Rhizomes as an educational model



Image: Desmanthus4food copy left

Yesterday morning I attended Dave Cormier’s excellent session on rhizomatic learning as part of #etmooc. I first heard of the rhizome concept last year and was instantly drawn to it as a metaphor for connected learning. Although I’ve done a couple of short formal courses since returning from maternity leave, the majority of my learning since returning to work has been rhizomatic – seeing a point of interest, moving to it and making connections around it. It certainly works for me. I loved the concept of rhizomatic learning helping to prepare for uncertainty. I think it is intended to mean in the sense of there being no right answer and a task never able to be fully completed but it also to me represents nodes of connections and information to which I can turn in moments of need. I also realise that, like many, I find I need some structure in my learning to give it a focus – hence attending the webinar sessions in this MOOC which help make sense of material I’ve collected through other channels.

Another topic was the different degrees of complexity in which new knowledge may be used, introduced using the Cynefin framework. I found the diagram particularly helpful:


(Image: Snowded. Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.)

The thought I’m left with and need to reflect on is how to create a rhizomatic learning space for students in my current role as a freelance eLearning developer. As I don’t really have contact with the students in most cases, and often have to design assessments to fit with institutional requirements, I feel at first glance that my options are limited, but really it’s probably more that my thinking is limited. I’m going to seek inspiration from other MOOC participants. I feel I’m not contributing to anyone else’s learning but perhaps by posing a question I can stimulate a discussion which prompts good learning.


The learning begins

Late last week I attended the second session of the welcome and orientation webinar of #etmooc at the unsociable time of 5am. Luckily I’m an early morning person so didn’t have to get up much earlier than usual. I realise I’m blogging many days later but I needed to think things through and as always there are many other competing commitments.

Much of the time was spent on talking about the topics to be covered and allowing participants to contribute their initial thoughts on each topic. Although this second session had considerably fewer participants than the first, there will still many contributions, many of which were obviously extremely well thought out.

Two questions and an image have stayed with me in the days since the session.

The questions were:

How are you making your learning visible?

The answer to that is right here and right now. This was a question I have considered before the MOOC and one of the reasons I have my regular blog here.

2. How are you contributing to the learning of others?

Oddly this was not high on my list of priorities coming into this MOOC, although it is also a reason for my blog. I guess like Christopher Pappas in his experience of participating in a Harvard xMOOC,  I feel I don’t have much to offer fellow MOOC participants but it has made me resolve to try harder to contribute to learning of others in spheres in which I have more experience.

The image was created by Alec Couros, who gave permission for reuse.


There are 2 concepts that appeal here – the slow removal of the walls over time and the idea of an educational gift. ‘Gifting’(which seems to have become a verb in recent years) as part of an economy is an idea I first came across in Seth Godin’s book Linchpin, which I recently blogged about, and I was very interested to see it in the context of teaching and learning. It makes total sense in that context as well but I had not connected the two ideas.

The MOOC is huge and I know I’m inevitably missing so much and will completely miss the next few days as I will have only very limited internet access. I’m finding the daily updates and the daily Paper.li very useful. As with other MOOCs I’ve been involved with, I learn what I can in the time I have. During the week I found Donald Clark’s take on MOOC participation interesting – I have been a dropout but I learnt from what I did manage to do so refuse to see missing parts as failing. Uptake is a much more positive focus.

Once again, thanks to those doing so much work to keep it all going.