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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Rhizomatic Learning (Are We Simply Applying Fertilizer?) #change11

A rhizome is a kind of creeping rootstalk that branches off and grows in all directions. It's also used as a metaphor for a particular type of learning process that happens, well, organically.

Dave Cormier describes it in Week 9 of ChangeMOOC:

Knowing is a long process of becoming (think of it in the sense of ‘becoming an expert’) where you actually change the way you perceive the world based on new understandings. You change and grow as new learning becomes part of the things you know.

Sounds a bit like networked learning…? The rhizome is, in a manner of speaking, a kind of network. It’s just a very messy, unpredictable network that isn’t bounded and grows and spreads in strange ways.

To me this sounds ideal, but it can be frustrating for students who have been groomed more like plants in a garden, manipulated into rows, fed chemicals, and protected by a wooden box. To switch metaphors a bit, it's as if we're throwing domesticated animals into the wild. Disorienting and dangerous.

And then there's the Educator's Catch-22. Can we really use our authority to create the conditions for spontaneous, organic learning? Or, as the pressure of the graded course wears on, will the little sprout wither?

It gets cold in November, every semester, regardless of weather. Schools seems to become the lowest priority, meaning it wasn't much of a priority to begin with, at least not in terms of intrinsic motivation. Will a brand new pedagogical fertilizer save this?



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