The Online Teacher

A Web of #ETMOOC Connectedness

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ragno_the_spider_with_a_simple_web_clip_art_20169#ETMOOC reflections on Rhizomatic Learning

Although I have to confess I haven’t had time to attend any #ETMOOC Webinars this week, my filters have enabled me to siphon off enough information to feel like I was actually present (thanks to recordings, blogs, Twitter, Google+, etc.). My RSS feed has directed me to some great readings, and more importantly, to some thought-provoking questions. I have witnessed the self-doubt of seasoned university educators (in no way indicative of weakness, but instead an attribute to their ability to self-evaluate in the desire to grow and pursue better learning experiences for their students), and the frustrations of others who are seemingly stuck in a workplace not keeping up with the integration that technology allows. However, here I sit in a web of #ETMOOC connectedness, learning through others.

What should we know about rhizomes and rhizomatic learning?

Rhizome: The plant 

  • A rhizome is a plant stem that grows horizontally under or along the ground and can produce new plants when it sends out roots and shoots from its nodes (i.e., ginger, irises).
  • If a rhizome is broken into pieces, each piece may generate a new plant.
  • As opposed to the organization of the root-tree system, a rhizome is a sprawling connectedness, with no beginning or end. Do you see the analogy?

The philosophical concept and rhizomatic learning

  • The philosophical term “rhizome”/“rhizomatic” was originally developed by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in their Capitalism and Schizophrenia (1972–1980) project.
  • Dave Cormier points out (Dave’s Educational Blog: Rhizomatic Learning – Why we teach?), “Rhizomatic Learning is a way of thinking about learning.” The rhizome is a kind of network that is “messy, unpredictable … and grows and spreads in strange ways.” The community is the curriculum and the syllabus the garden space in which the curriculum grows.
  • April Hayman states in #etmooc Rhizomatic Learning: “A community is a living breathing thing and so is learning (particularly in the sense of rhizomatic learning). You cannot force it, but if you do, like putting bamboo in a pot, you stunt its growth.”
  • Rosemary Powers states in Machines, revolutions and uncertainty: “Importantly, the conversation we had this week with Dave Cormmier about rhizomatic learning confirms for me that the real transformation in education isn’t about the technology, but the shared construction of knowledge and action that new technologies can facilitate.”

Making the connections

Just as rhizomes can spread and grow in unpredictable ways, we too can develop through reaching out and interacting with our community. We need to establish and grow trust, and through this, we can construct knowledge. By nurturing and expanding our personal learning networks and environments, and by allowing ourselves the freedom to ‘get messy,’ we will open ourselves up to learn and grow in a web of connectedness. However, will everybody’s experience be the same? My educated guess is no, because everybody learns in their own unique way, and the needs of individuals vary. Michelle Franz shared The Challenges to Connectivist Learning on Open Online Networks: Learning Experiences during a Massive Open Online Course. This article addresses the challenges to connectivist learning, including levels of learner autonomy, presence, and critical literacies required in active connectivist learning. However, these are discussions that warrant more time and depth, and MOOCs, like individuals, have their own unique set of characteristics. From my personal experience, since joining #ETMOOC, I have learned a considerable amount through a web of connections. This experience is beginning to translate to my workplace, thereby adding ‘action’ to the cycle of connectedness. As Glenn Hervieux has mentioned in his blog, in order for true change to occur, we need to effect a change in three dimensions; how we see, speak, and behave (Which came first, the chicken or the egg?). I look forward to continuing the ‘action’ and, indeed, learning from a steady stream (and sometimes flood) of information and discussion that now comes my way. Thank you #ETMOOC community for all the connections!

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2 thoughts on “A Web of #ETMOOC Connectedness

  1. Gosh, this experience really does feel like “messy” learning! And I really like your opening statement about filters having been the key to your learning this week. I’m such an information glutton, I think I need to have more of a plan for when and how much I partake of the information stream. Sometimes, if you’ve gone hungry for a while and suddenly get food, it’s easy to overeat 🙂 I have such a diverse position as a tech. coordinator, focusing is real challenge. Then throw in ETMOOC 🙂 and avoiding the saturation point is a daily battle.

    One unexpected result in sharing my posts and some of my takeaways from ETMOOC with our district admins. has been some dialogue with one in particular, who is working on her doctorate. She remarked after reading my last blog post, that learning at times is viewed as a very linear process, but in reality constructing knowledge is more complex. I think that’s why the rhizomatic learning concepts resonate for me, like they do for you. It gives me a new way of helping encourage students with projects and learning activities that allow them to go different directions with their thinking and learning. I think distance learning may be better suited in some ways than classrooms are. What do you think?

    I like how you stated your summary of rhizomatic learning in a practical way:

    “Just as rhizomes can spread and grow in unpredictable ways, we too can develop through reaching out and interacting with our community. We need to establish and grow trust, and through this, we can construct knowledge. By nurturing and expanding our personal learning networks and environments, and by allowing ourselves the freedom to ‘get messy,’ we will open ourselves up to learn and grow in a web of connectedness.” Getting messy does involve risk, but opens us up to new possibilities.

    Thanks so much for your interactions with me. I think you and others have allowed me to take some new turns in the way I make my learning visible to others. I also think I will take more time to refer to others who have commented or add to my own learning process. That’s a strength I see in your posts that I want to emulate. I’m glad we can sharpen each others thinking and practice.

    • Haha, I love your analogies, Glenn! It sounds like you are an avid learner who has a desire to know everything; probably a trait that makes you very good at what you do. Just remember to rest now and then. 🙂

      Distance learning can certainly be better for some non-linear learners; however, like any course, it depends on how the course is set up, who the student is, etc. I feel that rhizomatic learning can occur in any type of environment, given the right support and framework. However, it needs to be accepted that rhizomatic learning can get ‘messy’ and students may seem to be ‘off-task’ when in fact they are exploring, connecting, and learning. I feel that sometimes the requirement for teachers to meet so many set learning outcomes inhibits the ability to allow the freedom of exploration and networked learning, because as you’ve probably found out, the learning can end up occurring in an area you hadn’t anticipated (in my view, this is what makes it so organic). This is definitely a topic that could generate long conversations – I hope my comments make sense.

      Thanks so much, once again, for your kind feedback. It is wonderful to be able to connect with such a diverse group, and as you say, help each other sharpen their thinking. You have a great ability to self-evaluate, and you are definitely showing me how to make my learning visible (yes, this is a hard thing to do). Thanks, Glenn!

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