Rhizomatic learning – Response for day 2 and 3

I knew i wouldn’t get it done every night… but here is the second attempt at pulling together some threads of feedback and organizing them here for later. (see my intro post if you don’t know what i’m talking about)

A carving Bon brought back from her 2 years in the arctic

A metaphor too far
Terry Anderson layed a pretty heavy critique on the session from yesterday and it falls into three parts all three of which seem to position rhizomatic education and the people in the discussion as people OPPOSED to us having an education system. I don’t think there’s a single person taking time our of their day in that discussion when they could be doing anything else in the world who aren’t DESPERATELY PASSIONATELY devoted to the idea of learning, to having some kind of education system and to education as a concept.

In his critique is of the negative responses to the question “Why do we educate students?”. He notes that there were no responses that said ‘for learning’. I will note that many people in the session suggested that were positive: for innovation, creativity… stuff like that. Here is a link to the slide if you would like to make your own judgement. We were trying to get to the reason behind it… the thing that drives the ‘kinds’ of things we teach. It’s entirely possible that in doing so… we were focusing too much on the negative. A good lesson for all of us… focusing on the negative does not forward a discussion.

Educating for Nomads was being posited as a goal FOR THE EDUCATION SYSTEM

That does leave us with the unanswered question as to why such an eminently experienced, intelligent educator got the impression that we didn’t care about education. I don’t know.

George – Rhizomes, back to basics

In his back to basics post, George challenges me to help him understand why the rhizome metaphor is useful. He describes what he sees as an existing division between formal/informal and facilitated/student driven learning and asks “how is it more than this?” Now that… is a good question.

I see Formal learning is something bound tightly to objectives, outcomes and (power) systems. Informal learning not so much… I see informal learning as the stuff i learn from my buddies. It was this ‘stuff i learn from my buddies’ that had me start this whole rhizomatic thing in the first place as i was trying to understand how the informal community of practice that i was in was responsible for so much of my learning. And, more importantly, how i could devise a way to do it on purpose.

It’s super easy to learn when you find just the right people at just the right place. This, it seems, doesn’t happen everyday… so i set out to try and find a way to explain it so i could have some theory to back up what i was trying to do in the classroom… replicate the ‘learn from your buddies’ style of teaching.

The conclusion that i came to, through reading Deleuze and his rhizome metaphor, was that i was looking at the whole thing backwards. I was thinking that courses were about CONTENT and what i was trying to do was bring people together with the content. What the rhizome metaphor is meant to impart is that the learning process is rhizomatic, it moves, shift, sprouts at different times and places (and different for different people). It’s many. I used to try and restrict the knowledge in a given field so i offered fewer options to my students… now i do the opposite. By starting without a set curriculum, by thinking of the learning process (and by extension the content) as growing OUT of the learning process, i offered up all the options, the ways of seeing things to my students… allowing them to find their own paths… (to be nomads).

This, i would argue, is what the rest of life is like. Why should we teach any other way?

Rhizomes and collonization
Two excellent posts one from one of my favourite online people and the other from my favourite person. One i’ve never met face to face and one i’ve lived with for 10 years. I won’t try to restate what either of them say, but rather try and entice you to read their blog posts with a snippet from them

For instance, the metaphor of the rhizome is a fine antidote to our tendency toward reductionism. This reductionism lies in the background of the interviewers’ attempts to define rhizomatic learning, I think. Like most of us, they want a handy nugget that says, “Oh, yes, that is rhizomatic learning.” The metaphor of the rhizome, however, helps us to see that reductionism is always a fiction. No thing can ever actually be reduced to a discrete thing, or not in reality. We can think of ourselves as discrete and alone in the Universe, a train of thought that usually leads to all sorts of misery and suffering, but none of us are discrete, however convenient or persuasive the reductionist fiction might be. Keith Hamon http://idst-2215.blogspot.com/2011/11/change11-defining-rhizome.html

and this one

We live in a culture and time where our minds are colonized by education. Most particularly, by education as a system. We go to school, almost all of us, and are taught from an extraordinarily young age that school equates with learning. Our cultural concepts of education and learning are intrinsically interwoven with notions of schooling. Bonnie Stewart http://theory.cribchronicles.com/2011/11/09/the-rhizomatic-learning-lens-what-rhizomes-are-good-for/

Broad responses from me
It’s been an incredible few days of learning for me. I’ve heard from many thoughtful voices on ideas i’ve spent a lot of time thinking about… some supportive, some critical all well thought out and focused. I really appreciate the time and effort people have taken to interact with the subject and with me.

There are tons of other cool blog posts and links out there… but i trust you have other ways of finding them. Search for the hashtag on google, follow the daily, follow the tag on twitter, join the Facebook page. There is little that is more rhizomatic than a MOOC :)

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14 thoughts on “Rhizomatic learning – Response for day 2 and 3

  1. In a way, Dave, your session yesterday (it has been too hectic in the office to attend any of the others, alas) reminds me of a conference presentation, with all this related feedback and your responses like the Q&A / discussion time afterward. Perhaps something here may become a model of some sort of academic presentation with ongoing discussion / thinking about an issue, as opposed to the more ordinary 5 minutes or so (if you are lucky!).
    To this point, I applaud your setting an example by addressing the positive as well as the challenging comments about this; excellent model of character for not glossing or otherwise spinning everything to come out like a politician who tries to make everything shine. Life is not like that, and your baring yourself for feedback (which is coming, like it or not) reminds me of how those rhizomes may develop, namely in some place not initially expected.

  2. Dave, are you talking about Terry when you say there is an “unanswered question as to why such an eminently experienced, intelligent educator got the impression that we didn’t care about education. I don’t know.”? I don’t see in his post (http://terrya.edublogs.org/?p=632&preview=true) that he believes you “don’t care” about education.
    What he’s pointing at is more that the personal intention is what defines anything’s real worth (cp. Dalai Lama’s comments on euthanasia), i.e., this rhizomatic learning can/will also be distorted by human ambition, etc. and so there is no panacea.

  3. Missed the presentation but had read a thousand plateaus for the second time recently (the first time i wondered what these people were on when they wrote it!)
    This time round i had a readiness for the way it was written, the disjointedness or rhizomatic/schizophrenic flow.

    The slide captures a moment in time, its a photograph not what occurred… I wasnt there, but i find institutionalised education does all these things (on the slide) and more. I know what I want it to do, and i know what it has done for me. To reiterate: all of this and more. And what I want it to do is to provide more rather than lesser freedom (pp Colin Lanksheare).

  4. First, I really am sorry for casting a negative pall on the Change Mooc. As Stephen noted and I acknowledged on my blog response, it is unfair to categorize the whole Change MOOC on one grumpy experience. However, I hope the post helped in some way all lof us struggling to find ways to make effective Change. Yours and other posts and comments have helped me to understand Rhizomatic learning, MOOCs and myself!

  5. Nomad Exquisite

    As the immense dew of Florida
    Brings forth
    The big-finned palm
    And green vine angering for life,

    As the immense dew of Florida
    Brings forth hymn and hymn
    From the beholder,
    Beholding all these green sides
    And gold sides of green sides,

    And blessed mornings,
    Meet for the eye of the young alligator,
    And lightning colors
    So, in me, come flinging
    Forms, flames, and the flakes of flames.

    Wallace Stevens

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