Dear Rhizo15

I’m sitting on the front porch of my house, the kids just put to sleep, and wondering at the strangeness of it all. Two years ago I had this idea that I wanted to try and run a course on empty. I wanted to take the work I’d been doing on rhizomatic learning and the MOOC stuff I’d done and take it to its logical extreme. What if there really is no content? Can there be a meaningful experience if there’s nothing more than a title to a course and a few questions? Two years later I’m wondering what to say to an unknown number of people now part of a community (set of communities) on the last day of the second of those courses.

Some of you are people who’s names are regularly used in conversation in my house. You’ve become part of the family in some cases, archetypes in others. There are some whose names, when i see them attached to work, immediately bring that feeling of excitement, that frisson of ‘what have they come up with today’ that makes the internet in general and our community in particular such a compelling place to let your brain run through. There are other names that are attached to parts of the work we are all doing that isn’t mine, who’s work i respect, but don’t quite understand. There are some, and it happened today on the very last day of the course, who’ve clearly been here all along and I haven’t seen. How crazy is that?

I guess what i wanted to say, above all, is that you all mean something to me. You are directly, individually and collectively proof that we can come together, from all over, and make meaning together without making a big deal about it. That people can care about each other and the work we are doing in a way that is sometimes partial, but usually meaningful. That people can be supportive of strangers and their work. That they can be generous and forgiving of flaws and cheerleaders on some very, very silly ideas. You all mean something to me. You make me hopeful.

I also wanted to talk about the quality of the work that’s been done this year. Lenandlar has done a great job of collecting blog posts, and I encourage everyone to drop over there and see some of the work that’s been done. Profound, courageous and intelligent work. Some of it devastatingly funny. Some of it a little odd :). None of it dismissive, or condescending. But that’s only part of the story. Just wandering through the image section of the twitter hashtag is a rampage of jokes, research and reflection that make me feel like this work is worthwhile. So thanks for being smart. And for being willing to bring your smart into my world.

I started the journey into the rhizome because there was something about it that rang ‘true’ for me. Or, maybe more to the point, something that seemed familiar. I had been doing a certain amount of work in internet communities, and that connection was certainly part of it – but there was something deeper for me. I’ve always been suspicious of easy answers, of pat responses, of formulas that fit screwdriver into screw. I see answers making sense in some parts of our world, but I think that we examine the human on too profound a level for that to work. As I’ve grown through thinking about it, but mostly through working with your folks this year, and those of you from last year, I’m starting to see what some of it might mean to me.

For education, it means that learning being difficult doesn’t mean that it’s bad. It means that we can trust people to confront complexity and come out better on the other side. Mostly… because they do that everyday anyway. We are immersed in complexity… we can’t escape it. Learning that allows people to confront uncertainty, make responsible decisions and still be good citizens is exactly the kind of learning I want to support. Learning that sees the ‘content’ of what is learned as simply ‘understand each other’… that’s maybe the core message. The journey of the rhizomatic learner, that nomadic journey, is through the earth of humanity. We move passed the ideas of others, expressed the best way they knew how. We feed on them. The process is always broken, filled with miscommunications and bits and pieces…

For me it means that the last ten years of work still make sense. I’m not sure what the next project is… God knows I’m tangled in enough student projects at my university to last the summer at least. But I do know that there are enough people out there that I respect, that I care about, that I like to think with that I could reach out and find a few of you to play with, or that you might reach out to want to try something out with me. It gives the odd little kid that I was, and the not-quite-conformist adult he became the feeling that he is part of a fellowship. A tribe.

You guys are all right.


Author: dave

I run this site... among other things.

17 thoughts on “Dear Rhizo15”

  1. We never really talk about how emotive and pure a writer you can be. And how your thoughts actually CAN make sense sometimes (to some – somehow).
    We should talk about that more.
    Lots to look forward to Dave.

