ED366 – Conceptual discussions for my course that starts next week

ED366 is the second shot that I have at running a ‘community as curriculum’ style course face 2 face at UPEI. It has some lovely qualities about it (has no follow up course, had no set curriculum when i took it over) and the response from the last one was positive enough to give me the freedom to take another shot at it.

I’ve tried to ignore the old syllabus while i’ve been thinking my way through what i want to do this time. I’ve had a number of really interesting educational experiences, talked to some very smart and experienced people and had some time to think about stuff in the last two years. I’d like to make three broad comparitive reflections, try and blend that into some of the things i’ve done in the last couple years and hope for some feedback from folks.

It’s about the technology. No it isn’t.
I wrote a little blog post a couple of months ago having finally framed what i think the position of technology is in what, lets face it, is a course entitled “educational technology and the adult learner”.

We can look at the methods and methodologies (and epistemic foundation) implicit in the machine and recreate those in our classrooms without the purchasing the brand [or the technology for that matter]. A wireless keyboard available in a classroom can work just as well [as a smartboard], as can simply having people talk to each other and write down the upshot of their conversation. The thing that makes the smartboard a challenging (if not a bad purchase) is that it suggests that that collaborative spirit, that idea of sharing is ONLY available with a smartboard.

My last course was naively trying to address the technologies in the local surrounding and ignoring the core beliefs that underwrite the course. Yes, there are technologies that allow us to leverage connective possibilities that would be very difficult if not impossible f2f. There are other things (graphics, archiving) that are undeniable… but. And this is the but that doesn’t show up in the original syllabus, it’s not about any specific technology, but rather, understanding the pedagogies implicit in them, the things that can be leveraged from them, and the ways in which we can be successful in using them.

So. Focus on the things that are important… let the technologies come naturally when they’re needed.

The network vs. the community
I am very sad to report that I now believe the community approach is a bit of windmill tilting. While the last course was very successful in creating community like feelings among the students (combination of good students, some lucky events and many of them knowing each other already) but that sort of thing is not likely to last. There are exceptions of course… but for a regular course it’s just not likely.

My focus this time, rather, is going to be about connecting students with their own possible networks. Rather than thinking about the course as an attempt to create a community, I’m thinking rather about giving people some experience with working in online networks, creating a simulated community, and to connect people with some possible actual peers that they may have out there who do what they do.

So. Networks good… communities still good, just illusory as an intercontextual goal.

The archival space
I still keep beating myself over how to balance respecting the work students do enough not to create a system where their work just gets thrown in the bin (digital or tin) and not wanting the be the ‘owner’ of the repository as I was on the last version of the course. I want students to be able to control their own work… and yet i want them to be able to work together.

This time, we’re going to live in the cloud. I want to open the whole process up and not have a centralized location for the course itself. I mean… i need a place to put a syllabus. I need a place to blog (oh wait… that’s here). But i want to give the students a network presence that they can continue to work with as they leave the course. I want to try and negotiate the course curriculum out in the open. We’ll see 🙂 I’ve got googledocs accounts setup for all my students as a backup (in case they don’t want to live in the open) but i really want to see how far i can push this idea of jointly creating a curriculum but still leaving the content in the hands of the students.

On Bonnie’s advice, I’m going to rely on twitter. I think its a good idea, and i’ll take a run at it. It’ll have to be the glue that holds the ship together.

Community as Curriculum and Open Learning

wow… sometimes the different threads of work that you are doing converge into the same place… it does make me wonder if they aren’t all just reflections of the same thing. anyways

Over the last few months i’ve been focusing much more on the idea of open learning and finding a practical foundation for my rhizomatic education and community as curriculum models. I’ve been lucky enough to work with George Siemens on a couple of projects, including the Edfutures course. When this is combined with my realization at Northern Voice that the entirety of my critique of knowledge and learning hinged on the tyranny of the moment… well… I decided to start writing a book. Which I’m doing.

