I’ve been a fan of Dave Cormier’s work for a long time (eons, in fact, in blog years), and I’ve been following his thinking around Rhizomatic Learning with a great deal of interest. The idea that learning follows different, unpredictable pathways just like the roots of a plant, and that those pathways oftentimes intersect with the learning roots of others is an apt and workable metaphor for the way I’ve come to think about what’s possible for learning in the access rich world many of us now inhabit. Even without the Web, the metaphor works. But no question, the internet amplifies the opportunities to learn with others in personally meaningful, unplanned, self-organized ways.
Dave’s cMOOC “Rhizo15” kicked off last week, and I’ve spent the better part of the day reading and trying to catch up with the conversations so far. As you can guess, it’s less a “course” than it is a quickly expanding pool of conversations and resources that center, for now, on the topic of how learning happens and on how we as learners make sense of an ever expanding pool of conversations and resources that are there for the picking. And it’s hard.
- It’s hard because no one’s telling me what to read or when to read it.
- It’s hard because there’s no one text, no central collection place for ALL the associated thinking with the course.
- It’s hard because I worry about what I’m missing.
- It’s hard because there are no due dates.
- It’s hard because I don’t know if I’m doing it “right.”
- It’s hard because despite the fact that I’ve been learning online informally for almost 15 years, I still have a lot of “old school” baggage built in when I hear the “course.” (By the way, if you want a lesson in how long it takes to unlearn old habits, watch this.)
In other words, “rhizomatic learning” is all about me, what I choose to read, when I choose to read it, whether I choose to respond, how I choose to respond, what I choose to create and share, who I choose to connect with, and so on. I have complete autonomy and agency in the process. I can “quit” any time I like.
This week’s challenge from Dave is to see learning as a “non counting noun.” He says learning “is not something we should think about counting, it’s not something we should worry about counting” and that trying to measure learning “doesn’t make any sense any more.” Yet, he asks, “What are we going to measure? What can we measure?”
I can’t help (again) to harken back to Seymour Sarason and his definition of “productive learning.” Simply put, productive learning is when “the learning process is one which and engenders and reinforces wanting to learn more. Absent wanting to learn, the learning context is unproductive or counterproductive.” (See page X.)
So for me, that’s what I’ll be measuring. Do the interactions in #rhizo15 make me want to learn more? I know that’s going to be driven in large part by my own investment initially, to find those conversations and resources that keep me engaged, keep me coming back. And those are all based on my own “learning subjectives,” as Dave calls them. (“Objectives” are too concrete for this work.) Those questions that I want to answer as I dig around the roots. Questions like:
- What changes do learners experience as they move from straight line learning to roots and shoots learning?
- What new literacies are required to, as NCTE suggests, “manage, analyze, and synthesize [the] multiple streams of simultaneous information” that the “course” will no doubt supply?
- And, maybe most pressing, how can we down here in the K-12 world embrace some of these new learning contexts in our work to prepare our students for their own “Rhizo15” like journeys?
Much to learn, no doubt. Up to me to learn it.