Ten Troubleshooting Solutions

XKCD Flowchart

XKCD Flowchart

1. Screenshots – Taking a screenshot won’t solve your problems, but it will make it much easier for your IT support to help you. Taking a screenshot of error messages or out-of-the-ordinary computer behavior can demonstrate what the problem is better than you will be able to explain.

2. Flowcharts – Like the flowchart above, there are basic flowcharts all over the web that can help you get to the bottom of almost any problem. One nice collection of flowcharts can be found here.

3. Help! – Actually using the help option offered on nearly every software application is a quick way to find the answers for which you are looking. The trick is to choose the right terminology. If at first your search turns up nothing, try simplifying your search or using synonyms.

4. Online Communities – There are online communities and discussion boards for nearly everything, especially hardware and software. Most of these discussion boards have either a search option or index of topics. Even if a search doesn’t reveal the exact answer for which you are looking, posting your own comments and queries should drum up some helpful responses.

5. Social Media – Turning to social media outlets like Facebook, Google+, or Twitter can greatly increase your knowledge base. Someone else in your network has likely had a similar issue and probably knows a solution or at least can point you in the right direction for finding your own.

6. Turn it off. – When a computer is not responding or freezes up, just turn it off. While this is not a good habit to get into every time something goes awry, it is often the only solution. Typically, if your computer isn’t already too far gone, a quick restart will correct the issue.

7. Share your troubleshooting strategies with your PLN. – Since your colleagues do similar work to you, they have probably also faced similar issues. With some luck, they may have even solved the same problem and can share what they did to fix it.

8. Ask your students. – Students can hold a wealth of knowledge when it comes to troubleshooting technological problems. They are more likely to explore and play with technology, discovering problems and solutions along the way. Empower them now and again to help you with your troubleshooting needs.

9. Read Lifehacker. – Lifehacker is a blog that looks at ways in which we can work around daily obstacles or hack our way through life. A large chunk of this content focuses on clearing obstacles with software and hardware. Making this blog part of your daily read will inspire all kinds of troubleshooting triumphs.

10. Google it! – Sometimes, we have no idea where to start with a troubleshooting process. In these cases, doing a quick internet search can provide a plethora of options. More than likely, the most popular solutions will be on the first page and that will be enough to help you solve your technological problems.

What troubleshooting strategies to you employ? Which of the strategies above have worked the best for you? What are some troubleshooting strategies that you would add to this list?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center.

Tuesday’s Tools: Calendars & Appointments

One of the best parts of starting a new year is to break out that fresh, new calendar you just picked up for half-off at the store only selling calendars for December. Calendars help us get organized and refreshed with each new calendar year. The clutter that accumulates leading to the end of the year is now forgotten as we move forward.

We should all take advantage of this opportunity to try out an online application or two that will make our schedules easier to maintain in 2012…

Google Calendar is the premier online calendar that lets users share their calendars with the world or just a select few. The sharing options make it possible for one to share a calendar with others in their Google contacts list. For public sharing, there is an active URL and even an embedding option for those who want their calendars to accessible from any site. Users can manage multiple calendars using Google Calendar easily through a seamless color-coding system. I am able to share calendars both for work and family without crossing the two. Additionally, these calendars are accessible from any online device.

For those looking to break free of Google’s grip on their online lives, there are other options available. Yahoo! has an online calendar. Calendar tools from the likes of Keep and Share, Clock Share, and Famundo all feature similar usability without requiring a Google account.

Just looking for some basic calendars to check dates and other timely events? Try TimeAndDate.com. Besides some basic and printable calendars, Time and Date also offer weather, sunset, sunrise, timers, and calculators. Plus, users can customize their own calendars.

Sometimes, we need a way for others to schedule appointments or meetings. As with online calendars, there are several tools that can also make these tasks easier. ClickBook and CheckAppointments are free and easy-to-use online scheduling tools intended for small businesses, but there could be many uses in terms of scheduling meetings with parents or colleagues. Other online scheduling tools include GenBook and Acuity Scheduling.

Of course, maybe the most popular online scheduling tool around these parts is Doodle. With Doodle, users the ability to schedule meetings with a variety of people and schedules in one place. Simply set up a “Doodle poll” to figure out what times and dates are best for your participants. The results will help you schedule a meeting time that will work for all those involved.

Of course, many of us still use our desktop calendar and email tools for all of our scheduling and calendar management. There’s nothing wrong with this practice. It may even be the most efficient use of resources for you. To get the most out of your Microsoft Outlook software, check out the tips from Microsoft’s own site. For iCal users, try iCal World’s list of tips. If you’re still in the hunt for the best desktop calendar tools out there, check out Lifehacker’s top-5 desktop calendar applications.

What tools do you use to maintain your schedules and calendars? How could these tools be used to improve communication between you and students, parents, or colleagues? Are there ways in which teaching students to use these tools valuable to their own time management?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center.

HD_Links: Five Helpful Links

Happy Wednesday/Hump Day (HD), everyone! Here are a few useful links to get you through your week.

  1. Lifehacker provides some nice advice in their “Emailable Tech Support.” Today’s post [How to Browse the Web Using Tabs (for Beginners)] features the basics of tab browsing, which can be an effective and useful practice to get into when doing online research. Sometimes, we are more likely to return to a task or webpage if the tab is left open as opposed to copying the URL or bookmarking the page.
  2. Trying to teach debate or opposing viewpoints in politics? Mashable points out that YouTube is launching a channel where they match members of Congress debating two sides of a given issue. As is typical in the beltway, things can get pretty heated. So, you’ll want to preview the debates before sharing them with students. Read “YouTube Matches Congress Members For Debates On New Town Hall Platform” here.
  3. Looking for a simple file sharing app? How about one that is so simple that sharing can happen by simply dragging and dropping files? Check out Fyles, the free service that provides 2GB of space, a link for your shared items, and a password for future deletion. (via Lifehacker)
  4. From Google Labs (via EdTech Toolbox) comes Google Public Data Explorer. With this tool, students can compare data sets and create their own infographics. Easy to explore, visualize, and communicate data sets, Google Public Data Explorer is another free tool from your friends in Mountain View, CA.
  5. Edutopia addresses the differentiation issue with a specific example of how one school in South Carolina is utilizing technology to provide individualized learning facilitation that works. Even without loads of technology, the tips provided are good things to keep in mind for your own differentiation, but with technology the article demonstrates how powerful technology can be in the diverse, 21st century classroom. (H/T Edgalaxy)

Zac Early is an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National with a rather large number of subscriptions in his Google Reader that he follows so that you don’t have to.