As part of that process, I’m going to try and clean out the different ideas that I have, to explore them deeper and try to make them more transparent. The following video is my first attempt at drawing the threads together between open learning and community as curriculum… the method of learning with the way that we decide on what we learn. In it… you’ll see some books turn into people… this is related to the tyranny of the moment.

I know this is all jumbled up. But this is how it is in my head right now.

Community as curriculum – We are the learning. We learn from each other, through each other, from each other’s learning, from our ideas, our shared and unshared contexts and, maybe more importantly, we learn to continue to do this… because that open collaborative spirit is going to be the curriculum of success as we move forward.

Open Learning – We’ve got a paper coming out soon that explains this better, but openness in the sense of transparency of practice, of opening the doors and giving access of allowing people into our work. Of sharing.

The tyranny of the moment – Print is responsible for our retaining a massive number of things. It underwrites many of the advances we’ve made, it’s dreadfully important. But the technology that makes print forces us to think in terms of final drafts, of ended thoughts of things that are defined and finished. This is holding us back…

I don’t actually mention the latter in the video… but you can see it in there…

Community as curriculum a syllabus (starts tomorrow)

Here’s the syllabus for the course i start tomorrow morning. It’s my first shot at what a community curriculum course might look like. It takes into account some of the realities (moodle and angel are the prevaling course management systems on the island) tries to bridge traditional learning and then hand the learning over to the student by the second week.

The syllabus is pretty much out of date as soon as I post it, as I’ll be tinkering with it, and adjusting it to the feedback of the students and my own experiences in the course. I would, therefore, LOVE some feedback from you folks to help refine where i can. 2 week course, 10 3 1/2 hour sessions, 27 students, educators (and, I guess, educators to be) across many different professions.

Welcome to Educational Technology and the Adult Learner.

This is a course comprised of adult learners looking to acquire and refine skills directed toward teaching future adult learners. Key to this course is the concept of networking, in the community sense rather than the technological. Each of you in this class will be a primary part of your classmates’ curriculum and learning experience. In a world where technologies change very quickly and what is new or current is always fluid, a focus on ideas about technologies and strategies for drawing on and collating resources is more sustainable than an emphasis on teaching mastery of any specific technologies.

Therefore, while a sufficient quantity of tools, training and tricks will be presented to satisfy the technophile, this course is an exploration of what the technology can facilitate, educationally and professionally. It is only through the use of new technologies that certain kinds of knowledge building and community-based learning can occur, and these are the specific literacies that are emphasized in this course. The goals of learning to approach and assess new technologies on the fly, and to utilize Web 2.0 skills to filter the mass of ‘newness’ and focus in on the applications that will most satisfy a learner/educator’s curricular goals will also be primary.

The course is broken down into two major sections; week 1 and week 2. The first week is focused on group work and research. Learners will be expected to explore three different learning platforms/environments and both evaluate the systems and produce learning materials that will work in each one. Week 2 will focus almost entirely on ‘community curriculum’, wherein learners will research and present one learning object that is relevant to their own environment, and classsmates will be required to respond and interact with those pieces.

Community Grading Rubric

Personal Learning Plan – Students must submit an eportfolio (My Work – top of website page) and will be assessed on their ability to complete a personal learning plan developed during the course. This portfolio will include reflective blog posts as well as upkeep of the (My Planning Page – top of website page) with relevant acquired literacies.

Course participation and Group Work – Students are responsible for responding to the work of other students (Reflections for review – top of website page), specifically commenting on reflective posts and commenting on their learning object plan. They are also responsible for the learning objects created by the group during the first week of the course.

Community as Curriculum project plan – Students are responsible for choosing one educational technology tool, technological method, or community plan and developing a project plan for including it in their own practice that includes a learning object as well as the reasoning for its inclusion in their own context. This will be then be presented in a ten minute presentation to the class. All materials will be released creative commons so that all students can use this material in their classes.

Community Curriculum

When dealing with a discipline where knowledge is a moving target, or where differing ideas of what is good or best practice can co-exist quite comfortably, it can be very helpful to use the community of learners itself as the curriculum.

