classroom management / homeschool / problem solving / teaching / Tech ed

How to Balance Teaching and Independent Discovery

I had a question from a reader about how I keep students from messing up the desktops, deleting icons, going into files they shouldn’t, while still encouraging a

sense of exploration and adventure. It got me thinking of all the tricky stuff I teach that makes computers both challenging and fun. For example:

  • how to create wallpaper, which means they have to change the lab computer’s screen
  • how to add shortcuts to the desktop (which means they might add some I don’t like)
  • how to change the direction of the screen (after a precocious fifth grader inverted it 90 degrees)
  • how to add shortcuts to the start menu (which means they might add some I don’t like)
  • how to move the taskbar from the bottom (and then another student likes it at the bottom, but doesn’t know how to fix that)

It’s a balancing act as a technology teacher (or a homeschooling mom) to teach students how to problem solve on the computer and personalize their station while reigning students in from making computers useless to others. Especially when our job as technology teachers is to model problem solving, which includes playing around with icons.

My IT guy has the computers set so when I reboot, it goes back to the original layout. That helps, but precludes students adding icons that are useful. I want to teach them to drag-drop from the menus to the desktop. I’ve settled for allowing them to rearrange and showing them how to fix it when the student before them didn’t undo their play (right click on the desk top and select ‘sort by’).

My students, as I’m sure yours do, get quite creative at times, do things I don’t know how to undo immediately. For instance, the first time they hid all the icons on the desktop, it took me a bit to figure that one out (right click on desktop, view, show desktop icons). Then there was the time they turned the desktop so it was canted 9o degrees. One of them had to tell me how to fix that one (Ctrl+arrow key). I gave them extra credit for that one!

How do you handle this particular issue?

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Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-fifth grade and creator of two technology training books for middle school. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman.  She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, IMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything and Technology in Education. Currently, she’s working on a techno-thriller that should be ready this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.



One thought on “How to Balance Teaching and Independent Discovery

  1. Pingback: How to Balance Teaching and Independent Discovery « Ask a Tech Teacher « Social Computing Technology

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