From Mouse-clicks to Memory – a Research Remix

EDCI 591 Chapter Remix: The Guided Discovery Learning Principle in Multimedia Learning

by: Ton de Jong and Ard W. Lazonder


Guided Discovery Learning is a process in which students actively interact with an investigation or explore a topic to build understanding and meaning. Constructing knowledge can be more motivating than passively receiving information, but the effectiveness of this model hinges on the supports that are put in place to ensure that the learner is receiving appropriate guidance and direction. The idea is that if you have a learning target in mind, you should ensure that your learners are able to follow a process to discover the intended information. Even within this model there is a spectrum of guidance options that ranges from open, learner-centered free exploration to direct instruction. The focus of this chapter was on Science Education and the use of active investigations and experimentation to encourage student engagement through the use of multimedia simulations. The heart of this model is the idea that content is not directly presented to students, but is instead discovered and constructed by the learners.

Inquiry Models

Inquiry supports the Guided Discovery Learning process by having the students engage in scientific questioning, conducting experiments, and make meaning of their new knowledge. The chapter shared an Inquiry cycle of five phases including orientation, hypothesis generation, experimentation and conclusion. It was noted that the 5 steps are interchangeable and there was a need to add the idea of regulation where students would plan and monitor their learning goals throughout the inquiry process. De Jong and Lazonder also suggest that student learning can be disrupted by the challenges they face during the inquiry cycle. Designers needed to think about what strategies need to be in place to ensure that learners can attain the intended learning goals. 

Examples of Guidance

The following Guidance samples are listed by the level of teaching presence, from least to greatest.

  1. Process Constraints – reducing the complexity of the task by restricting the options available to the learner
    • useful for easing students into challenging information
    • examples: starting with fewer variables in an experiment or moving from a simple to a complex task
  2. Performance Dashboard – shows real time progress as learners acquire information or shows the learning topic as a map.
    • useful for students who are able to regulate their own learning based on the visual feedback
    • examples: concept maps or checklists
  3. Prompts – reminds learners to complete required steps or to engage in certain actions
    • useful for students who are able to perform the tasks but may not do so independently
    • examples: prompts to reflect after viewing a video or hints
  4. Heuristics – tells learners how to perform an activity, reminding them of a specific action or learning process
    • useful for students who may not know when and how to progress in a simulation
    • examples: links to related information or videos or explicit instructions to guide learners actions
  5. Scaffolds – tools that help the learner interact with the activities within the learning activity
    • useful for students who may not understand a particular activity or to support learners engaging in a complex task
    • examples: providing students with the steps of inquiry or a fill-in-the-blank tool to guide a written process
  6. Direct Presentation – sharing the target information directly with the learners. This can be used at the beginning of an inquiry cycle or throughout the learning process.
    • useful for starting a topic in which the learners do not have sufficient prior knowledge

The Research

This chapter explained that direct instruction is more effective than unguided discovery learning. Using Guided Discovery Learning increases the cognitive load on learners, and this will require some thoughtful planning by the teacher. The simulations that were shared as examples in the chapter were all found to be lacking in some way. None of the simulations were found to be truly adaptive to the learners and their differences. None of the simulations were studied for more than 5 weeks, and this was noted as a limitation. The other questions left unanswered by the research were how to support students as they gain confidence, and how to support collaborative learning with differentiated guidance?

Connected Research

I was immediately reminded of our #tiegrad summer studies! I remembered learning about “Edutainment” while reading articles about the acceptance of game-based learning in the classroom. The cautionary language about Edutainment reminds me of the importance of planning carefully on which simulations to include in a classroom and the need to ensure that our learner see value in participating. I am also reminded that a simulation that works with one group of learners may not work with the next.

Paolo Friere (1979) states that the more active a learner is in the discovery of his own learning, the deeper the connections and critical understanding will become. Learners take possession of knowledge that they generate. Through dialogue with others, students will co-construct meaning and create understanding. This is also supported by Bruner’s (1966) work when he shares the idea of games of discovery being far more effective than rote memorization. By solely attempting to impart knowledge to our students, our message can be lost. Bruner tells us that the point of education should be for students to master their learning and deepen their world view.