This is especially true of the field of educational technology. What may be ‘true’ or ‘current’ in one year might be entirely outdated and left behind in the next. Every day new best practices are developed and new efforts are made to push the envelope a little further. The traditional reaction to this is to try and ‘keep current’ with all the work that is going on. This is, however, a mistake. They key is to find a community of trusted people from whom to learn, and to whom you can contribute.

This course is designed to simulate and, hopefully, emulate this form of curriculum building and model these life long learning skills. Each student will be responsible for contributing to the curriculum, and for participating in the development of other student’s work.

Day 1 – Self Assessment, goal setting and ‘helper tools’

The purpose of the first day of classes will be to take a good look at our existing practice. We need to identify ‘transparent technologies’ in the classroom and make a distinction between these and the helper technologies that we will be employing to keep track of information and work throughout our course. Goal is to get students to set objectives for themselves.


1. Introduction to the general concepts of ‘educational technology and the adult learner.’
2. Personal Learning Plan and the community rubric.
3. Personal reflective responses.

Activity – Tagging ourselves – paper edition

DIscussion – Groups – What literacies do we need?

Activity – Tagging ourselves – digital edition

Outputs – First draft of personal learning plan, groups selected, tagging explored, first reflection written.

Didactic pieces by dave. (time dependent)

tagging – connecting the pieces.

Structure – All collaborative work comes down to whether the ‘structure’ is working. Fantastic work by students and instructors can easily be lost by not taking 30 seconds to consider where your work fits into the whole.

Goal Setting

As this community of learners that makes up this course will necessarily be at different levels of experience in teaching generally and the facilitation and use of technologies in particular, it is necessary for each student to chart out their own learning path through the course. It is also the responsibility of their colleagues to help them with advice and to learn from different people’s goals.

We will each fill out a “Learning Plan” which will include a variety of goals that the individual student will be attempting to achieve during the course of this course, and, at the end, what goals they might set for themselves as they leave the course.
Helper Tools

Del.icio.us – This tool will allow us to share a variety of tools and websites while we are working our way through internet research. It will also keep a record for you of the websites that you visited during the course.

Skype – is an instant messaging and VOIP (voice over IP) tool that allows for a variety of community style interactions. It can be essential for getting information quickly.

Google – Seems silly maybe, but effective use of google can find the answer to most any question

Technorati – And when google doesn’t seem to get you the answer, try the blogs. There is a huge educational technology blogosphere… use them.

flickr – Photos are great, and a tool like flickr can bring alot to a classroom. Having students take digital snapshots of busted engines might seem strange, but its a great record keeping tool.

youtube etc… – video sites can be a great resource for training materials.

Screencasts – I think this might be the most useful teaching tool available to the educator when dealing with technology.

This Website – See some things missing, like blogging and wikis… they are included in the course website, I decided to go that way because I’m comfortable with this technology. Comfort is important.

pageflakes – Just to illustrate the possibilities outside this website, I’ve included a pageflakes page that will aggregate the course content as well.

Self Assessement

Self Assessment is a critical part of any fruitful learning experience. It is necessary to understand what tools we bring to the table before we take the time and effort necessary to develop a new set of literacies. It’s important to remember that this should not only include ‘technical literacies’ which, while important, are often not as critical as teaching skills, organizational skills, the ability to focus on a task or any other of the myriad of skills that professionals acquire and perfect over the course of their careers.

Day 2 – Community Learning

Learning to use educational technologies in a vacuum, that is, without the value of a filtering community is very difficult. What most successful educational technologists are doing is finding communities of educators with like interests, and learning from them. Choose groups for formal educational project.

Didactic pieces by dave.

Blogging – An introduction to blogging, both as a useful source of knowledge and as a way of creating effective community.

Rhizomatic Knowledge and Connectivism – How curriculum can be formed when things are changing quickly.

