Hands on the Wheel

Being a new dad is easily the most amazing experience of my life. My little girl, now thirteen months old, astonishes me every day with her rapidly developing communication skills, and her mobility – she has gone from slow crawling to pushing her wheelie-bug around the house with abandon in what seems like the blink of an eye.

Her latest toy is a steering wheel, which has a horn, indicator lights, and so on. It reminds me of her developing independence – she’s gone from a baby, totally dependent on her parents, to a toddler, exploring the world on her own.

Giving students the steering wheel when it comes to the online world can be daunting. As teachers, we like to be in control of what’s going on, and can doubt the abilities of students to self-organise. While some students struggle with the idea of self-organisation, I do believe that many students ARE capable of it, and just require the leadership to be show how to do it.

A great example of this has been on our Writers’ Club. As well as providing students with their own blog, it also provides them with the ability to form groups and create forum discussions around particular topics. I haven’t explicitly made this a part of the Writers’ Club’s way of operating – it’s just kinda been there, and I’ve left it alone to see what, if anything, would develop.

Slowly, we are seeing students starting to use the forums to discuss things of real significance. Given the steering wheel, these students haven’t driven it off a cliff, as we might fear. They’ve driven into interesting new places, and taken control of their learning in a way previously unimagineable. For example, here is a conversation comprising of members from three different continents, discussing literacy without the direction from their teacher.

These students are showing what learning can look like within a vibrant online community. While structure is needed for student learning, there must be room within that structure for students to own their learning. It’s time to let them have the wheel.

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