Go your own way

'Your Own Space' - Abermenai Estuary, Anglesey [Explored]
Here's a little confession: I have always been a bit of a rebel. I'm not keen on too many rules and structures being imposed, and I have a healthy disrespect for authority. I have always been that way, and I don't mind admitting it. I have been labelled an Edupunk because I practise bricolage, the 'do it yourself' approach to personal learning, and this manifests itself in my professional practice too. If someone says to me 'it can't be done', or 'you shouldn't do that', I will probably try to do it anyway (sometimes twice) just to prove them wrong, because I'm bloody minded like that. Give me a boundary and I will try to climb it, undermine it or circumvent it in some way. That's just the kind of person I have turned out to be. This personality trait doesn't endear me to particular people, and I'm not that popular in certain circles, but I don't lose that much sleep over it. From as far back as I can remember, I have not been dependent upon other people, and although like everyone else, I care what others think about me, I have always gone my own way regardless, choosing the way that in my judgement, I think is best for me. That is the reason I have evangelised for personal learning environments, and have openly criticised many of the institutional constraints I see being imposed upon learners of all ages.

It was with great interest then, that I read Helen Crump's blog post today. Entitled Rhizomatic me, a learning nomad, it focuses on self determined learning, and draws on the work of Dave Cormier (and the theories he drew on from the post-modernistic thinking of Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari around Rhizomes, nomads and schizos). In this form of learning, as Helen explains, we each take on the disposition and behaviour of a nomad, (or indeed the Flânerie of Charles Baudelaire) wandering seemingly aimlessly in the space we create for ourselves, to discover what is important for us. This is reminiscent of the personal learning pathways I described in one of my own past blogposts. Helen explains:

'According to Dave Cormier, nomads (or those with a disposition for play as exploration) “have the ability to learn rhizomatically, to ‘self-reproduce’, to grow and change ideas as they explore new contexts”. So, what does “to learn rhizomatically” actually mean? And, where does the term come from? Well, rhizome refers to a way in which certain plants spread. Often understood as a creeping root stalks, rhizomes go out horizontally and interact with their environment. Certainly, they’re messy, disorderly and difficult to control, but at the same time they’re resilient and have a lot of important qualities, which allows them to adapt within their ecosystem. As such, rhizomes have come to represent a model for learning for uncertainty and, like the learning process of life itself, they’ve no beginning or end either.'

The rhizome is certainly a powerful metaphor for chaotic learning, and is personified in the nomad. Nomadic learning clearly appeals to many in the digital age, whether or not they recognise that that is what they are in fact doing. They don't have to be rebels or Edupunks either. Self directed creation, repurposing, organisating and sharing of content (i.e. user generated content) is one of the dominant modes of technology use in both formal and informal learning, and is increasingly pervasive throughout the Western World. The tools nomads have at their disposal (smart phones, mobile devices, social media) enable them to learn on the move, whenever they wish, in their own idiosyncratic styles, and at a pace that suits their personal preferences and lifestyles. As a result of this, some are questioning the future of formal education and the nature of knowledge and learning is being redefined. For many, 'going your own way' is becoming a very important lifestyle choice. How about you?

Photo by Kris Williams

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Go your own way by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


Martin King said…
Rhizomatic learning "messy, disorderly and difficult to control" - this is the nub of the problem for "traditional" education which is in diametric opposition (and it really is in opposition - politically, systemically, organisationally etc etc)

Do you think the education system can ever accommodate this?
Craig Hammond said…
I think fractals (Benoit Mandelbrot) are also a useful philosophical metaphor for creative and empowered learning.

Simon Ensor said…
Give me a boundary...
If only the boundaries given were not so absurdly constraining and so resolutely defended by those who should know better that they know so little...

Neil Stapleton said…
I feel I may have found a suitable definition for my own style of learning... I also have something new to quote at those who don't like my rebellious edupunk ways. Thank you ;)
I suspect I'm stirring a hornets nest here....but let's go with it anyways...

Deleuze and co (and here I'd broadly include Derrida, Lacan, probably Foucault to a degree, Guattari, Badrillard to a degree, Irigaray...)are, perhaps, not the soundest foundation for a theory, or, even more so, a practice.

This, in no way, is meant as disrespectful to Dave Cormier, who is an engaged, thoughtful, and passionate educator, and someone I take no small measure of inspiration from. But the post structuralist philosophical movemnet has major issues.

The complete absence of evidence. The complete lack of falsifiability. The characteristic, omnipresent vagueness. About everything. Including central definitions. The relative simplkicity shrouded in unnecessarily complex language. The faux sciencieness. The responses to criticism, or requests for evidence that are met with drama, anger, and theatrics.

Chomsky called Lacan, who he met "an amusing and perfectly self-conscious charlatan", and notes, on the part of deconstructionists / post structuralists "extraordinary misreading of texts that I know well (sometimes, that I have written), argument that is appalling in its casual lack of elementary self-criticism, lots of statements that are trivial (though dressed up in complicated verbiage) or false; and a good deal of plain gibberish."