Day 3 – Moodle

Moodle is a content management system and more specifically a Virtual Learning Environment, a Learning Content Management System and a Course Management System. There are other names for it, but, suffice it to say, it stores your courses online. It is open source and free to download and install on any given server that you can find. Our moodle course http://moodle.upei.ca/course/view.php?id=585 Moodle planning.

Didactic pieces by dave.

Discussion Forums – Discussion forums (aka bulletin board system, threaded discussions) can be a very effective participation tool. Students can be given a variety of different power situations and it can be used for a variety of ‘process’ tasks.

Wikis – Wikis can be used for many different things, from schedule building to creating online resource repositories.

Setting of objectives.

1. Create an audience for the exercise

2. create exercise in moodle

Day 4 – Angel

Our Angel Sandbox http://sam.hollandcollege.com/section/default.asp?id=dave_cormier_s_sandbox

ANGEL’s web-based teaching and learning tools allow educators to Get Perspective on student performance, Take Action to interact and intervene, and See Results of student achievement.

We will be approaching Angel with much the same plan as the one we had for Moodle. The intent will be to assess the ways in which the learning management systems are similar and to discover ways in which general strategies can be applied to any learning scenario.

Didactic pieces by dave.

Reading the page – Learning to use software can often be as simple as reading the text that is on the page. Most professional software systems have that information present… too often left unread.

Doing it Live – There are a variety of reasons to have syncronous or asynchronous sections to a course. Live chat, streaming and twitter can be helpful, but sometimes giving people the time to think is essential.

Day 5 – Evaluating tools and projects (day 2 – day 4)

Throughout this week we will have evaluated and created learning resources using two content management systems as well as explored the idea of online community learning. The groups will spend this day creating learning reflections and solidifying the work that was done in the three platforms into a definitive format for the learning portfolios. 2 modules

Day 6 – Community learning and Community Curriculum 1

The first part of this day will be to reflect on the work from the week before. We will then spend considerable time preparing for incorporating the community curriculum project. The instructor will present his two last contextualized pieces, and the students will model and discuss various productive ways of engaging with the prsentation in preparation for the student presentations for the rest of the week. The first few students who are prepared to present this day should present in the second half of the class.

Day 7 Cool Tools and Community Curriculum 2

This day will start with a whirwind tour of some of the more cutting edge tools available for teaching. The Openhabitat project and the living archives project will be featured prominently as well as some potential use cases from a variety of educational contexts.

Day 8 Teacher Stories and Community Curriculum 3

Several educational professionals from different contexts will be invited to present (via skype) to the class. Jennifer Maddrell has just completed teaching a 24 hour course with transit tranining authorities for the State of New York. There are many literacies that can only be acquired through experience, the purpose of this class will be to explore and catalogue those experiences wherever possible.

Day 9 Special Issues and Community Curriculum 4

There are a variety of ‘special issues’ that will no doubt be referenced a various point throughout the course but will be covered in more detail during this class. They include internet security, creative commons licensing and adapating for learners with a disability.

Day 10 Bridging to the future and Community Curriculum 5

The first part of this class will be taken up by the remainder of the community curriculum presentation. The remainder will involve reflecting on the work that was done, a review of the planning page to examine what literacies were acquired and to develop strategies to maintain as many of those literacies as possible.

Rhizomatic Education : Community as Curriculum

Below is my paper as it appears in Innovate – Journal of Online Education. Many, many thanks to the fine folks there for all their help.

Note: this journal has since gone ‘out of print’. the originals are still available at archive.org but i have adjusted the links here so that they continue to work.

The truths of which the masses now approve are the very truths that the fighters at the outposts held to in the days of our grandfathers. We fighters at the outposts nowadays no longer approve of them; and I do not believe there is any other well-ascertained truth except this, that no community can live a healthy life if it is nourished only on such old marrowless truths.

