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?


Cormier, Dave (2008) Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum, Innovate: Journal of Online Education, V 4 No 5, Jun-Jul 2008, available at

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

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