Activity 20 – Rhizomatic learning

Picture from Flickr

For the last activity of week 5 we watched Dave Cormier Embracing Uncertainty – Rhizomatic Learning in Formal Education (2012).

I enjoyed reading (read the transcribe and didn’t watch the video) this article as I am a fan of what I now know to be rhizomatic learning. My favourite line has to be

And at that point the community really can be the curriculum

To me, working in a high school, the word curriculum usually makes me think of regimes, timetables, tradition, conservatism, basically something regimented and old fashioned. I like the idea, and have experienced, the concept of the community being the curriculum.

I also like the idea of a messy network which is dynamic. My ideal method of learning is a combination of good old fashioned lectures, tests and assignments (online or being physically present) and making and joining networks which take you in all sorts of directions.

Cormier also describes them as

taking off in directions, they fit into an eco system, they adapt to the eco system around them. They grow and spread via experimentation, so they’ll try out this way, maybe they run into a rock, maybe it turns a corner, maybe it hits a wall but it ends up reaching out it’s tendril and trying to figure out whether it can find a place to grow, whether the nutrients are there, whether that’s a direction that’s gonna work out. And again I think this is a really nice metaphor for the learning process.

I too like this metaphor and enjoy the process of my tendrils working their round the Eco system. I also like the fact that occasionally a root will break off and then start another plant off. The network cultivated in my EDCM MOOC technically broke off when the course came to an end. However, the community still exists not only in the original “neighbourhood”, but in new ones which then took off other directions. I would use the metaphor of a family tree. You start and raise a family. Parts of the family grow up and start their own. Families may break up and never or seldom speak or maybe they marry into a new family and become step relatives or in-laws.

I could definitely imagine implementing rhizomatic learning in, as an example, my high school. However, it wouldn’t replace traditional learning. It would complement it. The ratio of pedagogies may change but they would still complement each other.

The main issue of rhizomatic learning is that it’s “looseness” wouldn’t suit everyone. Some people need a traditional structure, but this would be the plus side of using a complementary way forward. Using a combination of the traditional and rhizomatic could mean being able to reach and engage with more students as you appeal to whichever preferred method they have. I can see this working with some of our students who are not always in classes for one reason or another. Give them the structure of the school day and curriculum but teach it using a rhizomatic method may appeal to them and give them the confidence as they manage their own learning.

Students need to be more prepared for the outside world. They are too mollycoddled with laws and policies covering health, safety, human rights, equality etc. (I am not disagreeing with them but there seems to be too much wrapping in cotton wool in case something happens) Show students how to take risks and let them once in a while. They need to experience adventure, danger (I don’t mean throw them in a shark tank danger, more supervised rock climbing or even that they can lose or fail at something and that the world won’t end). Rhizomatic learning is just an adventure, a journey, taking risks along the way.