  2. it’s been a great ride and for someone i’ve never met or “studied with” per se you have become such an important part of my graduate work – really appreciate that. though i think i might be one of the odd ones you mention… it was that batman thing wasn’t it? it tipped the scale. i thought this was interesting: “For education, it means that learning being difficult doesn’t mean that it’s bad,” as this morning i was just writing of #rhizo15 that for me it had come to signify that learning something challenging could be easy and fun (and community building). anyway, :::bowing deeply:::, thanks.

  3. Every time i think it isn’t possible for me to love you any more than i do, and then you go and write something like this. Thank you for spreading so much love and joy and creating space for so many others. I am one of the ppl for whom rhizo14 created a career transformation (sthg i mentioned in ur hangout with Jesse)
    P.S. “not-quite-conformist”????? More like “nowhere-nesr-conformist-and-instigating-others”

  4. Thank you! To echo Maha’s comments about career transformation – being involved in #rhizo15 has made me decide to NOT pursue my formal PhD, even though I thought it was what I had always wanted to do. I just don’t need to anymore, everything I need to grow is out there in the community.

  5. Dear Sir,

    with reference to your course,

    If I look back at outcomes since January 2014, I ask myself how did THAT happen?

    I am quite prepared to accept claims to limited responsibility.

    I am in no hurry to come to conclusions other than content is people.

    I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss these matters in greater depth.

    (With beer)

    Yours faithfully

    S. ENSOR (63)

    Your course has been at times, immeasurably aweful.

    Such a WE gives some cause for hope.

    I sort of get your community as curriculum now.

  6. I have learned more from Rhizo 15 than from any other course I have undertaken in the for years. I am still digesting and learning. I want to thank you for providing this introduction to a whole new world for me.

  7. it’s a fine event Dave, thanks indeed for the hosting of it… more than a teachers’ common room, more a themed fancy dress cocktail party…. that you can join in without even having to get out of your pjs;) really the best moments of fun stolen in between doing a million other things I’ve had in years 😉 it’s been a genuine pleasure to meet you all, hope we can stay in touch

  8. What to say, Dave, other than, you said what needed to be said here with such warm and thoughtful words, and for that (again), I offer thanks for the parchment on which the map was purposely never drawn, so that we could draw our own maps, and maybe mingle our collective coordinates from time to time and create something larger together — a constellation map, perhaps. Something to gaze at.
    I am more and more convinced that it all comes down to stories, and how the stories connect together. Stories are our learning.
    Thanks for the journey.
    Is there a place where you have pulled or are pulling the artifacts together from the last event? Did I miss that story?

  9. Dave, this is an interesting “closure” post in that it muses without expressing what you seem to take away from it. Having missed the final week and a half of live #rhizo15 work due to some travel, I am reading and commenting now as I can, trying to bring this experience to my own personal closure. Thus far, I have not been able to, and it leaves me somewhat unsettled . . .

  10. I thought that I would thank you most for bringing the rhizome to life, to live in higher education. You have done that, and a great many have benefitted, me most of all.

    But as nice as the idea was, I have to thank you most for introducing me to all these wonderful people who are now my friends and colleagues. Actually, all these people — that is the idea, right?

    I bow.

    Okay, now about that beer with Simon. I’m all in. Your place or mine?

  11. Dear Dave,

    I feel so sad that I wasn’t able to follow through with the Rhizo15, I feel so left behind.

    But I have valuable reasons. Things in the real world has been overwhelming in a positive direction. I have left my administrative job in my University and have dedicated myself to search for educational technology companies here in the Philippines. You guys have always been my inspiration and the frequent thing that come out on my mouth is how I have built a professional learning network online. It has been a gold mine. And now I am still pre-occupied finishing my masters degree and focusing on building my budding career in e-learning which is why I haven’t been around much in the network. But for sure, after this year it will be PART of my work to keep up with the network that you have helped come together.

    I’ve known you guys already for more than a year and it seems so amazing! Thank you for creating a course that allows people to gather in one room and talk about unlimited learning with directions going everywhere. I appreciate it so much and it really contributes a huge thing on my personal and professional growth.

    Thank you so much to everybody!

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