time. If I were to do it for them, I would be robbing them of the opportunity, and creating a dependency on me.

Adult Interest is key

As a technology and media teacher I usually have an easy time engaging my students. Not always, but most of the time they are eager to get to work. What makes my job easy is that my students, for the most part, are interested in what we will be discussing/doing. Interest is key. If an adult working in education displays absolutely zero interest in knowing more about the tools students engage with, I have a difficult time enabling their lack of interest by formatting their documents, copy/pasting images, or helping them figure out how to user their email.

Any ways, enough rambling…now on to the other points on the list above:

Backing up a user’s data should be the first thing a competent technician does right after turning on a device – unless the device does not turn on to begin with. The best and fastest way to drive a wedge between a community of educators and IT is by losing someone’s data. Nuff said!

Providing clear, consistent and constant communication is the best way to get high scores on feedback surveys. The way I put it to my team members is likening it to taking your car into the shop. What will happen if you took your car into the shop and 2 weeks later no one has called you to tell you what’s happening? Surely you would not let it go to 2 weeks. You will be on that phone the day after asking about your car. Why then, when a user requests help, or we take their device , do we stop communicating? Users need to know what’s going on. It’s better to have someone waiting for a resolution to a problem for a whole month as long as they know about what’s happening than have them waiting for a day or two without knowing if anyone knows they need help.

KISS should be a fundamental training for all technical personnel. If you give me room to dive deep into how networks work, why wifi is still the most dangerous and backwards networking model there, and how to frame the best camera shot to get whatever emotion out of a viewer, there is just no stopping me. However, if I’m explaining to someone, why their computer slows down when they have 57 tabs open on their browser, I’ll simply ask them to have up-to 10 tabs open at any one time, period. No need to go further into an explanation of memory resources, CPU stress, the multitasking myth, etc etc.