Tag Archives: TechnoEnvironment

Direct Instruction and Computer Education

There are many different instructional methods you can use in the computer lab. The approach you use depends on the topic of the lesson, learning objectives, time, or personal preference. In today’s lesson for TechnoEnvironment I decided to use direct instruction to teach the steps for making a poster.

NOTE: TechnoEnvironment has been a favorite for many years. Unfortunately, it is no longer available. To find other TechnoKids projects view the Project Matrix or visit the TechnoKids website.

What is Direct Instruction?

Direct instruction is an instructional approach suitable when teaching a complex set of steps.

Direct instruction is suitable when teaching a complex set of steps in the computer lab.

Direct instruction is the explicit teaching of a skill-set. When teaching in the computer lab, we often refer to this method as “click and point” instruction. To use this method:

  1. The teacher demonstrates how to accomplish a task using an overhead projector.
  2. Students follow the visual and auditory instructions to complete the steps on their own computer.
  3. The teacher views the computer screens to verify that students have been successful.
  4. The teacher then demonstrates the next step.

Why Use Direct Instruction for this Computer Lesson?

In this computer lesson, students create a Help Wanted poster using Microsoft Publisher 2007. The poster includes a border, WordArt title, picture, clip art, picture caption, and an attention getter. The focus in the lesson was on advanced formatting options such as alignment of objects on the page, alignment of objects in relation to other objects, adjusting object order, grouping multiple objects, and changing object orientation.

I selected direct instruction for this lesson mainly because the steps required to format an object are complex. For example, to place a border in the middle of the page in Microsoft Publisher 2007 a user must select the border and then:

  1. Click Align or Distribute from the Arrange menu and select Relative to Margin Guides.
  2. Next, they must click Align or Distribute AGAIN from the Arrange menu to select Align Center.
  3. And then AGAIN click Align or Distribute AGAIN from the Arrange menu to select Align Middle.

It takes THREE STEPS to position a border on the page. That is A LOT of steps! It is unlikely that students would discover how to complete this task on their own. For this reason, direct instruction was a perfect fit for this computer lesson.

What are the Benefits to Direct Instruction?

There are many other reasons to select direct instruction. It offers several benefits to teachers:

  • Efficient: A teacher can deliver instructions to many students at one time.
  • Control: A teacher can control the pace of instruction and the actions of the students.
  • Time Saver: Direct instruction makes great use of instructional time which results in less time being wasted.

Select the Instructional Method that Suits the Task

Today, direct instruction was used to provide students with advanced technology skills. However, I will not be using this instructional method in the next class. Now that students have the foundation they need to be successful, they will be given an opportunity to apply their knowledge to complete the poster.

The following lesson will position me away from being the controlling voice at the front of the room to the sidelines as a facilitator. I will wander around the computer lab, offering assistance, suggestions, and encouragement. As much as I enjoyed today’s lesson, I can’t wait to chat with the students about their work next week!

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!

Establish an Authentic Audience for Technology Projects

Create a meaningful learning experience. Do not have your students create technology projects only for you. Instead, establish an authentic audience. An authentic audience is a real group of people that will view the work, such as other students, parents, community members, experts, or e-pals.

Authentic Audience and Technology Projects

Create an authentic audience for technology projects to motivate students.

As you may be aware, the Grade 8 students are working on the technology project TechnoEnvironment and are creating a postcard. This was the second class for this assignment after their guided discovery lesson to explore the Microsoft Publisher tools. Now that students were experts at using the program, they were asked to write to the students at the school and request help to solve an environmental problem.

NOTE: The TechnoEnvironment project has been a favorite for many years. Unfortunately, it is no longer available. To find other TechnoKids projects view the Project Matrix or visit the TechnoKids website.

A bulletin board in the front foyer was created in advance of class. As students walked into the computer lab they passed the blank board with the heading TechnoEnvironment and a sign that read, POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE, I wish you were here to help solve this problem.



Environmental Postcard

Sample of an environmental postcard about shark finning.

Students were told that their postcards would be posted onto the bulletin board and viewed by fellow students at the school. This created the authentic audience needed. Students designed eye-catching publications with text that was phrased so that young children could understand the environmental issues. I did not restrict the postings to only the best publications. Instead everyone’s work was used to decorate the bulletin board to celebrate all of their efforts.

