messy thoughts by a rhizome #rhizo14

man made systems: standardisation? conformity? exclusion?

I was excited when I first saw Dave Cormier‘s #rhizo14 creation and decided to join. As a rhizome myself, I have been extremely weak to establish visible connections so far. There are many reasons for this and my simple excuse (I think it is more a reality, my reality)  is that I have been very busy. We all are busy, I know and we do manage to make time for what matters. For me what matters was and still is to think about the concept of rhizomatic learning and what that means to me personally and professionally. A lot of my engagement has happened in my microcosmos, my mind and my heart while also reading snippets of conversations and trying to digest some of these. I have struggled to follow and read all the postings and while joining #rhizo14 in p2pu I have actually not accessed this space again after first joining and making one or two postings. In FB, I saw some people I know and I think this helped me to create some hooks despite the fact that I didn’t really have any conversations with them. But just knowing that there were there felt perhaps somehow comforting? Somehow it helped. Rhizomes, I understand don’t grow roots? But how can I grow without them? Am I a ‘victim’ of my own history?

I am involved in a few open learning projects (see for example FDOL, BYOD4L) and am doing a PhD. “Doing a PhD” sounds like an easy thing but I have found this highly complex, frustrating at times, and rhizomatic in nature, so very very messy.  This morning, I decided to write a little something about how I currently interpret rhizomatic learning. I still want to make links to connectivist learning (Siemens) and the open context model of learning (Garnett) and other approaches which I probably have forgotten at the moment. Writing this little piece has been useful for me as I am also writing currently with Sue Beckingham about the concept behind ‘our magical open box’, a term I put together and emerged through a Facebook conversation with Fred Garnett. I avoid the term ‘understanding’ as I am not sure what the term ‘understanding’ means and entails. It is too fluffy!!! Also, I see this as a journey of discovery and re-discovery and hopefully some will read the below and help me make new discoveries and refine, challenge and change my perspective?

Ok, here are my first draft thoughts as a rhizome around rhizomatic learning.

Dave Cormier (2008) sees the “community as curriculum” a non-expert driven pedagogical model and has written extensively about the idea of rhizomatic learning, a philosophical concept  introduced by Deleuze & Guatarri (1987). When Cormier refers to rhizomatic learning he describes it as a messy and dynamic, organic and elastic being where the coupling and decoupling of connections, the marrying and divorcing of people, ideas, communities and networks happen all the time in a myriad ways. Are rhizomes nomads? Loners? For Cormier, there are unlimited entry and exit points. Individuals join in, appear and disappear or make themselves visible and invisible when they want to. Rhizomatic learning is dynamic and changes all the time and over time. There is no one, right or wrong direction. There are unlimited directions and pathways, cross roads and roundabouts. Rhizomes create their own journeys and at times follow others driven by their own internal compass. They also get lost and feel lost. There are no experts or authorities and individual and collective knowledge emerges through the rhizomes, through the individuals and the links they make. Siemens (2006, vi) notes “All knowledge is Information, but NOT all Information is Knowledge”. How does this relate to Cormier’s (2008) observation that knowledge is something  that emerges from within a community? Is it a community when we refer to rhizomatic learning or more of a nomadic ecosystem? How is information turned into knowledge within such a system? The links or connections themselves seem to be ephemeral, stronger and other times weaker, often they break off and start fresh elsewhere. Is this free-range learning? The rhizomatic learning ecosystem itself resembles perhaps more a cosmos with an unlimited set of visible, semi-visible or invisible to all amalgamated decentralised cultures, communities, networks, satellites and chaotic ecologies – or is it chaos and what does it mean for learning? Siemens (2006, viii) claims “structure is created by a select few and imposed on the many”. If, we rhizomes resist organisational structures, as Deleuze & Guatarri (1987) claim and we want to be in charge of our own learning, should we (rhizomes as learning-teachers, learning-facilitators or just lifewide rhizomatic learners) spend more time thinking about how we can enable this instead of focusing enormous energies in creating complex and complicated spaces and systems that hinder this?

References

Cormier, Dave (2008) Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum, Innovate: Journal of Online Education, V 4 No 5, Jun-Jul 2008, available at http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ840362

Deleuze, G. & Guatarri, F. (1987). A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia.London: University of Minnesota Press.

Siemens, G. (2006) Knowing knowledge, George Siemens.