Relating this to my Practice

When I noticed how short the studies shared in this chapter were, I was concerned that the simulations were being used as “one-off” lessons. I questioned whether all students were being asked to experience the same simulations with the same guidance. I prefer multimedia environments that allow students to explore with a little more freedom. Not all students will enjoy using a simulation to learn a science concept, and the transfer of knowledge from mouse-clicks to memory isn’t a guarantee. I prefer a mixture of technology offerings (simulations, videos, curated links), hands-on items (manipulatives or objects to explore) and ongoing discussions to support learner-constructed knowledge. I also wondered about the research that revealed that direct instruction being more effective than unguided discovery learning cited in the chapter. Since most of the studies were short term, I am wondering if students would adapt to using simulations for learning over time? I also see value in free play and experimenting. Many of the simulations shared in this chapter seemed to be for Higher Education, so I also wonder if the results would differ with Middle School students. I believe that good guidance is essential in learning, but the most intuitive and personalized form of support might still come from a teacher and good pedagogy, regardless of the learning medium.

Examples of Learning Simulations

Some of the learning simulations that my students have used range from Edutainment-style games to Math models and free discovery-based learning. I’ve included some below.

Interactive simulations for Science and Math:

Khan Academy

Discovery Education Canada (to enjoy full simulations and interactivity you will need access to the various Techbooks available)

I also use SMARTTechnologies Notebook software which includes a variety of simulations


Cellcraft by Kongregate (another great source to search through for simulations) This one was shared by a student during our unit of study on cells!



Bruner, J. (1966, 2013). Man: A Course of Study. In D. Flinders & S. Thornton (Eds.), The Curriculum Studies Reader (pp. 79 – 93). New York: Routledge.

deJong, T. & Lazonder, A. W. (2014) The guided discovery learning principle in multimedia learning. In R. E. Mayer (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning (2nd ed.). (371-390) New York: Cambridge University Press.

Freire, P. (1979, 2013). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. In D. Flinders & S. Thornton (Eds.), The Curriculum Studies Reader (pp. 157 – 165). New York: Routledge.

Tuovinen, J. E., & Sweller, J. (1999). A comparison of cognitive load associated with discovery learning and worked examples. Journal Of Educational Psychology, 91(2), 334-341. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.91.2.334


Sharing Student Blogging

I met with several colleagues today to discuss student blogging. I believe that student blogging is a great tool for Multimedia learning where the student becomes the curator and author of an educational experience. Last year was my first year hosting public student blogs, and I have been speaking about the game-changing nature of having students write for audiences beyond the classroom. We experienced exciting connections and global interactions that ignited a passion for exchanging ideas with others and writing for authentic purposes.

Today I spoke of the “Getting Started” portion of student blogs. I shared my rationale for hosting blogs and why I chose to have my students write publicly last year. I had previously hosted a private wiki for my students, where each child had their own space and as class we co-curated or shared common pages as well. This was a great little private gathering place that contributed to a positive sense of community and became a valuable resource. But, since our population was limited to our classroom, the conversation could only extend a short distance.

I shared several blogging tools and the teachers discussed their own purposes for student blogging. The biggest question was “What do you do with the child that won’t blog?” Because it happens! When the teachers thought about the question being asked of them, they all discovered a certain level of discomfort in being told that they must write publicly. One teacher suggested encouraging the use of a shared paper notebook for some students to write their blog posts in and seeking feedback or comments from other students, possibly even students from beyond their own classroom.

After discussing parent permissions and FOIPPA we moved on to initial starting activities. My favourite launch for blogging is asking my students to create paper blogs – an idea shared by Pernille Ripp. My goals for the paper blog experience is to show my students the idea of writing becoming public – viewable by anyone;IMG_1081 and also the idea of using comments to engage in conversation. After the paper blogs are written by the students, they are posted onto the student’s lockers. We leave them up for several days encouraging students and guests to read each and every blog post. Students are given a stack of sticky notes to write comments on the paper blogs. We read several online blogs and comments and look for comments that create more dialogue. We called those comments “open” comments because they opened a discussion. “Closed” comments were comments that stopped a conversation or were difficult to reply to. Students were asked to write open comments, and “post” their sticky notes on the lockers with the blogs. Students were excited to be receiving comments and wanted to reply, so they learned about nesting their notes, or attaching their replies to the original comments so that the conversation could be read easily. The blogs were left up for about a week afterwards, and guests and students were welcome to continue commenting.

We discussed how the students might choose to use their blogs and what content they may want to include, such as images, stories, reflections or classroom
IMG_0864assignments. It becomes a personal platform for learning and sharing out. I shared one of my favourite quotes “Consuming content takes you places. Creating content lets you to take others with you” via @sjunkins.

