Rhizomatic learning, teaching, fact and truth…

… these are some of the ideas that Dave Cormier discussed with Jeff Lebow  –  as part of his week’s presentation to ChangeMOOC.

There is lots to think about in this video. These are some of the ideas I noted in watching it.

  • Positivists can be problematic for an idea like rhizomatic learning, i.e. challenging
  • A metaphor is a lens through which to look at things in many different ways
  • Nomadic learners are independent, take responsibility for their learning  and take decisions
  • A metaphor doesn’t have to answer all questions – it can be limited in scope.
  • A metaphor is not a model or a learning theory.
  • MOOC presentations can lead to collateral damage that can be more interesting/useful than the content
  • MOOC presentations are as much about the methodology of presenting as about the content
  • Repeating a presentation does not guarantee a similar reaction (Dave received a more negative reaction to his second presentation)
  • The presentation can be the buffet model or the single meal.
  • Dave Cormier takes a rhizomatic approach to his teaching and loses at least one student every course. To counteract this he tries to make the process transparent and recognises that the whole course does not need to follow a rhizomatic approach. Tutors can be selective where to apply it.
  • Dave Cormier believes that discomfort is part of the learning process and helps the students to improve.
  • Think about your rhizome within a garden – there is a structure and planning. The structure needs to be strong – not the content – so Dave’s MOOC presentation was structured, otherwise it would have been a coffee shop conversation, but was open to participants following their own lines of enquiry.
  • You can do a lot within a syllabus to frame the way people approach things. Dave talks about creating patterns of behaviour (to me I have always thought about this in terms of helping people to learn how to learn). Covering content should be approached with this in mind.
  • Dave Cormier does not believe in facts.  He thinks they are convenient short-hands. His partner Bonnie has pointed out that the Inuits don’t reify but always relate to context.  So, e.g.  a table is only a table according to the context in which you view it, discuss it, interpret it and so on.
  • We should think about findable versus discoverable when teaching. We can ask learners to find things – which means that they already know what they are looking for – or we can ask people to discover things – i.e. they are surprised by what they find – it is not something they are necessarily looking for. (For me this relates to emergent learning)
  • We should not think of data and evidence in terms of fact.  For Dave Cormier there is no objective – its all subjective. Ultimately either you believe or don’t believe. Evidence does not lead to what is true… A theory is not ‘true’ – it is just the best understanding of what we have at the moment.
  • Science is a history of guesses, e.g. doctors guess about how to treat unknown ailments.

5 thoughts on “Rhizomatic learning, teaching, fact and truth…

  1. Jeffrey Keefer November 14, 2011 / 12:04 pm

    Jenny, nice summary.
    I can’t help but wonder, now that we are (thankfully) concluding this week of rhizome-talk, what have we gained in it? What has it enabled you to do differently? I am trying to process this, and am a bit stuck.

  2. jennymackness November 14, 2011 / 7:57 pm

    Jeffrey – I don’t think I have ever attended any course of any sort where I don’t think I have learned something however small or however divorced from the concept in focus.

    Like you, I have been puzzling over the rhizome metaphor. Despite Dave’s energetic presentations and blog posts and Keith’s wonderfully articulate explanations on his blog, the rhizome metaphor doesn’t quite do it for me. I don’t know if that’s because, being a scientist by training, there is too much for me to ‘unlearn’ to be able to accept the incompleteness of the rhizome metaphor – or whether it is because the metaphor does not stand up.

    I don’t think the metaphor enables me to do anything differently – it just adds another layer to my understanding of connectivism. I know I keep repeating this, but I still think Stephen’s principles of connectivism – autonomy, diversity, openness and connectedness are the ones that can really prompt teachers and learners to do things differently.

    Not sure if this helps at all.


  3. Jeffrey Keefer November 15, 2011 / 11:45 am

    Agreed on all counts!

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