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18 thoughts on “messy thoughts by a rhizome #rhizo14

  1. Pingback: messy thoughts by a rhizome #rhizo14 | Aprendiz...

  2. Hello Chrissi, thanks for the post. I found your final question particularly relevant:

    “If, we rhizomes resist organisational structures, as Deleuze & Guatarri (1987) claim and we want to be in charge of our own learning, should we (rhizomes as learning-teachers, learning-facilitators or just lifewide rhizomatic learners) spend more time thinking about how we can enable this instead of focusing enormous energies in creating complex and complicated spaces and system that hinder this?”

    For me the answer is a resounding: “YES!”, but not only “thinking” … Also doing, even before we get to think through the whole thing (which will never happen, by the way)…

    And I think it is necessary to spend some energy also disrupting the “complex and complicated spaces and system that hinder this”, systems that we inherit, composed of agreements that were made by people who came before, but in which creation we did not participate.

    Once I saw an old graffitti on the wall of a university, that said this: “Don’t let the university hinder your studies.”

    This could be a mantra for rhizomes. : )

    • Hi andreoides (not sure what you real name is),

      Thank you for adding your thoughts here. Very much appreciated and I would agree with you that just thinking is not enough! Definitely action!! Change can only happen through disruption, this is a fact but we all struggle with it, especially large changes. How can we help ourselves and others? Also, I think it shouldn’t be about the disruption but the change we can achieve, the potential, because often we don’t know what the result will be.

      Thanks again for making me think further about these important issues.
      Chrissi

  3. As a rhizome myself, = so you are a rhizome, why do you say that? In http://connectiv.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/what-is-rhizomatic/ is a short (too short) explanation of rhizome, do you think a person could be a rhizome?
    Rhizomes, I understand don’t grow roots? But how can I grow without them? Am I a ‘victim’ of my own history?=== rhizome is a biological word and it means a certain kind of roots. http://connectiv.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/a-rhizomatic-teaching-story-to-show-my-idea-of-rhizomatic-learning/ has a story about rhizomatic learning.
    “Doing a PhD” sounds like an easy thing but I have found this highly complex, frustrating at times, and rhizomatic in nature, so very very messy. == doing a PhD is very messy, and you are supposed to make a structure out of the mess. That is not east. Doing a PhD is translating the rhizomatic world into a arboreal story in a strict prescribed format.
    rhizome is a way of interconnectedness but in a more fuzzy way, it pops up in unseen places, connects ideas. connections are made by people, the rhizome is like growing itself.
    knowledge forms in a community, because rhizomes between bits of information are made, evoluate.

    Rhizome is unseen, it has no direction, no beginning or end.
    As rhizomes are a rather intuitive concept, you should immerse yourself in this discourse and try to dig it.
    I am not doing a PhD, you could consider to ask for someone doing a PhD in your field to go with you into the swamps of rhizomatic learning.

    • Hi Jaap,

      Thank you for reading and commenting. You make some interesting observations. I am using visual language and metaphors if you like to bring my thoughts alive. I understand the meaning of the word rhizome as I am Greek 😉 this is exactly the reason why I used that I don’t feel that I have any roots trying to provoke rhizomatic learning and the link that is made to community. The more I think about it the less I feel that is about the community. Others and I have written briefly about nomads. I don’t think that even that is the case. My thinking is changing and I now feel that a lonely cowboy would be a better metaphor than nomad. Nomad implied that you go with others, even if in small groups and you stop at certain places but you are constantly on the move? A lonely cowboy or a singleton (I head that in a tv advert the other day) might describe much better some of the characteristics of a rhizomatic learner. I also struggle to see how the curriculum can emerge from the community. Is there a community? Community implied links and being there for each other. I might be wrong with my thinking here but I don’t see at the moment how we have the collective grow in mind when experiencing a rhizomatic existance. I think in a way, we are all rhizomes in different parts of our lives but I do think that people like to belong to certain groups and communities. They want to feel home. If I travel around all the time, I take home with me but how about the people I meet? Is the rhizome more focused on themselves? Just wondering. I have loads of questions but no answers. How about you?

      Chrissi

  4. My reaction is similar — too many other networks and projects — but then I realized that too is rhizomatic, right down to taking off in different directions. So what we are also doing is connecting rhizomatic networks.

