Rhizomatic Learning – Responses for day 1.

So I’m facilitating this week of discussion on some stuff i’ve been talking about… and people are talking back. This openness stuff is for the birds :P

Wow. some kind of a day. I make no promises of being able to do this all this week… but i’m going to try. I know if i don’t make some comments about stuff right away, I will lose it. And there have been some amazing things created yesterday and today. (don’t know what i’m talking about? I’m fascilitating an open course this week… see the course page)

Giulia Forsythe (and cogdog)
First nod has to go to the breathtaking bit of work pulled together by Giulia Forsythe. If you ignore her overly kind bio, you’ll see a stunning piece of artwork describing her feelings about rhizomatic learning. She’s challenged people to add a new soundtrack.. AND Cogdog took her up on it. If you’re unfamiliar with what a ‘remix’ is… this will clear that up for you. I’m working on my own overlay for Giulia’s work which i hope to have done by the end of the week… but i’d like to address something in Cogdog’s video.

Roots vs. Rhizomes.
When Deleuze and Guattari chose the ‘rhizome’, and the reason i find it appealing, is that it is always a multiple. There is no ‘plant’ (singular) or tree or some single entity that starts and ends. No roots of a tree that serve that single tree. A rhizome moves and expands twists and turns, throws down roots and pushes up shoots as the context allows. When you look at a patch of japanese knotweed or aspen… you are seeing something that is many. I think this distinction is important :)

Motivation
Several comments in yesterday’s post inquired after ‘motivation’ in rhizomatic learning. What encourages the learner through the process… what gets them to engage? This is certainly a challenge. Of course, its a challenge for any model. The big obstacle, i think, is that most students are accustomed to an entirely different model. Some general comments

  1. ‘successful/good’ students have decided, in many cases, that their motivation is ‘doing things right’. My classes are a struggle for those students.
  2. In the best cases, motivation is something that is part of the learning process. It is the REASON the student is there… but this is not usually the case.
  3. I’ve found that rhizomatic learning motivates those not motivated by ‘doing it the right way’.

Facts Facts Facts
suifaijohnmak wrote a very interesting, penetrating response to rhizomatic learning. There is a point at which we started talking about facts… and i have funny feelings about facts.

Basically… i don’t believe in them. I know that’s an odd statement… but i mean it directly. I don’t BELIEVE in them. I don’t think that the things we point to as simple components “WWII started in 1939″ or “Two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen” exist on their own. Implicit in them is a whole bunch of things unsaid. What does it mean to start a war? War for whom? Does it make sense to call it a World War? Do we actually understand what is happening inside an atom? etc…

Yes. They are good shorthands for everyday conversation. Getting students to be able to repeat this ‘facts’ allows them to be part of a discussion that could allow actual learning.

Community vs. Peer Review
There were a few comments about the validity of ‘just getting stuff from the community’. Many, many people in my community get their research peer-reviewed. Some of them also apply equivalent rigour to the work that they post on their blog. Some of their blogs are reviewed (mine certainly is toughly enough by times) by the same people who do the peer reviewing for journals… except that it is done in public. ALL KNOWLEDGE is created by people. Saying that you are getting your curriculum from the community doesn’t mean, in any way, that what you’re working from has less rigour.

Challenge in rhizomatic learning
A couple of comments about this… which i can’t seem to find right now. The model breeds challenge… lots of it. Come out to see the event tomorrow…

Grading
I love the title of this blog. Music for deckchairs. A nice (if tangled) set of comments on the reality of the standards agenda and how this conflicts with rhizomatic learning. Yes. There are realities that we are bound by… this is how i handled grading during the last ‘graded version’ of a course like this.

phew…
I read lots of interesting posts today, many of which i did not do a good job keeping track of… sorry for those folks who didn’t get cited here. I’m sure there are some i didn’t read, but there were lots that i read and pulled together for these responses… lets see what tomorrow brings.

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18 thoughts on “Rhizomatic Learning – Responses for day 1.

  1. Thanks for the clarification of roots versus rhizomes. it’s the whole thing, and duh aspen makes total sense to me, as trees I have cultivated, tended in my tiny bit of forest yard. They spread and shoot up,a cross in such powerful ways, and I continue to try, with one success to transplant to my front to start a new ‘zome.

    That fits better as well for the way we see networks grow form. It’s the whole system.Nice.

  2. Regarding facts, at some level they need be considered as what we think of as a facts, and not just for practical or shorthand purposes either. “There is a wall to my right” might not include all information about the distance away from me it is, or the height of the wall…but there is still a distinguished wall there, communicated to me by a fact. We don’t exist in a world of colorless mush.

  3. Hi Glen. I don’t deny the existence of war, oxygen or hydrogen either. The ‘wall’ is there. yes. smash your head against the rocks and it will hurt. But is it a fact in the sense that i need to ‘learn’ it? It’s probably also a house, a brick some mortar and a bunch of other things. Yup. and a wall is a great shorthand for all those things. Not shorthand in the sense of a lie… just an easy way to refer to that thing on my right, to tell me that i should bang my head on it. What is the value of learning ‘this is a wall’ as a fact? Is it ‘true’ in the sense that it should be added to the learning process as something i can then regurgitate back on a test?