I believe that blogging becomes a great Mulimedia learning tool for our students because it can grow into a personalized learning tool and a platform from which to spring into new conversations with other interested parties on topics that may not be traditionally emphasized in our schools. Blogging bridges the learning at home/learning at school divide by opening a window between the two spaces. Students can share their knowledge on a variety of topics that may not otherwise come up. Blogging will also enable more students to share their learning in a manner that connects closely with their learning process. If they learned with Multimedia sources, it will be easy for students to not only credit these sources, but link out to share these resources for other interested learners. Using a blog as a reflective tool, a curation tool and a tool for discussion relates closely to Mayer’s Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning. A student blog can be a place to share out useful sources of information and it can also be a place where students make sense of the information that they are curating. This can be a collaborative effort, where they filter, organize and make meaning of new information through their conversations and posts. Blogging has been a great tool for #geniushour in my classroom, as students could reflect openly and seek help and guidance when they were taking initial steps on new topics.

I am excited that more classrooms will be blogging in my school this year! #geniushour has a strong foothold in our school and it will interesting to learn from these students as they engage in their inquiries.

Research Focus 1

Last year was a time of professional growth and exploration for me. I was given an opportunity to work closely with other teachers to support the implementation of technology in more classrooms and to be a part of a pilot project where our Learning Support team deployed iPads to support student learning. One of my goals last year was to develop and launch a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy for our school. I met with parents and our administration during the summer of 2013 to begin drafting the policy. We looked at several other schools and the wording of their documents to formulate the language of our own policy. Once school began, I created a Technology Committee for our staff and then a second Technology Committee for our students, with the hopes that all three committees (parent, staff and students) would soon work together.

For a variety of reasons, I was unsuccessful in meeting my goal of school-wide implementation of BYOD. However, I was very pleased with the BYOD practices and launch within my own classroom. We enjoyed months of personal device use, and shared out our ideas and experiences regularly through a classroom Twitter account and at a conference.

My research interests for my #tiegrad Masters of Education assignment revolve around student use of personal devices for learning and connecting with a global audience. I am interested in discovering what prerequisite skills and habits should be fostered in students as schools begin to move towards BYOD (Bring Your own Device). I am interested in what discussions should take place, and who should be a part of those discussions. I am interested in discovering common language in successful BYOD programs. I am curious about how other schools are using student devices.

My focus will be on Middle Years schools (grade 6-8), and I will be seeking research to support that there is a need for some scaffolding and a bank of ideas to support learners in developing digital literacies while using their personal devices in and beyond an academic setting.

The resource that I hope to build through this research might include:

  • Suggested strategies and rationales to implement BYOD for students, teachers, parents, and administrators
  • Links to resources to support all stakeholders
  • Suggested initial steps in creating a strong foundation in digital citizenship skills
  • Links to sample BYOD documents
  • Examples of how devices are currently being used and ideas to extend beyond initial steps
  • Suggestions on building a positive school culture to welcome the use of student devices for learning


Some questions I have about this topic include:

  • What are some examples of good pedagogy in developing responsible use habits?
  • How are personal devices being used?
  • How can we support our learners in developing appropriate skills, habits and awareness to carry them through independent use at school and beyond?
  • What resources are available to support teachers in developing BYOD practices in their classrooms?
  • How can we leverage the possibilities of technology to amplify student voice and create rich global connections?
  • How will writing for a global audience impact student engagement and output in writing?
  • How can personal devices be used to bridge learning between home and school environments?
  • What language and habits should be common within a school culture to support an effective roll-out of BYOD?
  • How do we support learners who are not able to bring in a personal device in a BYOD school?
  • What do students need to know in order to interact safely with a global audience?
  • What resources are available for teachers who are looking to take the first steps in BYOD?

    The list my students generated last year when asked "Why BYOD?"

    The list my students generated last year when asked “Why BYOD?”

I intend to try BYOD again this year. I witnessed value in how my students used their devices last year. When asked why my students wanted to use their own devices last year, the response that resonated most for me was “So we can learn how WE want to learn”.

It’s all about the learning, after all.

Reflective Teaching – Day 30

Te@chThought‘s Day 30 Challenge is: “What would you do (as a teacher) if you weren’t afraid?”

I’d like to view this question as a teaching bucket list! There are a variety of ways that fear presents itself in relation to teaching or careers in general: monetary, starting over, losing seniority, retirement planning, learning new expectations, new bosses, etc. These are reasonable fears and concerns.

