A teacher asked me to help with her class’s work on “goods and services” where they were creating their own fictional business and researching the types of goods and services they would offer. We were creating a virtual town to post up on a wiki and one of the steps was to use TuxPaint to create a digital picture. However, on the day that they started I got sidelined with a behaviour issue that meant that the teacher and the kids worked on without me. They got a bit stuck because they were using the above mentioned program on the building’s MacBook Pros and the teacher wasn’t sure how to save the pics, let alone get them up on the wiki. In her desperation to ensure that the time wasn’t wasted, she got the students to print their images as there was no obvious way to save them to the class network folder. It was a classic case of needing a workaround in order for whole thing to end up in the right place. She asked me to help.
I went to the computers where the kids had been working and opened up TuxPaint. In most cases, the last image that had been created came up on screen. On a Mac, it was a simple case of using the shortcut Command-Shift-4 in order to able to grab a PNG of the picture sitting within the TuxPaint screen. I could then rename the file from the Desktop, change the image to a easier to manipulate jpeg file extension and then drag the file into the right class folder within the network Common Drive. On a PC, the steps were similar but a little more involved. This time I did a Print Screen, pasted the result into Paint.Net, cropped the image and then saved it with the correct name and file extension to the class folder.
Now I haven’t done anything technical here apart from a bit of good old fashioned problem solving and some basic knowledge about shortcuts and how files behave on a computer – some basic digital literacy. But plenty of teachers aren’t confident in implementing a workaround – they look for a how to instruction sheet, seek out the “techy-man” or just put it in the too hard basket. Having the ability to create a workaround is an important life skill because the workaround mindset can be transferable to lots of life, non-digital situations. Now someone else might look at my workaround pathways and see a quicker, more obvious route to take. But the important thing is that I was able to solve the problem by myself, using solutions to get a step closer to completion.
So many educators have never clicked on a Help button, or Googled for a solution. In today’s world, we need to get away from this learned behaviour of self-helplessness. At least, have a go at creating your own workaround. There is an incredible amount of self satisfaction in working something like that out for yourself.