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Computer Bloopers:
Tech Trainers'
Funniest Moments

The learning curve for computer use, like that for any other new skill, has created a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding among those struggling to master -- and those struggling to help us master -- the technology. This month, members of the Education World Tech Team share some of their funniest teaching (and learning) moments. Included: Shocking photos of computer abuse!

Anecdotal evidence indicates that the most frequent reason for computer illiteracy among adults is the fear of stupidity -- not the fear of turning stupid, of course, just the fear of looking stupid. That fear, observers say, is particularly pronounced among educators.

"But I thought EBay accepted Visa cards?"

In order to allay those fears, and thus promote increased computer use among teachers, we asked members of the Education World Tech Team to share some of their funniest teaching and learning moments. Although it might not be totally true that the only stupid question is the unasked question, it is true, our experts assure us, that nothing is so stupid that it hasn't been said, done, or asked before.

To prove the point, members of the Tech Team share the following computer bloopers with you.

"How come Scooby don't?"

"As the technology specialist at a K-5 school in California, I conduct classes in the Macintosh computer lab for students in grades 1-5," Lori Sanborn told Education World. "A couple of years ago, I installed Apple's Network Assistant, which allows someone working at a single administrative computer to control all the lab's computers. One of the program's features is the ability to talk to students at individual workstations through their headphones. We decided to test the talk feature with a class of third graders. While students were engaged in a Kid Pix project, the teacher used the administrative microphone to give individual students such directions as, 'Don't do that!' or 'Don't put that there!' Many students, on hearing this voice from above, turned around to see who was behind them; they obviously were puzzled to find no one there. It was very comical to watch. The best response, however, came when a student hearing 'Don't do that!' through his headphones, took them off, and used one of the headphones' ear pieces to reply, 'But that's what I'm supposed to do!'"

"We once had to replace a keyboard because the classroom rabbit mistook it for a litter box," Stew Pruslin recalled.

"When discussing computer viruses," said Lydia Nelson, "one student asked if he should be wearing gloves."

"Am I missing something?"
"I think the funniest technology misunderstandings often arise from the dual usage of words," said Jennifer Wagner. "For example:
  • We have a 'Drivers' notebook in the school office. I wondered why the notebook was in the office and not in the computer lab -- until I realized the notebook was for parent drivers for field trips.

  • In our school discipline policy, different levels of behavior are indicated by different colors. When I tell my students to change colors in a program such as Kid Pix, they always look startled and wonder what they did wrong.

  • A teacher recently asked me to put a file of students' names on her desktop. I opened Word, created a document with the children's names in it, and saved it to her desktop. Unfortunately, she wanted an actual file on her classroom desktop, not a Word file on her computer desktop.

  • If someone mentions 'virus,' I immediately think computer virus and seldom worry that someone might be coming down with a cold.
"Online gambling sure isn't all it's cracked up to be!"
"My favorite question in my role as technology coordinator, however, has to be, 'Why isn't my printer printing?,'" Wagner noted. "Most often the answer is 'You didn't remove the plastic safety sticker from the ink cartridge!'

"I also am amazed at the constant repetition of the question, 'Why isn't my computer working anymore?,'" Wagner added. "That's usually followed by an enthusiastic story about the great screensaver they've just downloaded from an obscure Web site."

"Technology -- you gotta love it!"

"A colleague rang me at home for help with a problem with her home computer," Michael McMullin told Education World. "In my best 'support line' voice, I said, 'First, I want you to click on My Computer!' There was a pregnant pause, followed by a timid voice asking the inevitable'How can I click on your computer from here?'

Who Are They?

The Education World Tech Team includes more than 50 dedicated and knowledgeable educational-technology professionals who have volunteered to contribute to occasional articles that draw on their varied expertise and experience. The following Tech Team members contributed to this article:

* Michael McMullin, resource teacher working with special needs pupils, Dromore National School, Killygordon, County Donegal, Republic of Ireland

* Lydia Ann Nelson, instructional technologist, Curry College, Milton, Massachusetts

* Stew Pruslin, third grade teacher, J. T. Hood School, North Reading, Massachusetts

*Lori Sanborn, K-5 technology specialist, Rancho Las Positas School, Livermore California

* Jennifer Wagner, computer coordinator, Crossroads Christian School, Corona, California

Photographs were provided by:
* Ernest E. Sinclair, training director, Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA), Austin, Texas

Article by Linda Starr
Education World®
Copyright © 2004 Education World

Updated 12/20/2005