So, my no-holds-barred Teaching Bucket List would include:

  • teaching in another country – preferably somewhere tropical – I am truly drawn to Cuba…?
  • teaching in Northern BC. I would love some snow play days
  • stocking my classroom with the technology needed to provide learners with choice
  • teaching outdoors
  • teaching on a sailboat – Have you seen “White Squall“???
  • exploring more Montessori principles while teaching in public school
  • teaching in Scotland
  • teaching high school
  • blogging about my teaching regularly
  • team-teaching a multi-age group
  • opening my own school – a rural, one-room school house
  • teaching without a set schedule. I am not sure what this would look like, but I would like to believe that it would follow some sort of Distributed Learning model, but with even more flexibility for student needs.
  • trying some of the Waldorf principles and stream a large group of learners for several years.
  • finding a way to incorporate more play or tinkering at the Middle School level
  • collaborating on a long term learning experience with a buddy class – where travel and meeting in real life are a part of our plan


Reflective Teaching – Day 29

Te@chThought‘s Day 29 Challenge is: “How have you changed as an educator since you first started?

It is a little embarrassing to look back on myself as a teacher to see how I have grown and areas I’ve stagnated! I’d like to focus primarily on my time as a Middle School teacher.

Things that have NOT changed:

  • my love for my students
  • my reasons for teaching
  • my enthusiasm and excitement when things are going well
  • my determination to find a solution when things are not going well
  • my heart-on-my-sleeve vulnerability
  • my ongoing struggle with bureaucracy and the implementation of meaningless rules
  • my silliness – I have not grown up, so school is a great place to be!
  • my insecurity
  • I still worry all of the time!
  • my excitement and eagerness to learn
  • my problem-solving nature – I love to figure things out

Things that have changed:

  • I believe that I am learning more, and am growing in my teaching practice
  • My classroom is even more student-centred
  • I love collaborating and have found people with whom to collaborate – both near and far!
  • I feel more supported
  • I “mix it up” more, I try new things and get bored with routines
  • I am less likely to accept status quo, or heavy-handed implementations/suggestions of how to run a curriculum
  • I seek help far more frequently
  • I am having more fun and becoming more accepting of the person I am in the classroom
  • I share more
  • I see value in some of the skills that I am developing
  • I am still working hard to improve

Reflective Teaching – Day 28

Te@chThought‘s Day 28 Challenge is: “Respond: Should technology drive curriculum, or vice versa?

I don’t think that either should drive the other, actually. I believe that good pedagogy should drive all decisions in the classroom. Curriculum is mandated, but with the new BC Curriculum, there is the possibility for more flexibility. I don’t think that we should read the curriculum drafts with the idea of trying to find the points at which to implement technology. I also don’t believe that we should look at technology to see which elements of the curriculum could be covered most efficiently with the addition of technology.

I believe that the starting place for these decisions lies with the group of students with whom you are learning. A decision to use technology with a particular lesson with a particular group of learners one year may not be right for the next group of students. There should also be more opportunities for learners to self-select when to use technology and what need that technology might best satisfy. There must also be time and space without screens in our classrooms. In fact, we should be getting out of our classrooms more frequently!

Let good pedagogy be the driver in our classrooms.

Reflective Teaching – Day 27

Te@chThought‘s Day 27 Challenge is: “What role do weekends and holidays play in your teaching?

Whew, right now my weekends and the all-too distant holidays play the role of bonus “catch-up” time. Teachers in BC are only two weeks into teaching after a period of job action. So, it still feels like the beginning of September. I am tired every day! My mind is completely overwhelmed with the problem-solving that begins every school year: who are these learners? How can I best support their efforts? What plans do I need to work on? How do they fit together? Do I need to make changes to our classroom lay out? How can I ensure that they feel welcome? Why is my room such a mess still???! What could this space be like if we got rid of all of the desks? How should I review math concepts in order to best meet the needs of the most learners? What book should I read to them? Will they like me?

My mind does not stop when I get home. It does not stop when I lay down to sleep. If anything, sometimes the questions get louder!

And, that is only one piece of the puzzle. I am almost half-way through a Masters of Education program. And I am enrolled in TWO courses this term. I have class meetings regularly. And homework assignments. And blog posts to write – I have not completed any of the three that I thought I would have done by now. I have Twitter to respond to. Blog posts to read. Two text books to read and respond to. A book club. A MOOC. A Literature Review to craft- um, and I guess I will need to actually begin reviewing that literature!

The most important part of my life is my family. My wonderful husband has not yet complained that the cookie plate (that was full all summer) has not been filled in over a week. And that I am too tired to be any fun. My dogs, however, have been giving me “guilt eyes” and needing extra cuddles to make up for our new time apart.

My weekends are filled with work right now. That is a necessity so that I can keep up with the academic and workplace demands. Balance will eventually be restored. I know this. I am COUNTING on this!! Soon my weekends will be times where I can recharge my batteries, devote some time to planning fun learning opportunities for my students, learn things to help improve my practice, AND spend time with my loved ones and do the things that I love to do.