  4. Not so much for pointless regurgitation, but if I pay a carpenter to build me a wall I don’t want to end up with a house. A house won’t keep the neighbors out of my yard as well or as efficiently as a wall. There’s value to me in getting the wall that I want so that it can do what I want. There’s value to a carpenter learning what a wall is (or more realistically, a certain style of wall) so that he can excel at his trade. Walls exist in and of themselves, just like war and just like the starts of wars.

    For this particular wall to my right, you could say there is low value in knowing that this one is a wall, but that might be only because such knowledge has become automatic to me. My 5 month old probably values that info more. On the other hand, life would be strange if I couldn’t distinguish what walls are, I might waste a lot of time trying to open or eat this one.

  5. Hi Dave. I like your approach to grading – it seems a fairly logical response to Music for Deckchairs. We need to include criteria for grading as well so It would be great to see a sample network learning plan to get an idea of the way the students approach this.

  6. Hi Carol,

    They were all different. my students asked for a sample network plan too… and i asked them to make one up.

    I gave them alot of feedback on them early on – “will this help you remember this idea” “can you try and integrate this with other thinking” “how does this match up with this other idea” “do you think copy and pasting random things in your LNP is going to fool me into believing you thought about this”

  7. Glen…walls definitely exist. there are material things in the world that can be known – though not discussed or shared or possibly even conceptualized, depending on their complexity – without language. but most of the things we call facts rely on language, and while the word “fact” does what Actor-Network-Theory calls “blackboxing” (or hiding, disappearing) their construction, it doesn’t mean they are without history and position conflated into whatever remains in the “fact.” a fact is not a material thing in the way a wall is a material thing. that we need to breathe? true. materially evident. that air is 2 parts hydrogen and 1 oxygen? true, but a product of a complex knowledge-production discourse that is kinda useless to know outside of a broader context of the historicity and applicability of science.

    years ago, i lived in the Arctic. i took a class in the Inuktitut language and failed miserably. it doesn’t use nouns the way English does. so the teacher would point to an object in the corner of the room and say, “sometimes this is called a thing you sit in. sometimes a thing that is white. or orange. depends on the colour.” we all agreed that the thing in the corner – which i call a chair and consider a fact – was there, material and real. but my concept of a chair as an absolute, a thing? didn’t exist. in that language, that’s a contingent idea.

  8. Hi Bon. I really think you’re describing the limits of the technology of language, more than anything else.

    As for the “kinda useless” part, what matters here is the distinction of existing or not. The degree to which they are valued is certainly up for speculation.

  9. Dave

    I also like your grading approach, it’s just that it looks like grading to me.

    So to be clear, I’m not opposed to the radicalism (or the anti-positivism) of rhizomatic learning. Quite the opposite — I’m really convinced, so I find that I’m frustrated by the lack of more purposeful or at least rhizomatic solutions to as basic a problem as grading. It’s as though all the doors and windows can be flung open except that one, and to that we just say, oh yes, that’s the door marked “Rules”—or sometimes “Reality”—and we’re not allowed the key to that one.

    So I find myself thinking, OK, why not? If we’re up for arguing the materiality of things, how come we then take what seems like a relatively quiescent view of the rules of institutions? Is this is a long view? Can we really not imagine a future university without these particular rules, given that we have so many public institutions (including those with very significant workplace training) that don’t use grades to measure learning?

    Just wondering, you know, in that open way.

  10. I’ve got complexity theory, actor network theory and a whole bunch of others on the list of ‘how does it compare’. :P why don’t you take a shot at it

  11. Thanks Stephen. this is how i teach my courses. I try to do summative posts… it gives us ‘curriculum’ build by the ‘community’. :)

  12. At the same time as being enveloped in this fantastic Rhizomitic Learning MOOC am reading…’Semblance and Event: Activist Philosophy and the Occurrent Arts.’ by Brian Massumi, which perhaps goes some way in answering the problem of the ‘Wall?’

    ‘Events are always passing; to experience an event is to experience the passing. But how do we perceive an experience that encompasses the just-was and the is-about-to-be as much as what is actually present? In Semblance and Event, Brian Massumi, drawing on the work of William James, Alfred North Whitehead, Gilles Deleuze, and others, develops the concept of “semblance” as a way to approach this question. It is, he argues, a question of abstraction, not as the opposite of the concrete but as a dimension of it: “lived abstraction.” A semblance is a lived abstraction.’

  13. I like your thinking about facts, Dave (and Bon’s comment by extension), as I think it raises issues of how things are perceived, who perceives them, and who has the power (yes, there is that power issue again ;-) ) to determine this or that is the answer.

    I suppose part of the challenge in this thinking is how to integrate or otherwise use this within an educational system (and by extension, social system) that likes to quantify so much. No, it does not have to be intergrated, but somehow we need to play in the same sandbox to be taken seriously as education professionals (compared to a fringe group that is readily dismissed and thus has castrated message).

    Jeffrey

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