Just Let Me Wander

flickr photo shared by pdinnen under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

I’ve been working behind the scenes to test-drive something related to student writing. It’s been an interesting experience in which the designers have done a solid job, but I have (perhaps wrongly) sensed some tension about how a developer wants to introduce their work to someone like myself, who wants to jump right in.

I am, admittedly, a diver.

I would rather know nearly nothing about a tool or technology before jumping in. Let me figure it out on my own terms. Allow me my disorientation. Let me push up against what you think a user might do. Let me discover workarounds when I find a wall. Let me get frustrated, if I need to. Let me ask for help, if necessary.

Let me explore and wander.

flickr photo shared by @artnabart under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Now, I am not a software designer, so I can only imagine the other side of this coin. Imagine spending countless hours, creating an experience, and no doubt, you’d want to share what you have put into play. You’d want outside voices to validate the work and you’d probably want want to point the visitor to places where you know there might be issues. You’d always want to demonstrate what works.

A designer probably desires so much to be a tour guide, showcasing and highlighting the wonders of discovery. They want to share their expertise and experience, and let a new user see the unknown through their eyes.

But more often than not, I don’t need that kind of guide and prefer to be without one. Just give me a map with some faint outlines, and some murky unknown terrain. Maybe a compass. Some snacks. If the design is done right, I should not need a guide at all. I’ll send back messages in a bottle.

There be dragons here … but just let me wander anyway.

flickr photo shared by thornet_ under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

And this story, while based in some real experiences, of mine is really me, thinking about the learners in our classrooms, right? If I give my students the entire tour, showing all the nooks and crannies of the learning experience, have they really learned the experience? Have they experienced the experience? As teachers, we are designers, too. Set the path in motion and let them wander. Even, let them get lost once in a while.

Peace (in the midst of it),


  1. Yes! Let them wander and play and muddle about. Sometimes I get too excited about what’s ahead and spoil it with too much tour talk ( I admit). I am like you when it comes to software– turn it on and let me do the figuring out. I learn so much more that way (kids do too). Great reminders.

  2. From the inner workings of the mind, come the creative sparks to design and the passion to be on the road to discovery. I like letting the mind wander. It opens the door to discovery.

  3. Woolgathering ever outward.

    Antispamipocket: maps door He mapped the door, the windows, the walls, the closets, the furniture as he walked through the bedroom door. No people. Back outside to report to his robot commander. “No human vermin inside, sir.” With that the commander radioed in a strike from Laser Command. Robot overlords one, humans nil.

  4. I agree with your observations, Kevin. I wrote some on this topic awhile ago (http://inspirepassion.edublogs.org/2014/10/24/166/) after I had struggled through using Zaption for an assignment for a course I took. As for jumping into the middle of things, I posited in my post, that students today are very accustomed to jumping into the middle of things as they try new apps and so forth. In the media/technology arena as it exists today, there is rarely a linear presentation of “how to” when the start using new tools. I’m a believer in “just in time” facilitation as students get stuck in the mud and cannot figure out how to get out.

  5. I love this piece. Exactly what I am thinking when I set my kids out on a course. If I tell them which way to go, then what have they learned. Staying in the struggle is a hard lesson that is really the only lesson.

  6. This is exactly what teaching should be. Teaching our children to work through the troubles. That will set them up for life. Let there be dragons! That’s the fun.

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