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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Who Controls What You Learn and Rhizomatic Learning

Today, I sat down and tried to wrap my brain around Rhizomatic Learning w/ Dave Cormier which I watched last night in the etmooc archives. Ok, so let me get this straight.. "We, as in all of us, or those in a class or Mooc" decide what the learning goals are?? Or is it that we are just introduced to a concept and end up going where it takes us? I must admit, I did not join etmooc without two goals. 1. To me more connected with like minded people. 2. To get and share great ideas in emerging technology and digital identities" as it pertains to my own curriculum design pursuits. I teach/facilitate in Computer Technology and that is why I am connected. I don't think I would be a very valuable teacher in the 21st century if I did not keep up with technology, technology is connections, new applciations, freedom on knowledge, blogging for reflection...sharing with wiki's and learning how to do it correctly(at least that is what I see).

In a Rhizomatic learning environment, do you sign up for a course that states "you decide what you will learn"?? Wow, would'nt that be great! I love etmooc and I love online learning, blogging, wiki's, new apps to play with. So the sad news is while I do teach these courses, they still have very specific standards which I must state in my syllabus and my goals for the week/unit must be detailed in our online CMS. I am blessed as I get to make my own curriculum as it pertains to the standards but that was not the case when I was in public education.

So I am grateful but yet I am stuck. What could be and what is reality is so different. Those of us that share and connect learn so much more than those who follow the conventional models of being educated but they do not have a choice. How do we get that to change?? I love the concept, I love that it has a meaningful name but how do we help others see the light??

Visit Classroom 2.0
Today, I tool a small break and moved over to my classroom2.0 community. There I found the longest and most powerful blog/paper I had read in a long time. Carol Black will be speaking to the classroom 2.0 community on February 5th. The topic is "Who is Educating us", Please read her blog post On Power, Knowledge, and the Re-Occupation of Common Sense. It was after I read this powerful change seen in communities that go from community education to "formal" education that I realized they were essentially being stripped of great lessons and being removed from their culture of learning. You see we need rhizomatic learning, in is in our nature as human beings yet we strip in away as soon as we empose "standards", or "goals as deemed by others". The most powerful thing I received from reading the whole blog was the following:

In “developed” societies, we are so accustomed to centralized control over learning that it has become functionally invisible to us, and most people accept it as natural, inevitable, and consistent with the principles of freedom and democracy. We assume that this central authority, because it is associated with something that seems like an unequivocal good – “education” – must itself be fundamentally good, a sort of benevolent dictatorship of the intellect. We allow remote “experts” to dictate what we must learn, when we must learn it, and how we must learn it. We grant them the right to test us, to measure the contents of our brains and the value of our skills, and then to brand us in childhood with a set of numeric rankings that have enormous power over our future opportunities to participate in the economic and political life of our society. We endorse strict legal codes which render this process compulsory, and in a truly Orwellian twist, many of us now view it as a fundamental human right to be legally compelled to learn what a higher authority tells us to learn.

You see in her blog and I quote: "One of the most profound changes that occurs when modern schooling is introduced into traditional societies around the world is a radical shift in the locus of power and control over learning from children, families, and communities to ever more centralized systems of authority. While all cultures are different, in many non-modernized societies children enjoy wide latitude to learn by free play, interaction with other children of multiple ages, immersion in nature, and direct participation in adult work and activities."

They had rhizomatic learning and it is now gone. They are forced into classrooms where the state/government decide what they must learn. If you have made it through reading the longest post I have writtent to date, I would love to hear what you think.. How do we move more towards a Rhizomatic learning model? Is it possible? Do you see why Carol Black and myself are so upset that natural learning has been replaced?? Your comments as always are appreciated. :)


  1. I wish I had an answer to your question about how we might move more towards (back towards?) a model of rhizomatic learning, but I don't, really. Except to say that I think many people, even those who believe in the more "traditional" way of learning (for lack of a better term) still use the "rhizomatic" way in other parts of their lives! Many people rely on others in their network, their friends, family, colleagues, people they connect with on social media, etc., to learn about numerous things--from current events to cooking to fixing bikes, etc. If we could get people to recognize how much learning they do, and see as valuable, outside of the structured school context, they might see that it can work.

    Also, I wanted to thank you for pointing out the "power" aspect in all of this. I hadn't thought of it this way before. Making students responsible for their learning, as Cormier put it in his presentation, also means they are more free to focus on what and how they want to learn, and this gives them more control. I hadn't heard of Carol Black before, and I'm glad you brought this idea to my attention. Thanks!

    -- Christina, a fellow etmooc-er

  2. Your questions are profound, and cannot be adequately addressed in a comment box, but, as you understand, power/authority lie at the heart of your quandary. I wrote a bit about this yesterday, when I described my course amid the contradictions of formal learning.

    The institution has authority to dictate the formal learning situation, but within that structure we have some control. Our primary aim as teachers should be to cede that authority to our students, to allow them to be the authorities over their own learning. We are always working within the larger structure, and are confined by the larger structure, but you can "let them decide what they learn" (even if in limited ways). Students struggle with their own authority and resist it because they are in the larger structure and want to succeed in the larger structure, which is designed to dictate what they learn and how they learn, what is "correct" and "appropriate" behavior in the larger structure. They are normally punished if they try to take control of their own learning, but we have to resist the temptation to "teach" them by only telling them the "right" answer. We have to give them the opportunity to struggle, the opportunity to fail, and reward them for that.

    This is probably too long, but I'm always willing to talk more with anyone interested in addressing/considering these kinds of questions.