My personal experience of fatherhood continues to challenge my educational philosophy so please bear with me. Two weekends ago, my 4 year old (nearly 5) was given a "large hand-me-down" bike by a good friend of ours as their daughters had outgrown it. Immediately my father-in-law, being the nice grandfather that he is, screwed on "training wheels". While my daughter already had a bike with training wheels, I thought, what the heck, let's see if she wants to try and learn how to ride without the training wheels. Wow, she was ecstatic about the opportunity and had to immediately try! Now, stay with me here as I hope to have a point beyond bragging about my brilliant daughter.
I want to be very clear on my pedagogical approach for teaching my daughter how to ride a bike. I didn't do any research to find out what is an appropriate age for this decision. I didn't call the local police station to see if this was legal or even safe in their opinion. I didn't read any "brain research" to help me determine if she was mentally ready. I didn't send out a tweet asking for resources on the best ways to teach her or whether the community thought this was a good or bad idea. Nothing came to me in my Google Reader to help me decide. I simply took the step to make a decision on my own as a loving and caring parent because I thought she was ready!
To ease the suspense, teaching my daughter how to ride a bike was an awesome experience for me as a father as she learned very quickly with really very few bumps, scrapes, and bandages! The only real rough aspect was that I am totally out of shape and I was drenched in sweat and miserably tired by the end of the day. The muscles in my legs that I rarely use anymore were still barking like a dog a week later. I simply can't believe that I am still relatively young and yet physically pathetic.
To the main point... As I reflect on the experience, I sadly began to wonder, what if the "State" mandated that all kids learned how to ride a bike in school? What would that involve? Who would be responsible? What ramifications would there be?
Now, don't tell me that there isn't a precedent for this type of silly curriculum. I wonder all the time why certain curriculum is mandatory in public schools. I guarantee that we can and should do a hefty cleansing of mandatory curriculum that isn't so mandatory anymore!
I just think there is a lot of irony that would be fun to talk about as schools began "Bike Riding 101". I have had quite a chuckle as I envisioned all of the "buzz" that would occur in schools as we are forced to teach yet another thing! Yes, my wife thinks I am completely nuts so don't worry about commenting in that regard.
My request this week is to help me envision all of the "ironic" and "humorous" reactions from the different communities that make up a school district if schools were mandated to teach "Bike Riding". While I admit, this might be a fruitless exercise where we are just spinning our wheels, I will enjoy the "ride" myself.
Let me begin with my favorite groups of people, our ed tech community and network administrative people:
Ed Tech Community: People would immediately begin to talk about having kids explore and collaborate with other kids from around the world via synchronous and asynchronous communication by using blogs, wikis, skype calls, and back channels to talk about a myriad of topics including;
- Why use bikes period?
- How can we get kids talking about their experiences of learning how to ride a bike so future bike riders can tap into that knowledge base as they embark on their own learning experiences?
- What bikes are easiest to fix, troubleshoot, maintain and are most compatible with future projected bike technology when we don't even know what that will look like so they don't get caught up in "open source" fixes by untrained technicians?
Yes, out of nowhere a grumpy curmudgeon or two would begin to tweet, this isn't new as I wrote a paper on this twenty years ago and that we are all wrong in every way no matter what is talked about or has changed. Schools just can't teach kids how to ride a bike properly!
Network Administrators: Security would immediately become a priority!
- Should we let the students bring in their own bikes or use school provided machines?
- Where do bike racks fit into a budget and how much does one huge chain for a bike rack cost anyway?
- How can we prevent students from posting inappropriate signage on their vehicles?
- What is the best way to "control" students from personalizing any aspect of their bike?
The question begs to be answered. What might be the reactions from; administration, teachers (feel free to be specific as I can see some excellent points of view from the different curricular departments from PE to Science and Language Arts), custodial staff, lunch room and play ground aids, board of educations, students, parents, and anyone else you can imagine being impacted by such a mandate?
What kinds of articles would techlearning.com begin to write as a result?
Basically, I just wonder how much energy, money, and time would be expended. I can already see myself writing a blog post about just letting kids learn by just getting on the bike and trying to ride it while not worrying about pre-assessing the kids knowledge on bikes!
For those that haven't had the experience of teaching someone how to ride a bike, I found the best way to teach my daughter was just to get her on the bike, give her a push, and run along side to catch her if and when she began to fall! Eventually, yep, you guessed it, she began to ride on her own. Shouldn't teachers take a look at that model. Shouldn't we all just give our students a push in the right direction to get them started down the road of learning, run along side of them to give them guidance, help them stay on the right path and pick them up when they fall off.
Well, off to make a collaborative wiki for my colleagues to add lesson plans and links focused on how to teach kids how to ride a bike! Please, let me know what funny or ironic thoughts you might have as you envision the school district conversations hitting a boiling point about bike riding! Hey, I just might add them to my new wiki... Isn't that so 21st century...
Man... someone already beat me to it... How to ride a Bike...
by Scott Meech