Guided Discovery and Computer Education

Guided discovery is an instructional approach you can use in your computer education classes to have students explore program features. It is an excellent way to introduce a new program. Students like to “click around”. Why not give them the perfect opportunity?

guided discovery
Guided Discovery in computer education allows students to become independent learners.

I just finished teaching my latest class for the technology project, TechnoEnvironment. Today, the assignment was to create an environmental postcard. The students have completed four classes of Internet research over the past month. Since the Internet research was a tremendous amount of work, I wanted this class to be fun allowing students to feel free to experiment.

The Grade 8 students were using Microsoft Publisher to create their postcard. I decided that instead of leading a direct instruction lesson, where I provide point and click instructions and the students complete each task as instructed, I would allow them the freedom to explore. Many of the program tools were new to the students. The guided discovery instructional approach lends itself well to computer education because it allows students to construct their learning and discover answers for themselves.

I started the lesson by showing a sample of a completed postcard and discussing the components. Afterwards, I opened the postcard template and demonstrated how to use the four tools needed for this assignment including the Text Box, Insert WordArt, Picture Frame, and AutoShapes. As well, I highlighted some of the formatting options available to customize the objects. Afterwards, students were given the challenge, to push their knowledge of the program to discover new ways to format text, WordArt, pictures, and shapes. I told them they should try all the formatting options to discover the creative possibilities.

Click here to view the Microsoft Publisher lessons from TechnoEnvironment.

My goal was to have students gain confidence with using the computer, feel comfortable taking risks, discover the range of design possibilities, and enjoy using Microsoft Publisher. During this lesson, I placed more value on exploration than on producing a product. Throughout the class, I walked around to view the creative images on the screen. Often, I would point out a new tool to try or challenge students to discover a formatting feature they had not yet used.

The students had a great time “clicking around”, however the postcard remains unfinished. One of the drawbacks to using guided discovery as an instructional approach is that is time consuming. Students get very involved in their exploration and often lose sight of their task.

Guidelines for using Guided Discovery in Computer Education

For this reason, there are some guidelines you should follow when selecting a guided discovery approach:

  • Use guided discovery when introducing a new program or feature
  • The focus of the lesson is on the process of learning, not the product
  • Provide a framework for the exploration such a set of tools or formatting options
  • Guide students to discover unexplored areas of the program
  • Showcase the discoveries made by other students to foster a learning community
  • Encourage students to take a risk and try new things
  • Inform students that UNDO can remove any unwanted change

My goal during this class period was not to make a postcard. Instead, it was to spark an interest in the program and an appreciation for the wonder of technology. We will complete the postcard next week now that students have the skill set and are familiar with working in the Microsoft Publisher environment.

TechnoEnvironment Articles:

  1. Planning to Teach an Environmental Technology Project
  2. Frozen Computers Foil Internet Research
  3. 12 Tips for Internet Research
  4. Five Issues Associated with Assigning Computer Homework
  5. Guided Discovery and Computer Education
  6. Establish an Authentic Audience for Technology Projects
  7. Direct Instruction and Computer Education
  8. The Struggle to Have Students be Their Personal Best
  9. Flexibility is the Key to Success in the Computer Lab
  10. Where is the Content? Razzle Dazzle and Computers
  11. Celebrate Success!
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