—Henrik Ibsen, An Enemy of the People (1882/2000, IV.i)

The increasingly transitory nature of what is lauded as current or accurate in new and developing fields, as well as the pace of change in Western culture more broadly, has made it difficult for society in general and education in particular to define what counts as knowledge. The existing educational model with its expert-centered pedagogical planning and publishing cycle is too static and prescribed to accommodate the kind of fluid, transitory conception of knowledge that is necessary to understand the simplest of Web-based concepts. The ephemeral nature of the Web and the rate at which cutting-edge knowledge about it and on it becomes obsolete disrupts the painstaking process by which knowledge has traditionally been codified. Traditional curricular domains are based on long-accepted knowledge, and the "experts" in those domains are easily identified by comparing their assertions with the canon of accepted thought (Banks 1993); newer concepts, whether in technology, physics, or modern culture, are not easily compared against any canon. This lack of a center of measurement for what is "true" or "right" makes the identification of key pieces of knowledge in any of these fields a precarious task. In less-traditional curricular domains then, knowledge creators are not accurately epitomized as traditional, formal, verified experts; rather, knowledge in these areas is created by a broad collection of knowers sharing in the construction and ongoing evolution of a given field. Knowledge becomes a negotiation (Farrell 2001).

Knowledge as negotiation is not an entirely new concept in educational circles; social contructivist and connectivist pedagogies, for instance, are centered on the process of negotiation as a learning process. Neither of these theories, however, is sufficient to represent the nature of learning in the online world. There is an assumption in both theories that the learning process should happen organically but that knowledge, or what is to be learned, is still something independently verifiable with a definitive beginning and end goal determined by curriculum.

A botanical metaphor, first posited by Deleuze and Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus (1987), may offer a more flexible conception of knowledge for the information age: the rhizome. A rhizomatic plant has no center and no defined boundary; rather, it is made up of a number of semi-independent nodes, each of which is capable of growing and spreading on its own, bounded only by the limits of its habitat (Cormier 2008). In the rhizomatic view, knowledge can only be negotiated, and the contextual, collaborative learning experience shared by constructivist and connectivist pedagogies is a social as well as a personal knowledge-creation process with mutable goals and constantly negotiated premises. The rhizome metaphor, which represents a critical leap in coping with the loss of a canon against which to compare, judge, and value knowledge, may be particularly apt as a model for disciplines on the bleeding edge where the canon is fluid and knowledge is a moving target.

On Knowledge

A clear definition of the word "knowledge" is difficult yet key to any search for shared understanding. Indeed, as Hinchley (1998) notes, "Like other cultural assumptions, the definition of ‘knowledge’ is rarely explicitly discussed because it has been so long a part of the culture that it seems a self-evident truth to many, simply another part of the way things are" (36). However, the concept of knowledge is fluid and subject to cultural and historical forces (Exhibit 1); as Horton and Freire (1990) argue, "If the act of knowing has historicity, then today’s knowledge about something is not necessarily the same tomorrow. Knowledge is changed to the extent that reality also moves and changes. . . . It’s not something stabilized, immobilized" (101). The word itself is thought to have multiple origins, drawing from forms of "to know," "to recognize," and the Old Icelandic knà, meaning "I can." The combination of these origins suggests a relationship of knowledge, power, and agency that is grounded in both the social and the political spheres. Knowledge represents “positions from which people make sense of their worlds and their place in them, and from which they construct their concepts of agency, the possible, and their own capacities to do” (Stewart 2002, 20).

Information is the foundation of knowledge. The information in any given field consists of facts and figures, such as may be found in the technical reference manuals of learning; in a nonrhizomatic model, individual experts translate information into knowledge through the application of checks and balances involving peer review and rigorous assessment against a preexisting body of knowledge. The peers and experts are themselves vetted through a similar sanctioning process that is the purview, largely, of degree-granting institutions. This process carries the prestige of a thousand-year history, and the canon of what has traditionally been considered knowledge is grounded in this historicity as a self-referential set of comparative valuations that ensure the growth of knowledge by incremental, verified, and institutionally authorized steps. In this model, the experts are the arbiters of the canon. The expert translation of data into verified knowledge is the central process guiding traditional curriculum development.

