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Reflecting Poole

Things I'd Do Differently
The Second Time Around


I wish I could start over, here at Sri Padmavathi Womens University in Tirupati, India. Next time around, I would do a much better job.

I had a woeful initial understanding of the state of technology-readiness of my students. I know now that I should have spent at least the first couple of weeks in the computer lab going over the absolute basics of computer literacy -- how to use the mouse; where the various keys are on the keyboard; how to use the shift key for uppercase characters; how to save files; where to save files; and so forth.

Bernie Poole and his M.Ed students

That my students need this kind of help has nothing to do with intelligence. They are all studying at the Masters level, and many will go on to do their PhDs. Through no fault of their own, however, many of them have never -- or hardly ever -- used a computer.

Learning to use a computer is a bit like learning to ride a bike -- its all skill based. Do it and you learn it. If youve never done it before, its tricky, and it can take a while before you get the hang of it. The only way to learn is to climb on board -- and it helps if youre shown the right way from the start.

I noticed one student today using the Caps Lock key every time she had to type an uppercase character. Id shown her a few minutes before how to use the Shift key, but shed already gotten used to using the Caps Lock key, so she kept doing it the way shed figured out for herself. Habits, once formed, are hard to change.

Day One, I should have shown everyone this basic stuff, but thats all water under the bridge now. There are a few students -- maybe 5 out of 50 -- whove had lots of experience using computers. Theyve become my teaching assistants. Theyre not learning much about computers, but they are learning how to teach, and thats as it should be.

Not that the problems are all of my own making. The way the computer lab is set up leaves much to be desired. The computers are not networked; theres no server controlling everything. Nor are they locked down in any way. Students can do whatever they please. They can install or delete programs, for example, on their stand-alone machines.

Im not worried about my own students messing around; Im always with them in the lab. But we have Masters of Computer Applications and Electrical Engineering students who use the lab outside of class time. They are programmers who surely know a thing or two about computers. In fact, I know they do because theyre constantly tweaking the interface -- the Windows OS theme -- changing the cursor, the screen resolution, the color scheme, and so forth. Its a free-for-all in there! Grrrrrrrr.

Students work in the computer lab.

To make matters worse, quite a few of the 50 computers in the lab dont have the same software installed on them. Its something of a lottery when you log on. Like Hmmmm. I wonder what Ill find on here today."

I checked out each computer, noting which ones dont have Adobe Acrobat Reader, which ones are missing Microsoft Office, which ones behave weirdly for reasons unknown. Those missing Acrobat Reader, Ive fixed by installing it myself. Microsoft Office is a whole different matter, so Ive pasted a note on each of the ill-configured machines so my students dont waste time booting them up.

The fact is, Ive been spoiled, coming as I do from a university in the United States where the computer systems I use with the students are set up and maintained by a team of technicians who take care of everything for me. My U.S. students, too, in most cases have been using computers for years. Even non-traditional, older students, at least have used computers at home or on the job before deciding to return to school to get their degree.

I feel badly for my students here in Tirupati because I know I could have done a better job. But were managing and were getting along. One of the phrases I shared with them early on is No problems, only solutions!" I even had them teach me how to say it in Telugu, the local language of Andhra Pradesh. So here it is, for the record: Samassyal lev, parshkaral matramy.

No problems, only solutions! Ill do my best; I havent given up by any means.

About the Author

Bernie Poole, an associate professor of education and instructional technology at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, Pennsylvania, has been a teacher since 1966. For the first 15 years of his career, he taught English, history, French, or English as a foreign language primarily to middle school children in England, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia. Poole has published several books related to instructional technology. Two of the latest editions are available free of charge online at He also has developed and maintains with Yvonne Singer the EdIndex, an extensive index of Web resources for teachers and students that can be accessed at

Author Name: Bernie Poole
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