#EDENchat Growing minds

When we learn we grow. We grow intellectually, but we also make actual, physical connections in our brains which count as physical growth. Such growth can be chaotic and seemingly void of structure at times, especially in the digital age where there are multiple pathways and a bewildering number of choices we can make as to what we learn, how (and with what tools) we learn it, and at what pace we learn. Don't worry though, there's a theory for everything, including chaotic forms of learning.

Post modern theories of society are often difficult to comprehend, largely due to the dense and at times inscrutable style in which post-modernist theorists write. Anyone who has tried to wade through Foucault or Derrida would attest to this. However, one post-modernist theory, proposed by Deleuze and Guattari, has become the basis for an emerging and comprehensible theory of learning for the digital age - rhizomatic learning. The reason rhizomatic learning is comprehensible is because firstly it is based upon the creeping root metaphor, and secondly, it has been adequately developed and explained by Canadian academic Dave Cormier in reasonably simple terms:
A rhizomatic plant has no center and no defined boundary; rather, it is made up of a number of semi-independent nodes, each of which is capable of growing and spreading on its own, bounded only by the limits of its habitat (Cormier 2008). In the rhizomatic view, knowledge can only be negotiated, and the contextual, collaborative learning experience shared by constructivist and connectivist pedagogies is a social as well as a personal knowledge-creation process with mutable goals and constantly negotiated premises. The rhizome metaphor, which represents a critical leap in coping with the loss of a canon against which to compare, judge, and value knowledge, may be particularly apt as a model for disciplines on the bleeding edge where the canon is fluid and knowledge is a moving target.
He describes today's learners as individuals who are nomadic. It is true that they spend their time wandering across digital terrains and discovering for themselves, but Cormier also argues that
Nomads have the ability to learn rhizomatically, to ‘self-reproduce’, to grow and change ideas as they explore new contexts. They are not looking for ‘the accepted way’, they are not looking to receive instructions, but rather to create.
In his questioning of the role of teachers, Cormier writes:
I refuse to accept that my role as a teacher is to take the knowledge in my head and put it in someone else’s. That would make for a pretty limited world. