Rhizomatic Learning – A Pedagogy of Risk

Leap-of-Faith
(Source of image: http://jobangel.blog.hu/2013/07/29/kinek_a_kockazata_a_jutalekos_munka)

On Twitter Nick Kearney asked “Are we reaching an understanding of what ‘rhizomatic’ praxis might involve?”

I’m not sure. I think we probably still need a clearer view of what happens or can happen, in terms of learning, in the open space for learning that will be created by taking a rhizomatic approach.

An open learning environment of the type we have experienced in #rhizo14 (Dave Cormier’s open online course on rhizomatic learning),  is associated with ambiguity and uncertainty and puts learners in a liminal space – an in-between-space – between mastery and troublesome knowledge. This is a space of potential risk.

In #rhizo14 the creation of open space has been an integral part of the course design. There has been space to engage and interact in locations of our own choice (Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Blogs, Diigo, Google Hangout), space to follow our own lines of enquiry and space to experience the ideas being tested, such as unpicking the meaning of open sharing, remixing and repurposing information, embracing uncertainty, questioning the authority of knowledge and books, learning in a community, and creating our own curriculum.

Some #rhizo14 participants have given a lot of thought to what it means to learn in open spaces. In the video she created for the Week 3 topic – Embracing Uncertainty, Helen Blunden showed us the physical spaces that she works in, more open than in the past, and shared with us what uncertainty means in her workspace. Keith Hamon has written two blog posts (here and here) about the relationship between structure and space in rhizomatic learning, suggesting that space does not mean lack of structure or boundaries, and that space offers possibilities and structure offers potential. On Matthias Melcher’s blog, Vanessa Vaile posted a link to an article which suggested to her that edges and visual complexity aid navigation in open spaces.  Matthias himself, whilst not writing specifically about space, has discussed rules and patterns in rhizomatic learning,  which seem to me to be related to space. And Mariana Funes in a long post that covers a lot of ground, has some interesting things to say about what ‘safe’ space might look like in an online environment.

Mention of safety in relation to online space raises for me the link between space and risk.  With space comes risk and with risk comes ethical responsibility. I would suggest that the more open the space, the greater the risk for both learner and ‘teacher’, and the greater the ethical responsibilities of all participants, but particularly the ‘teacher’.

Ronald Barnett in his book ‘A Will to Learn: Being a Student in an Age of Uncertainty’,  includes a chapter near the end of the book on ‘Space and Risk’.  He acknowledges the ‘virtue of space’ as being freedom, but with this freedom comes a number of risks. He recognises that a common response to these risks in an educational setting is to close down the space, rationalising this as being in the students’ best interests – but as he points out ‘No risk, no space’ – and space is needed if the students/learners are going to become ‘authentically themselves’.

So what are the risks? Barnett sees a number of them.

In relation to curriculum the spaces needed are ‘intellectual space’ and ‘practical space’. We have had both these in #rhizo14. They are associated, respectively, with

  • ‘epistemological risk’ – by following their own lines of enquiry, creating their own curriculum, students may end up with a ‘warped perspective’ or ‘skewed understanding’
  • and ‘practical risk’ – the students may not have the practical skills  to cope with the open curriculum environment – skills such as self-organisation – or the student might be over-dependent on the skills they have and not learn new skills

In relation to pedagogy, we need a ‘space-for-being’ and the risk here is ‘ontological’. A risk to the learner’s ‘being’, i.e. a risk to their identity. This risk is ever present. It is more than a practical consideration. As Barnett says (p.146):

… the tutor has all the time to make judgements about how and when to intervene, to bring individuals on, to divert them into new paths of becoming, to give yet other individuals a new sense of themselves and yet others an understanding that their use of their space is not taking them forward as it should. There is an ethics of educational space, which has surely not been excavated.

… No matter how careful a teacher is, a word, a gesture, may be injurious to a student’s being.

Ontological risk is the greatest risk when opening up learning spaces for both the teacher and the learner. As Barnett also says (p.150) – ‘Space is necessary, but it has to be a controlled space’.

But what do we mean by control and how much control is too much?  In CCK08 (Connectivism and Connective Knowledge MOOC) the space became, at times, very risky for some learners. Following the MOOC a number of us discussed this at length and some of us came to the conclusion that:

Most important of all, negative constraints must be put in place and communicated to the participants.  Secondly, the instructors or facilitators must dampen negative emergence and amplify positive emergence. (Source of quote: IRRODL)

The difficulty is that open spaces attract a diversity of learners. What is a negatively risky space to one will be a positively challenging space to another.  But whichever way you look at it, risk is a factor of open learning spaces.

So to return to Nick Kearney’s question: Are we reaching an understanding of what “rhizomatic’ praxis might involve?

Well, I think I have some understanding of the uncertainty of the learning process, the need to constantly question and challenge assumptions, and the need for space in which to do this. But I think much more understanding is needed of the complexity of the learning process and the risks that learners and ‘teachers’ are subject to when adopting a rhizomatic approach to learning and course/open space design.

 

Thoughts about community as curriculum in #rhizo14

richard-giblett-mycelium2Source of image- http://www.galeriedusseldorf.com.au/GDArtists/Giblett/RG2005/source/mycelium.html (Richard Giblett)

The idea of community as curriculum is not new. Etienne Wenger wrote about it in his 1998 book on communities of practice – and since no ideas are truly original, his thinking was probably influenced by prior writers -but nevertheless his book is the most thumbed on my bookshelf and in 1998 he wrote that education is:

‘… about balancing the production of reificative material with the design of forms of participation that provide entry into a practice and let the practice itself be its own curriculum… (p.265)

He has grounded the idea of ‘community as curriculum’ in the practice of the community, but he has also stated very clearly what he means by community and what he means by curriculum.

There is clear evidence from communities of practice that the practice itself is its own curriculum. The strongest community that I am a member of is CPsquare – the community of practice about communities of practice. This has been going for many years and has a strong group of core members who welcome peripheral participants and support them in their learning trajectory. It is a semi-open community – full access is through paid membership.

I am also a now peripheral, but originally a founding, member of the ELESIG community  – a community for people interested in researching learners’ experiences of e-learning. This also has a strong core group and is an open community. This community does not yet have the depth of shared history that CPsquare does, but time will tell and it is already developing a substantial shared repertoire.

So community as curriculum is not problematic for me. I have seen it in my communities and it is evident in #rhizo14.  I blogged about it early on in the course – The Community is the Curriculum in rhizo14 

BUT

#rhizo14 is a course  – a learning community rather than a community of practice? As Sylvia Currie (responsible for the SCoPE community  – another community I am connected to)  pointed out on my blog (in a comment), and I have also heard Etienne say, it doesn’t really matter what you call it, so long as the basic principles for a community and curriculum are in place.

I am, as yet, unconvinced that this can happen in ‘a course’.

What I am finding interesting to follow through in my mind, is whether it is possible to have a ‘course’ about something like rhizomatic learning/thinking without contradicting the very premise on which it stands. I have heard Stephen Downes also talk about problems with the word ‘course’ in relation to cMOOCs.

For me the most interesting curriculum topic that has arisen in the #rhizo14 ‘community’ (and I still question whether this ‘course’ qualifies as a community – but I think only time will tell) is the topography of the learning environment.

In particular I am interested in the notion of ‘ learning spaces’.  Keith Hamon wrote a wonderful post on this relating it to a soccer game and field, and it relates very closely to work I have been doing with my colleague Roy Williams about the effect of the relationship between structure and openness in learning environments.

So today, I have spent some time reading around this idea of what ‘space’ means to a learner and the constraint that the idea of ‘community’ and ‘course’, if they are not carefully cultivated, might put on a learner in relation to their space for learning.

I think Ron Barnett in his book ‘A Will to Learn: Being a Student in an Age of Uncertainty‘  has summed it up for me when he writes about the tension between singularity and universality. This tension is not, I think,  problematic in a network.  It might be a bit more problematic in a community, but I think it is very likely to be problematic in a course.

On p.148 Barnett writes:

‘There is here a key spatial tension: to let learn, to let go, implies singularity. By this I mean that the student is to be permitted to become what she wishes, to pursue her own intellectual inclinations, to identify sets of skills that she wishes to acquire to come into her own voice. However, the teacher in higher education has a kind of tacit ethical code of ensuring that that student comes to live in keeping with the standards of her intellectual and practical fields. The student is going to be judged by those standards, in any event, but standards of this kind imply universality.’

Whilst this quote obviously applies in a situation where a student is studying for credit or some sort of certificate, I think it also says a lot about the role and power of the ‘teacher’, ‘convener’ of any course – and how that power, knowingly or unknowingly, can constrain the learner’s space.

Barnett also writes on p.148 ‘The teacher’s presence may serve perniciously to reduce the students’ space’.

This for me explains why community, course and curriculum are an uneasy fit.

Further quotes from Barnett’s book that I think are relevant to #rhizo14 are:

p.148 ‘Given spaces in which to explore and to develop, students will become differentiated from each other’.

Singularity is a necessary outcome of space’.

This raises for me the tension between the pressure of community, course and curriculum and the learner’s desire/need to find their own space, their own voice in relation to their own learning.

And p.149 Barnett writes:

Giving space to students, therefore, brings into play ethical dilemmas, as the singularity-universal tension itself becomes necessarily apparent.’

And so I come full circle to the question of ethics in a course, curriculum and community, which I wrote about in the very first week of #rhizo14 – Rhizomatic Learning and Ethics

Questions about rhizomatic learning

This is an open letter to Keith Hamon. Since it is open anyone is welcome to respond, but the thoughts here have been prompted by contact with Keith.

richard-giblett-mycelium-rhizome (For source of image – see References)

Hi Keith – I have been thinking about your invitation to discuss some of the ideas around rhizomatic learning with you further.

I am still finding it difficult to get my head round it – but maybe that’s because I haven’t read enough of ‘A Thousand Plateaus’. On one level it all seems so obvious

  • learners need to have autonomy to make their own choices about which paths to follow,
  • life is full of uncertainty and will be more so as the pace of change and information overload increases,
  • there is so much information out there at the moment that there is no point in re-inventing the wheel – we need to share, aggregate, remix, repurpose and share again
  • the shelf-life of knowledge is ever diminishing; there is an increased urgency to be ever critical and questioning of what we know.

These ideas have been around for a few years now.

I’m not even sure that the rhizome metaphor is that new. You yourself have been writing about it since 2009 or before (?) and then of course ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ has been around for much longer.

I have been enjoying your posts and those of Cath Ellis. Cath’s posts in which she is presenting models for rhizomatic learning make sense. She has presented two models.

  1. Learning environments which are designed to take a rhizomatic approach are multi-path – for me the tube map has its limitations, but does make me think of multi-path possibilities. In our work on emergent learning, we have identified multipath as one of the factors needed to promote emergence.
  2. Learners in these multipath environments are nomadic.

Tim Raynor writes in ‘Lines of Flight’:

‘Nomadism is a way of being. It involves refusing to be tied down by set categories and definitions. It is driven by a desire to experiment and explore, to learn, grow, and boldly venture forth on creative lines of flight’.

Not only does this relate to learner agency (one of the clusters of factors we have in our work on emergent learning) but also to learner identity. Learning, meaning, identity and community are ‘deeply interconnected and mutually defining’ (Wenger 1998, p.5).

In our work on emergent learning we have also discussed how ambiguity and liminality might affect possibilities for emergent learning. For us we have always considered that an ‘all or nothing’ approach is not the learner experience. As you have said certainty is important, just as important as uncertainty. In all the factors we have considered that might influence emergent learning, we think of them as being on a continuum between prescriptive and emergent learning, but it is – as you have described it – a complex dance. We have however, through the workshops we have run where we have asked people to draw their own footprints of emergence, realised that the scale is not from negative to positive. Both prescriptive and emergent learning can be positive, just as they can both be negative depending on the context.

I think this idea of ‘push and pull’ has come out in your writing. I particularly like what you have written about creating space. That really resonated with me. In our emergent learning work we have struggled with the notion of ‘open/structure’ – the idea that we need to consider both structure and the spaces between the structure. What are those spaces and how do we recognise them? Structure seems easier to recognise?

You have written:

‘Rhizomatic learners ‘enjoy’ the tensions between closed, defined spaces where the ball is currently (what we know) and the open-ended, undefined spaces where the ball can go (what we don’t know).’

I’m not sure that I would know how to distinguish a ‘rhizomatic learner’ from other learners. As you have suggested, we all ‘dance’ (love that!) between certainty/uncertainty, open/closed, and so on. You have written that ‘the space holds all the possibilities’, which has made me wonder what possibilities the structure holds. Just a thought – I’m in thinking aloud mode!

I think this also relates to the idea of striated and smooth space, of which Sian Bayne has said both are good. Deleuze and Guattari have written that:

‘State space is ‘striated’ or griddled. Movement in it is confined as by gravity to a horizontal plane, and limited by the order of that place to preset paths between fixed and identifiable points.’

I actually equate this to Cath Ellis’ tube map model, but I don’t think this is what she intended. D &G go on to say

‘Nomad space is ‘smooth’, or open-ended. One can rise up at any point and move to any other.’

I find it more difficult to visualise this. I’m not sure what they mean by rise up. And this brings us to the question of what ‘open-ended’ means. D & G have also written:

‘A rhizome has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo.’

I don’t know what to think of this. My past experience has suggested that there are always boundaries that we come up against. Etienne Wenger writes a lot about boundaries and that has influenced my thinking. His thinking is that boundaries are valuable – its where the best learning can take place (he often includes this when talking about ‘landscapes of practice’). In our emergent learning framework we have zones, rather than boundaries, but it is possible to fall off the edge of chaos in our framework. And in your wonderful blog post about spaces on a football field you point out that there is a boundary. Do we need boundaries for structure? Is that what we mean by structure? I think that up until now in our emergent learning research we have been thinking of structure in terms of scaffolding or support.

Final question: If a rhizome is ‘always in the middle’ – how does that equate to there being no centre?  I think this question relates to the important points that Frances Bell has been making about power. I haven’t yet read what D & G have to say about power in a rhizomatic learning environment. Where does it fit? How does it fit? Does it fit?

So, with respect to rhizomatic learning, I feel comfortable with the notion of nomadic learners in multi-path environments. I’m less clear about the topography of this environment and the relationship between the horizontal and vertical at various levels of understanding, such as the structure of the learning landscape and the power relations within it.

I would welcome your thoughts on some of these questions.

References 

Bell, F. (2013). Dimensions of power, knowledge and rhizomatic thinking.

Bayne, S. (2004). Smoothness and Striation in Digital Learning Spaces. E-Learning. Vol 1, No. 2.

Deleuze, G. & Guattari, F. (1987). A Thousand Plateaus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massumi, University of Minnesota Press

Ellis, C. (2013). Model one: maps 

Ellis, C. (2013). Model two: nomads

Richard Giblett (2009). ‘Mycelium Rhizome’. Pencil on paper. 120 x 240 cm, $11,000 incl gst, unframed Retrieved from: http://aymed.wordpress.com/

Hamon, K. (2013). Encouraging Autonomy is #rhizo14

Hamon, K. (2013). Uncertainty in #rhizo14

Rayner, T. (2013). Lines of Flight. Deleuze and nomadic creativity.

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Williams, R., Mackness, J., & Gumtau, S. (2012). Footprints of emergence. IRRODL.

Embracing Uncertainty in Teaching, Learning and Life – a question of balance

rhizo Screen_Shot_2013-09-17_at_8.51.41_PM

I have been uncertain about how to engage with this week’s topic Embracing Uncertainty – Week 3 of Dave Cormier’s Course on Rhizomatic Learning.

I have just listened to the Google unHangout recording and read all the posts relating to this week’s topic in Google +. I have been following the Twitter stream (#rhizo14), checking in on the Facebook group  and have tried to keep track of as many blog posts as possible (aggregated on Matthias Melcher’s blog , with comments scraped by Gordon Lockhart). I have also tried to come at this afresh and not be over-influenced by my prior experience.

It has struck me that one of the problems I have had is that the word ‘uncertainty’ means different things to different people and that in some respects we have been ‘talking past each other’.

Some are talking about uncertainty in relation to not knowing which path to follow or what is going to happen next, others in relation to teaching without having all the answers, and others in relation to the validity of knowledge and the question of what is truth?

For Dave – uncertainty means accepting that ‘not knowing is something we all share’ and lies at the heart of rhizomatic learning. Uncertainty is related to abundance of information. According to Dave, in the past ‘certainty’ was created through a scarcity of information. ‘We were supposed to get it all’. But now with so much information it is impossible for teachers to have all the answers. Teachers are now more uncertain, than in the past, about their ability to answer learners’ questions.

Uncertainty is also about not being able to predict what is going to happen in the future and therefore not being able to predict what we might learn. (This relates to my interest in emergent learning and environments that promote emergent learning.)

I can see that in some ways our pathways through life may not be as certain as they used to be, particularly in relation to employment. Nowadays, many people, if not most, will have a number of jobs during their career. There is no certainty that they will be able to stay in the same job or even in their own country throughout their working lives. And we know that in many aspects of society, change is coming at us much faster than it ever has in the past.

Jolly Roger said in the Google unHangout that ‘Uncertainty is not a big deal’ and John Glass in Google + writes ‘Uncertainty is a given, IMO. Or to put it another way, no one knows what is REALLY going on.” And Keith Hamon, thinking of the aboriginal nomads, reminded us that rhizomatic learning is not new.

So is life and/or knowledge any more uncertain now than it ever was? Is there a ‘big deal’ that we have to address in relation to uncertainty or not? Jolly Roger says not, but Dave seems to think there is, otherwise he wouldn’t have focussed a whole week of the course on this.

Life has always been unpredictable/uncertain – always will be. We never know what is round the corner or what life will throw at us. We can try to minimise the risks, but we can never be in ultimate control.

So being uncertain about where you are going is not the big deal. There are probably more paths now to choose from than in the past, but the future has never been 100% predictable.

Sharing ‘not knowing’ might be a bigger deal. Teachers of course have always known when they ‘don’t know’, but maybe the change is in sharing this with learners and encouraging learners to share their lack of knowing with each other. Of course it’s all a question of balance. Learners won’t appreciate a teacher who knows nothing.

Sarah Honeychurch asked in the UnHangout ‘Is all knowledge up for grabs?’ Has the nature of knowledge changed? I can see that this could/would create lots of uncertainty. Is this the really big deal in relation to uncertainty?

I don’t know the answers to any of the questions I have been raising, but my research suggests that its not helpful to think in terms of all or nothing, certainty or uncertainty, one path or multipath, sharing or not sharing etc. Better to think in terms of scale from less to more, i.e. less uncertainty to more uncertainty, less sharing to more sharing and so on. And then for any given context – and each context is unique – consider what balance is needed to support learning.

Like Karen Young  ‘I am not sure about the idea of embracing uncertainty’ – because for me it’s not yet clear what that means.

Freire, MOOCs and Pedagogy of the Oppressed

freire_institute_logo

An email notification of a forthcoming conference at the University of Central Lancashire (uclan) – Paulo Freire and Transformative Education: changing lives and transforming communities (28th April -1st May 2014), prompted me to take my copy of ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ off the bookshelf and remind myself of its contents.  It is quite a while since I read the book and thumbing through it again, I am surprised to see how many pages, paragraphs, sentences and phrases I have marked – particularly since these marked sections seem to be even more relevant now than they were then.