Changing Knowledge

New communication technologies and the speeds at which they allow the dissemination of information and the conversion of information to knowledge have forced us to reexamine what constitutes knowledge; moreover, it has encouraged us to take a critical look at where it can be found and how it can be validated. The explosion of freely available sources of information has helped drive rapid expansion in the accessibility of the canon and in the range of knowledge available to learners. Online access to thousands of primary documents may be provided via the Internet for less than it costs to provide far fewer examples in a traditional textbook package (Rosenzweig 2003). In addition to this increased accessibility of primary documents, a new breed of user-generated content has emerged on collaborative Web sites and in other online venues. Web sites such as EdTechTalk, The Webcast Academy, and the Open Habitat Project collate the work of a variety of professionals to create snapshots of the knowledge of a particular field as it is seen at a given time (Cormier 2008).

Thus the foundations upon which we are working are changing as well as the speed at which new information must be integrated into those foundations. The traditional method of expert translation of information to knowledge requires time: time for expertise to be brought to bear on new information, time for peer review and validation. In the current climate, however, that delay could make the knowledge itself outdated by the time it is verified (Evans and Hayes 2005; Meile 2005). In a field like educational technology, traditional research methods combined with a standard funding and publication cycle might cause a knowledge delay of several years. In the meantime, learners are left without a canonical source of accepted knowledge, forcing a reliance on new avenues for knowledge creation. For instance, a researcher exploring social software use must rely at least in part on online knowledge repositories because current information on the terminology used in these areas is simply not available in any exhaustive or definitive form in books or peer-reviewed articles (Nichol 2007). Information is coming too fast for our traditional methods of expert verification to adapt.

In fields frequently affected by the gatekeeping practices of the traditional publishing industry, professionals in fields such as the science of spectroscopy are turning to online community learning spaces or collaborative document holders such as wikis. The wiki, or any collaboratively constructed document for that matter, solves a number of issues inherent to the expert-driven model as it has the capacity to be more current than any expert-assessed content package or traditional publication can usually be. Wikis and similar tools offer a participatory medium that can allow for communal negotiation of knowledge.

Collaborative knowledge construction is also being taken up in fields that are more traditionally coded as learning environments. In particular, social learning practices are allowing for a more discursive rhizomatic approach to knowledge discovery. Social learning is the practice of working in groups, not only to explore an established canon but also to negotiate what qualifies as knowledge. According to Brown and Adler (2008), "The most profound impact of the Internet, an impact that has yet to be fully realized, is its ability to support and expand the various aspects of social learning" (18). Several communities on the Internet offer some idea of what can be accomplished in a participatory social learning environment where knowledge is being negotiated (Exhibit 2). Social learning is particularly valuable in fields where the parameters of knowledge are constantly shifting and a canon has not yet been solidified. Educational technology is one such field. Alec Couros’s graduate-level course in educational technology offered at the University of Regina provides an ideal example of the role social learning and negotiation can play in learning (Exhibit 3). Students in Couros’s class worked from a curriculum created through their own negotiations of knowledge and formed their own personally mapped networks, thereby contributing to the rhizomatic structure in their field of study. This kind of collaborative, rhizomatic learning experience clearly represents an ideal that is difficult to replicate in all environments, but it does highlight the productive possibilities of the rhizome model (Exhibit 4).

These changes have sparked two primary responses among purveyors of traditional educational knowledge. One has been to attack these new sources as flawed as has been the case in the history department at Middlebury College (Jaschik 2007). These critiques of collaborative knowledge verification, premised on assumptions of validity rooted in the traditional strictures of academic publishing, reveal an essential misunderstanding of the place of socially constructed models in the new knowledge landscape that challenges traditional notions of canon just as the influx of content about women and ethnic minorities challenged certain canons of traditional knowledge in the 1990s (Banks 1993). An alternative response to changing knowledge foundations has been to engage in a flurry of discussion about intellectual property rights, debating the merits of various Creative Commons licenses and trying to determine the means by which content creators’ intellectual property rights can be protected even as content is distributed freely (Wiley 2007; Downes 2007; Bornfreund 2007).