The Grade 8 students were very focused during class time as they completed their postcards. Once their publications were posted they made positive comments about the overall appearance of the bulletin board. Now that their work has been on display for a few days I have noticed that many students stop to view the board and visitors to the school have remarked about the quality. There is no doubt that having an authentic audience created a more meaningful learning opportunity.

Why Create an Authentic Audience?

There are several reasons why an authentic audience is an important part of a technology project:

  • establishes a genuine purpose to the assignment
  • creates a real world connection which makes the task meaningful
  • raises the level of student interest in a technology project
  • motivates students to commit to the task
  • improves the quality of work
  • determines the writing style that is appropriate for the task
  • celebrates student accomplishments
  • fosters a learning community
  • showcases the technology program in the school

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!

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.

NOTE: This project has been a favorite for many years. Unfortunately, it is no longer available. To find other TechnoKids projects view the Project Matrix or visit the TechnoKids website.

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!

Five Issues Associated with Assigning Computer Homework

What do you do when students miss class due to a school trip, sport event, or illness? Typically, you would ask them to catch up on the missed work during their own time. However, this can often be a problem when the assignment is computer-related.

Six Considerations when Assigning Computer Homework

Consider the issues before assigning computer homework.

If you have been following this thread on the TechnoKids blog you know that I am currently teaching the technology project TechnoEnvironment to a group of middle school students. Today was the fourth and FINAL class scheduled for Internet research. I have had several students away due to school events or illness. These students have not yet completed their research and were told that they must complete their work during Open Lab time or at home.

Issues to Consider When Assigning Computer Homework

Assigning incomplete work as homework has a unique set of challenges when it is computer-based. Although, students have access to the computers in the school during Open Lab time, many students prefer to complete their school work at home. This may be because they are involved in clubs or teams during recess or lunch, enjoy playing with their friends during break time, or they like their home computer more than the school’s equipment. This situation caused me to reflect on several issues associated with assigning computer homework.

Issue 1: Software Compatibility

In many cases, the software used at the school must be installed on the student’s home computer to be able to open the files. As well, even if the software is the same, the version can make a large difference. For example, often a file created in a newer version cannot be opened in an older version. Below are some steps you may need to take if your students want to work at home:

  • If using a newer version of software at school, teach students how to save the file as an older version for home use.
  • If using a newer version of software at school, send a letter home explaining to parents that they may need to install a compatibility patch on their computers to view files made at school.
  • If students require the file to be opened by a different program at home, teach students how to save the file in a different format.
  • If students have a newer version of software at home, inform them to keep the file in the older file format so they will be able to open it at school.

Issue 2: Work Transfer

How can students transfer the files from school to home? At many schools, students are prohibited from downloading files. This mean email attachments or online storage directories are not a viable option. If this is the case then students need to have a USB drive they can use to transfer their work. Below are some steps you may need to take if your students want to work at home:

  • Teach them how to copy and paste files onto a USB drive.
  • Demonstrate how to properly insert and eject the USB drive.
  • Create a sheet for parents that explain how to complete these basics steps in case students need help.

Issue 3: Viruses

You need to safeguard the school network from viruses. There is no guarantee that the home computer has updated virus software. For this reason, you need to be cautious to prevent infection. Below are some steps you may need to take if your students want to work at home:

  • Most new virus software will automatically scan a USB drive for viruses when it is inserted. If your school software is older, teach students how to scan their USB drive for viruses manually.
  • Establish a policy that states all USB drives must be scanned for viruses prior to transferring files onto the network.

Issue 4: Parent Involvement

When students work from home their parents may not have the skills necessary to assist with a computer-based assignment. Below are some steps you may need to take if your students want to work at home:

  • Make sure that students possess the computer skills necessary to complete the task independently.
  • Provide a sheet that summarizes the expectations of the assignment. This will assist parents if they want to supervise the homework.

Issue 5: Computer Access

Not every student has access to a home computer. This might be because they do not have a machine or because other family members are using it. In addition, students may not have a reliable Internet connection at home, which can restrict research. Below are some steps you may need to take if your students want to work at home:

  • Provide traditional resources they can use for research at home.
  • Encourage students to use Open Lab time.

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!