Please Walk on the Grass

A strange thing happens to many people when they’re told not to do something. There is an inner voice – sometimes known as the devil on your shoulder – urging you to do it anyway.  Maybe it goes back to our youth, when we’re told not to jump in the mud puddle because you’ll get your shoes dirty, or not to eat the freshly baked cookies because they’re being saved for Aunt Alice’s visit.

‘Please keep off the grass’ signs similarly beckon some (not me of course) to kick off their shoes and frolic in the blades. So when I saw this sign during a cycle around Centre Island in Toronto, it gave me pause. On one hand, I loved it’s thumb-in-the-nose attitude to the ‘keep off’ signs. On the other hand, I thought – do we really need signs telling us to try and not try things? Maybe so.

I worry about that in education. Learners in my digital literacy course are always asking for specifics around rubrics and expectations, which always gives me the heebie-jeebies. I say – try something different – you’re not specifically tied to doing XYZ in XYZ order! Yeah, my bones might creak a bit in that I remember a time when there were (gasp!) no rubrics.

Online education seems to amplify this. Redundancy in providing ‘signs’ is seen as a good thing, and I get it. Having been both a learner and an educator in online courses, different platforms, communication methods, logins, discussion boards, collaborative tools, etc., can make for a confusing labyrinth. Signs are needed for usability and ease of navigation. But there also should be built-in opportunities for exploration, deviation, creation. Some new and extraordinary pathways – most significant discoveries happen by chance, without any directions.

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