    • Hi Vanessa,

      Lovely to see you here. This is all very complicated but very interesting and it definitely made me think but also put some puzzle pieces together and identify differences between networks and communities. Always better to experience it and come to our own conclusions. All messy but this is life 😉

      Chrissi

  5. How delightful to encounter both Chrissi and Vanessa in Rhizomatic Learnng 14. As it has been said, “we have history” and it has been enlightening, supportive and transformative (for me) history together. Life is messy and learning, from my perspective, is messy until it is not; then we move on to more messiness.
    Chrissi, as always, your questions are more than thought provoking … and send me to reading sources I had not yet encountered. Thank you.
    Vanessa, you have a great talent for motivating deeper thinking and even more provocative questions.
    So glad to see you both in this learning journey and look forward to more reading sources and incredibly provocative questions 🙂

  6. Hi my dear Carol,

    Good to see you here. Thank you for your kind words. This course and I don’t really participate but am just in-between somehow makes me question a lot of things, including if such courses fit into academic cultures or not. But then again I have a problem with the verb to fit… Does this mean to confirm?

    We talk and want academic freedom. Is there such a thing as too much freedom? Could this lead to isolation? I am more interested in connecting with others not for opportunistic reasons but more because of pure interest in people and their ideas but also to share ideas and do stuff together. Can this happen in rhizomatic learning ecologies? And if it does, do we still talk about rhizomatic learning? No idea.

  7. I think the rhizome must be given room to grow and die and re-emerge in unknown places. I began creating a learning space for high school students four years ago. In stepping back and allowing the students the freedom to explore their own learning interests, my own learning of what was happening with learning, led me to George Siemens and Dave Cormier, to connectivism and rhizomatic learning.

    I refused, and continue to refuse to create a “program.” My aim is to create a learning environment, more like fertile soil for whatever learning may occur. While the uncertainty can lead to an extra glass of wine occasionally, the rewards of learning discoveries makes it worth it.

    So, yes, resist the constraining structures and enact (don’t just think about) complex messy rhizomes.

  8. I think the rhizome must be given room to grow and die and re-emerge in unknown places. I began creating a learning space for high school students four years ago. In stepping back and allowing the students the freedom to explore their own learning interests, my own learning of what was happening with learning, led me to George Siemens and Dave Cormier, to connectivism and rhizomatic learning.

    I refused, and continue to refuse to create a “program.” My aim is to create a learning environment, more like fertile soil for whatever learning may occur. While the uncertainty can lead to an extra glass of wine occasionally, the rewards of learning discoveries makes it worth it.

    So, yes, resist the constraining structures and enact (don’t just think about) complex messy rhizomes.

  9. Hi Barry,

    Thank you for commenting. The word ‘refuse’ stuck in my mind after reading your post Learning means being open and recognising also opportunities in closed systems, in any system? I think, often we are more creative when we have limited resources, limited time and experience other constraints. I understand what you say about creating or not creating a programme. Could we see a ‘programme’ as a story perhaps? A story that is lived and shaped with our students? Could that recipe work? In institutions we develop programmes that lead to qualifications. Are there other ways to accredit work. There is a lot of conversation about accrediting informal learning. Does this mean we can or should get rid of programmes or do these new ways of learning (but are they really new?) complement the current offer and present new and exciting opportunities? Wondering. Would be interested in your views.

    Thanks again
    Chrissi

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  12. Read both the blog and the conversations in the comments. I don’t know where to start organizing my thoughts. At first I want to say, ah.. I think I am a rhizome too. But then, I began to think, is what I know about being a rhizome even right?

    I’m supposed to be studying for my comprehensive exams right now, and I’m taking Masters on Learning & Teaching. But I felt so unproductive lately because what I’m supposed to be studying right now about learning, isn’t what I want to focus on at the present moment. I am trying to figure out this Rhizomatic learning everybody in my professional network is talking about and avoiding the topic of what my comprehensive exam will be covering (even if it is also about learning)

    I am resisting the organized structure and I want to be in-charge of what I want to learn. Am I being a rhizome? I don’t know. I still don’t know what a rhizome exactly is.

  13. Hi Toni,
    Lovely to see you here and thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I understand what you say and the questions you ask yourself. I am sure you are not the only one. From my extremely limited and peripheral engagement with the course, I see myself as a rhizome. I have not managed to connect properly with anybody as I probably haven’t made an effort? My understanding of rhizomatic learning is still very messy and fuzzy but increasingly I feel that the focus in rhizomatic learning might be more on the individual? Rhizomes are roots but I don’t see them has having rootes? Do you know what I mean. And I have a problem with this as belonging is important for me. Still thinking a lot about it but this week has been supermad. Not even seen what it is all about. Kept getting messages from the FB community but the only thing I managed to do is skim and delete. Not very good, is it? However, I didn’t cancel the forwarding (yet), which might be an indication that I am hanging in there… but for how long?

    How about you?
    Chrissi

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