Further thoughts and discussion about rhizomatic learning

The video/audio recording of the presentation that Frances Bell and I gave at the ALTMOOCSIG conference last month has now been posted. Many thanks to Mira Vogel  for organizing this event.

We were asked very early on (by a Rhizo14 participant) whether our presentation would be recorded – so here is the link. to all the presentations including ours.


During the presentation we mention that we wrote about our research into rhizomatic learning to date, and preparation for the presentation, in a series of blog posts prior to the conference. Here is the post with information and links about this.  And here is a link to the complete Prezi that we prepared for the presentation.  The video/audio covers the most relevant slides, but we stopped short of showing them all. (I haven’t yet discovered how to embed a Prezi in WordPress!)

It has been interesting to listen to this recording. I opened it with some trepidation, as I wasn’t sure how well our presentation went, but on hearing the recording I was pleasantly surprised that it is more coherent than it felt to be at the time, and that in a very short session I think we managed to cover the main points we wanted to make and allow time for questions. We received four questions. All were interesting, but perhaps the one that was most relevant to research about MOOCs at the moment was raised by Marion Waite who asked whether our research was/is ethical. This is a question that we have been discussing with Mariana Funes and Viv Rolfe in relation to researching learning in MOOCs in general, not just the Rhizo14 MOOC.

For feedback on the day by various conference participants, see this blog post – responses to the moocs which way now conference . Many thanks again to Mira Vogel for pulling this together.

Fred Garnett has also spent some time putting together a Slideshare which summarises the presentations made during the day. Here it is.

British MOOCs; a Curated Conversation from London Knowledge Lab, University of London

Thanks to ALTMOOCSIG for a stimulating event which has given us plenty to think about.

8 thoughts on “Further thoughts and discussion about rhizomatic learning

  1. jennymackness July 29, 2014 / 4:08 pm

    Tom – thanks for this question, which is at the crux of our research. We are still working on this and will be blogging about it as we continue to make progress on our research. In the meantime, you might be interested in what Dave Cormier has to say about it – http://davecormier.pressbooks.com/

  2. helinur July 30, 2014 / 10:18 am

    I have watched your presentation now two times (in order to understand everything you said) and I am thinking about your research. I am interested in it and I answered anonymously to the first part of the research.

    I agree with you that it is problematic to talk about any results. You may describe 47 different paths and you have to be as open as you can. In action research there is no objectivity, you are participants in the process and your perceptions are always limited (as everyone’s, as Dave’s ),

    BUT go on, please. I think the rhizo14 course is unique and it is worth exploring. The experiences are changing afterwards and you can see some things better when time have passed.
    Why Dave run the course alone? He was helped by some other people, what did they do? Was it ‘mission impossible’ ?

    I’ll follow you and comment here and there …

  3. jennymackness July 30, 2014 / 5:17 pm

    Hi Heli – many thanks for taking the time to comment on this post. We will definitely be continuing with the research. I think there are quite a few paths we could follow.

    For example we could really try to unpick in what ways the metaphor is useful for teaching and learning, or we could critique the actual course, or we could focus on arising issues as identified by participants, or we could examine the relationship between course design and Deleuze and Guattari’s ideas…. and more!

    So there are plenty of possibilities and we have such a lot of data to analyse. I think we will be busy for a few months 🙂

    Thanks for your encouragement.


  4. helinur August 2, 2014 / 9:35 am

    Hi, I began to reflect the research projects of rhizo and told about your research. It seems to be linked here already but I give the address anyway
    Please tell if something is totally wrong..

  5. jennymackness August 2, 2014 / 4:21 pm

    Hi Heli – thanks so much for your interest in our presentation and for taking the time to listen to it – and now for your blog post, which I have been thinking about a lot. I have written this response on your blog – but I’ll post it here as well – for my own records 🙂

    You write:

    >>How are connections emerging? Is it really possible to connect from any to any? Heterogeneity is obvious when the course is open to anyone. There was a huge amount of variety of beliefs and schooling and interests etc.>>

    As a result of your questions I have been wondering what Deleuze and Guattari really meant when they talked about connections and heterogeneity. It is so easy to automatically/without thinking match their writing to what we already know and understand, however tentative that knowledge and understanding is. But what if their meaning was something way outside my own ability to understand or way outside my prior experience. So I have been digging around a bit and getting more and more confused. One thing I am becoming fairly clear about is that there is no one way to understand Delueze and Guattari’s writing.

    You ask if it is possible to connect from any to any and that question reminded me of the 6 degrees of separation activity – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_degrees_of_separation – that I first completed on the very first course I did with Etienne Wenger, where it was used as a way to get the course participants to learn as much as possible about each other in the first week. I found I was connected in many ways to others on the course, without ever having met or heard of them before. So thinking about it in this way, I think, yes – it probably is possible to connect from ‘any to any’.

    I have also been wondering about the meaning of heterogeneity. I have come to think that for Deleuze and Guattari this was more than simply diversity or difference. It incorporated multiplicities, in the form of differences in kind, differences in degree, items and qualities – not simply people or even resources. I am still thinking about this and need to dig a bit deeper.

    You have also questioned the use of the metaphor, just as we have and are doing. I think it is worth remembering that all metaphors have their limitations and perhaps there isn’t (hasn’t been in rhizo14?) enough discussion about these limitations. I found it interesting that a few of our survey respondents recognised these limitations. Metaphors are not perfect. Lakoff has written that metaphors work if they advance our understanding. I am interested in whether the metaphor of the rhizome can advance our understanding of teaching and learning. I haven’t come to any conclusions yet.

    One of the other lines of investigation in the research is around the idea of ‘the community is the curriculum’. What does this mean? What does community mean in this context? What does curriculum mean in this context? What are the implications of this approach for teaching and learning? This line of inquiry is proving very interesting.

    I am looking forward to your next post, but it sounds like you are having a good summer.

    And – no – I can’t imagine lakes that are too warm to swim in!

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