8 tips for providing technical support in class

Provide help with language, not with technology

This is a "muddiest point" from my workshop last Friday. At the end of the session, someone asked:

Learning training: isn't it a lot to take on board for learners to become familiar with X, Y, Z apps? How do we "prepare" them for it? Any tips?

Nowadays, do you need to teach people how to use their smart phones? It does depend on age, but in my experience you don't, and especially you don't with anyone under the age of approx. 25.

My #1 tip would be…

  • DON'T you provide the technical support — that's NOT your job!

Other tips:

  • Do find out right at the start of term which of your learners are "good" with technology. Make sure they're on board and willing to help others (in English!), if the need arises
  • Do have a technically-savvy person in each group when you do groupwork
  • Do have people in the class listening for the alert "Technical!": when someone has a technical problem have them either work it with a partner or else call out "Technical!" and have other people, from other groups — not you — go and see if they can help
  • Don't constantly be asking people to download new apps, however cool they might be. Instead, get a lot out of a few — like Spreaker, for example, for podcasting; or get a lot out of something like Edmodo or Instagram, using it for a lot of different activities.
  • Do keep tasks simple! Don't waste time — yours or that of your learners — with things like editing sound or video. If that is necessary, rather than edit, re-record — that's so much better for language practice!
  • Do these things both with adults and with young learners. It's amazing what the latter know about technology — often instinctively, without you having to provide a step-by-step guide!
  • Do practise with the technology you are going to use before you have learners use it; but you're doing that not so that you'll be able to solve every difficulty that might arise but so that you'll feel more confident that it will work and, believe me, if you do feel confident, it will, especially if you don't intend to provide the technical assistance yourself

Vital, I think, is to remember this: you are there in class to provide help with language, not with Photoshop or PowerPoint or Prezi…

See also | This brilliant school-wide technical support project my son experienced.

Any other tips, anyone? Do add them in the comments!

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One Comment

  1. See also this previous post on the subject of (not) providing technical support.

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