The conference caught my eye for two reasons:

  1. In relation to our research on emergent learning, my colleagues Roy Williams, Jutta Pauschenwein and I have been thinking about and discussing threshold concepts and transformative learning – principally in relation to the work of Meyer and Land, Mezirow, Cousin and Brookfield amongst others, but also in relation to complex open learning environments.
  2. UCLAN is within easy daily travelling distance of my home which would make the cost of attending the conference as an independent consultant more feasible – although I will not decide until I have seen a programme of the papers to be presented.

Paulo Freire published his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed in 1970. I was living in Brazil in the 70s. This, and my career in education, makes a lot of what he writes strongly resonate.

Freire’s concerns are with the education of the poor in Brazil. He argues that the political, social and economic climate of Brazil in 1970 kept the poor disadvantaged and uneducated through oppression. This is a quote from the back cover of the book.

‘By being kept in a situation in which it is practically impossible to achieve a critical awareness and response the disadvantaged are kept ‘submerged’. In some countries the oppressors use the system of education to maintain this ‘culture of silence’, while in others the advance of technology has condemned many people, particularly the less well off, to a rigid conformity.’

Freire identified the central problem/question on p.30 of his book as:

‘How can the oppressed, as divided, authentic beings, participate in developing the pedagogy of their liberation?’

Is this still a question for us today? It has occurred to me that MOOCs (massive open online courses) have something to say about this? I wonder what Freire would have made of MOOCs. Would he have regarded them as offering potential for breaking out from oppression and if so what oppression?

Freire writes on p.77 of his book:

‘It is not our role to speak to the people about our own view of the world, nor to attempt to impose that view on them, but rather to dialogue with the people about their view and ours.’

For him oppression means being subjected to the imposed views of others – what he called the ‘banking concept of education’, which transforms students into receiving objects. In his view, education was (in 1970 and is there evidence that it still is?) suffering from narration sickness. He writes, p.52

‘The teacher talks about reality as if it were motionless, static, compartmentalised, and predictable. Or else he expounds on a topic completely alien to the existential experience of the students. His task is to ‘fill’ the students with the content of his narration……’

As an educator it is easy to recognise this ‘sickness’, both in myself and in others. I think it relates to the published research that showed that commonly ‘teachers talk too much’.

Freire believed in autonomous decision making, problem-posing authentic inquiry, creative transformation, critical thinking and using people’s historicity as a starting point. He believed that teachers should be students among students  and so undermine the power of oppression and serve the cause of liberation (p.56)

For him (p.61)

‘The teacher is no longer merely the one-who-teaches, but one who is himself taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach.’

This last quote seems to relate, for me, very closely to the philosophy behind the original cMOOCs run by Stephen Downes and George Siemens and to the ideas behind rhizomatic learning which Dave Cormier will discuss in more depth in his open course – Rhizomatic Learning – The community is the curriculum – starting on Tues 14th January.

Freire believed that in a climate of ‘fear of freedom’ the oppressed becomes the oppressor. I think of this as ‘going over to the dark side’ – a trap so easy to fall into. In MOOC terms this can be equated to fear of uncertainty – which we can see in all those students who say ‘Please tell me what to do and I’ll do it’.

To overcome this, we need to be prepared to take risks and maybe the first risk is to engage in dialogue and communication with people we don’t know. Freire thought that dialogue and communication are essential to liberation and transformation. Also essential for him are reflection and action, love, humility, faith and trust.

I see a lot of these qualities in the best of MOOCs.  Would Freire have recognised a pedagogy of the oppressed in MOOCs as we currently know them?

Emergent Learning from thinking about Emergent Learning

On Tuesday of this week we ran our second webinar on Emergent Learning and Drawing Footprints of Emergence for the SCoPE community  and any one else who wanted to attend. SCoPe is an open community – with a wonderfully open and generous facilitator – Sylvia Currie – who not only offered us these opportunities, but in the second webinar volunteered to draw a footprint for us during the live webinar.