Here's Deleuze "In the first place, singularities-events correspond to heterogeneous series which are organized into a system which is neither stable nor unstable, but rather 'metastable', endowed with a potential energy wherein the differences between series are distributed... In the second place, singularities possess a process of auto-unification, always mobile and displaced to the extent that a paradoxical element traverses the series and makes them resonate, enveloping the corresponding singular points in a single aleatory point and all the emissions, all dice throws, in a single cast. "

Here's Guattari "We can clearly see that there is no bi-univocal correspondence between linear signifying links or archi-writing, depending on the author, and this multireferential, multi-dimensional machinic catalysis. The symmetry of scale, the transversality, the pathic non-discursive character of their expansion: all these dimensions remove us from the logic of the excluded middle and reinforce us in our dismissal of the ontological binarism we criticised previously. "

A brief run through on the above, and maybe a comparison with this http://www.elsewhere.org/pomo/ , or a brief period spent thinking about Irigaray's issue with e=mc2 - "a sexed equation" because "it privileges the speed of light over other speeds that are vitally necessary to us", is possibly enough to indicate that post structuralist theory is, quite plainly, no basis for a rational thought, and no wellspring for a considered practice.

My two cents...
Craig Hammond said…
Palimpsests of stagnant loss or profusion of creative possibilities?

There are many options and permutations by which to approach these rebus-like metaphoric ideas; we can indeed incarcerate them, and subject them to the usual array of over-practised academic manoeuvres; or, we can strive to glean something creatively fresh from them, and by invoking our own creative-expressionistic capacities, try to conceive of something vibrant and new. A few immediate references spring to mind: Barthes The Third Meaning, The Death of the Author, Camera Lucida (and the punctum – or, edupunktum) … and, a recounted ‘story’ via Ernst Bloch:

“Our friend sat in the tram car ... and across from him a girl, who he barely looked at, about whom he noticed only her peculiarly large pale blue eyes, noticed them dimly while talking to his companions. He had to notice, actually, for those eyes watched him steadfastly, not enticingly; rather, they were round and lonely, truly like stars ... Now chance came to his aid: the man dropped his ticket. He picked it up from the floor, thereby lightly brushing the girls knee – truly so lightly and awkwardly, so inadvertently in that narrow space ... Soon the tram stopped, as the stars of her eyes rose again (or perhaps had never set); my friend stepped off with his companions while the girl observed, now with a truly mysterious expression, and the tram disappeared in the direction of the park. The man claimed not even to have watched the taillights, so uninteresting did the matter seem to him, and so calm did he feel. But no sooner was he seated at the table than there came, in the midst of the cafe, while he was still listening to light news ... a crash that almost buried him: love exploded on a timed fuse. Illusion began to operate, and the girl within it became the beloved, the one just lost, and neglected, hopelessly gone, with whom an entire life sank. A beautiful, long life, never lived yet deeply familiar, which he recalled almost in a hallucination, and which lacked nothing but its tiny beginning ... one can understand the next few days, which he described, unreservedly open and agitated, days of wandering, of madly pacing off the tram route, the often repeated trip at the same time along the same route, the search for the pearl in the haystack ... (Traces, 2006, pp. 59-61).
Steve Wheeler said…
[sent by eportfoliokeith - deleted in error] Hi Craig.

No offence meant, but, and this is a genuine question...your response...is it from the postmodern generator?

If not...apologies, and...

a request that an argument provide evidence as a basis for it's claim on truth is not incarceration. It's the basic language of reasonable enquiry. A request that argument be clear, relatively unambiguous, and reasonably precise is not an over practiced academic manouvre. It's, again, the basic language of reasonable enquiry.

To suggest that a request for clarity, evidence, and precision of expression is incarceration, as you seem to, is, I think, perhaps disingenuous. Lack of evidence, clarity and precision, and a refusal to attempt to provide them is nor to be lauded.

I would no more laud uncritically Lacan for creativity, and hold this as a higher virtue than clarity, evidence and truth than I would laud L Ron Hubbard for his.

That post structuralism is so afraid of evidence, clarity, truth and precision is reason for distrust, not celebration.
Brett Kromkamp said…
Hi Steve,

The connection you are referring to between personal learning environments and rhizomatic learning is spot on. I am building a personal learning environment application based on topic maps (a very versatile data structure) that I hope will take rhizomatic learning to its 'next level' within the PLE space.

Anyway, thanks for the blog post. I will definitely be dropping by from time to time to see what you are up to ;-)

Steve Wheeler said…
I think the two are diametrically opposed Martin, hence the need to avoid any reform of school systems and instead, to create viable alternatives. I believe the current traditional, formal education system is broken beyond repair.
Steve Wheeler said…
I like it - thanks for the link Craig
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks for stopping by and commenting Neil. Glad you found the post of some use :)
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks Brett. Glad you are able to get something useful out of my rumblings :)

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