Valuable Technology Skill – troubleshooting

Swiss Army Knife

by herzogbr @ Flickr

I was just working with one of our Centralia College faculty members with Angel, and it occurred to me “hey, this guy knows the basics of using Angel now. He doesn’t need me to tell him where to click. What he needs now are troubleshooting skills.”

Many of us now know how to use Angel for our courses, but what do you do when you have a problem? If assignments are in your gradebook (yeah!), but now they’re out of order (oh oh)?  You know how to get assignments into the gradebook – that’s the “click” part. Now comes the troubleshooting part (getting assignments in the correct order).

Most of us use Word on campus and we all know how to type things, press Enter at the ends of paragraphs, etc. But what happens if your second bulleted list restarts numbering at 1 and you want it to continue numbering from the previous list? How would you fix the problem?

Do you use Excel? If you’re averaging a column of numbers and you get 0, what’s going on? Yes, you can correctly enter a formula, but now what? How do you narrow down the problem and get it fixed?

I guess what I’m talking about here is something akin to Bloom’s Taxonomy of learning.  We work our way up from simply remembering something, to understanding it, then using it, and lastly evaluating and analyzing.

What do I do?

First, I have to be in the right frame of mind. If I’m totally furious it is not a good time to try and solve a problem. I wait until I calm down – which might even take a day!

A general familiarity with the technology being used sure helps (Angel, MS Office, etc.). Use the correct vocabulary – you don’t click on a “thing”, you click on a button, or on a link.  You’re not on any ol’ website, you’re at  You don’t “get on the internet”, you (probably) use a specific web browser: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc.

Stop and think about the problem and rephrase it using very specific language. (“the Angel gradebook is messed up”, becomes “the assignments are out of order”, becomes “assignments within each category are out of order” – A-ha! Look at the category settings)

If I can, I right-click on the thing that’s not working and if a menu pops up, I read the entire menu. (right-clicking on a numbered item in Word brings up choices for continuing numbering from a previous list, or just typing in the number where you want the list to start)

I try to simplify or narrow the problem. (if I’m averaging 200 numbers and I get a wrong answer, what if I just average the first 100 numbers? And if that works OK, I average just the last 100 numbers. Still didn’t work? I average the last 50 numbers. Still wrong? What about the last 10 numbers?)

Of course – ASK FOR HELP!!!  Sometimes it’s just a feeling for what’s wrong – and that comes from experience.  Sometimes it’s something we’ve had to deal with ourselves, having made the same oops ourselves! So ask for help! Those who know, love to help!


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