What is a footprint? Well – I’m afraid it’s too long a story to recount in this blog post – but you can ‘read all about it’ in this published paper  – or visit and explore our open wiki  –  or visit the SCoPE discussion forums  –  or listen to the recordings of the webinars – Webinar 1 and Webinar 2  – and I have posted an example of a footprint below.

From these experiences the learning for me is that is that there really is no quick and easy way to describe the work we have been steeped in for the past few years. Learning emerges from a complex, messy business, and we haven’t managed to find a way to make understanding  or describing it simple.

And drawing footprints of emergence requires a bit of effort – well more than a bit. First it requires engaging with 25 factors (arranged in four clusters) that may or may not influence your learning process. These are intended to represent the complexity of learning – but that does mean that you might have to ponder a bit about what is meant by factors such as liminality, ambiguity, theory of mind, cross-modality, hybrid modes of writing and so on.  For these SCoPE webinars we have worked on a more visual way of representing these factors, which you can find on our wiki, if you are interested (see Mapping Sheet for Visual Learners on this page of the wiki). But then I have wondered whether including images will influence the way in which the factors are interpreted. Hope I am not putting you off, but drawing and thinking about footprints is not for the faint-hearted, although it doesn’t take long to get the hang of it if you are really interested 🙂

All these thoughts have been pulled together by an interesting post in the forums this week (thanks Nick Kearney). The point made was that drawing footprints and thinking about emergent learning may be OK for academic researchers, but it will be difficult to inspire others outside this community to engage with this process and think about emergent learning. I really appreciate it when people speak their mind and come clean about what they think – and ‘yes’ – drawing footprints of emergence is not easy. Is this why we had only a small handful of people in the second webinar – was the thought of having to do some work during the webinar and not being a passive observer off putting?

It is harder to tell in the online environment why people choose to engage or not – but although we were small in number we straight away received one drawn footprint from Lisa Lane. This was heartening as it was her first experience of drawing a footprint and for me showed that it is possible to get this process across in an online webinar. We have only ever run face-to-face workshops before. So here is Lisa’s footprint which represents the design of her POTCert programme –  and here is her blog post about it.   And as I write this, there are more footprints coming in.

POTdesigner

But I think the big ‘Ah-ha’ moment for me in this experience – the emergent learning if you like – is that there is a tension between complexity and simplicity, between hard work and ease of access, which reflects the tension we have found between emergent and prescriptive learning. Learning is a complex business. Do we best serve it by trying to order and constrain it, or is it better served by recognizing and acknowledging its complexity, and by being aware that we cannot control it and that much of it will be emergent?

Emerging questions on Emergent Learning

scope-badge The SCoPE community discussion forums on emergent learning continue to be very stimulating – and in true emergent form are raising more questions than are being answered.  See the open SCoPE discussion forums for more information.

In tomorrow’s webinar (the second of two) we will be explaining how to draw footprints of emergence and sharing the contexts in which this might be helpful. From our perspective the footprints are particularly helpful for reflecting on learning in open learning environments such as MOOCs, but can also be used for more traditional courses.  We look forward to hearing what others think.

Here are the details for accessing tomorrow’s webinar.

Tuesday, 26 November 18:00 GMT  

Vicki Dale ELESIG workshop

This webinar will focus on drawing footprints of emergence and a discussion of the critical factors, which we use to describe and map out the learning experience. We will encourage all participants to draw their own footprints. In the following asynchronous discussion forum, we hope that you will share your footprints, so that we can critically reflect on the approach, and methodology, in order to improve it and to continue to make it accessible, available and relevant to the broader research and design community.

See also the Preparing for Webinar 2 discussion forum thread – which explains what documents need to be downloaded before the session.

Although we have run face-to-face workshops on how to draw the footprints, we have never tried this online before. We are looking forward to seeing what emerges from this session 😉