Both of these responses are inadequate: the first, obviously, because it denies the legitimacy of a rhizomatic knowledge-creation process that is already overtaking traditional models and the second because it relies on the old notion of knowledge as resident in a particular individual and frozen in time, reified by publication. However, if knowledge is to be negotiated socially, then the idea of individual intellectual property must be renegotiated to reflect the process of acquisition and the output constructed by that process. What is needed is a model of knowledge acquisition that accounts for socially constructed, negotiated knowledge. In such a model, the community is not the path to understanding or accessing the curriculum; rather, the community is the curriculum.

The Rhizomatic Model of Education

In the rhizomatic model of learning, curriculum is not driven by predefined inputs from experts; it is constructed and negotiated in real time by the contributions of those engaged in the learning process. This community acts as the curriculum, spontaneously shaping, constructing, and reconstructing itself and the subject of its learning in the same way that the rhizome responds to changing environmental conditions:

The rhizome is an antigenealogy. It is a short-term memory, or antimemory. The rhizome operates by variation, expansion, conquest, capture, offshoots. Unlike the graphic arts, drawing or photography, unlike tracings, the rhizome pertains to a map that must be produced, constructed, a map that is always detachable, connectible, reversible, modifiable, and has multiple entryways and exits and its own lines of flight. (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 21)

With this model, a community can construct a model of education flexible enough for the way knowledge develops and changes today by producing a map of contextual knowledge. The living curriculum of an active community is a map that is always "detachable, connectible, reversible, modifiable, and has multiple entryways and exits":

If the world of media education is thought of as a rhizome, as a library à la Eco [in The Name of the Rose], then we need to construct our own connections through this space in order to appropriate it. However, instead of that solitary groping made by Brother William, we see as our goal the co-construction of those secret connections as a collaborative effort. (Tella 2000, 41)

In the practical example of Couros’s class, students created their own rhizomatically mapped curriculum by combining their blogs with information to which Couros pointed them and linking the combination to the particular knowledge that they discovered through discussions with key people in Couros’s professional community. In accessing Couros’s professional network, students had the opportunity to enter the community themselves and impact the shape of its curriculum as well as their own learning. The role of the instructor in all of this is to provide an introduction to an existing professional community in which students may participate—to offer not just a window, but an entry point into an existing learning community.


In a sense, the rhizomatic viewpoint returns the concept of knowledge to its earliest roots. Suggesting that a distributed negotiation of knowledge can allow a community of people to legitimize the work they are doing among themselves and for each member of the group, the rhizomatic model dispenses with the need for external validation of knowledge, either by an expert or by a constructed curriculum. Knowledge can again be judged by the old standards of "I can" and "I recognize." If a given bit of information is recognized as useful to the community or proves itself able to do something, it can be counted as knowledge. The community, then, has the power to create knowledge within a given context and leave that knowledge as a new node connected to the rest of the network.

Indeed, the members themselves will connect the node to the larger network. Most people are members of several communities—acting as core members in some, carrying more weight and engaging more extensively in the discussion, while offering more casual contributions in others, reaping knowledge from more involved members (Cormier 2007). This is the new reality. Knowledge seekers in cutting-edge fields are increasingly finding that ongoing appraisal of new developments is most effectively achieved through the participatory and negotiated experience of rhizomatic community engagement. Through involvement in multiple communities where new information is being assimilated and tested, educators can begin to apprehend the moving target that is knowledge in the modern learning environment.


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Note: This article was originally published in Innovate (http://www.innovateonline.info/) as: Cormier, D. 2008. Rhizomatic education : Community as curriculum. Innovate 4 (5). http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=550 (accessed June 2, 2008). The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher, The Fischler School of Education and Human Services at Nova Southeastern University.

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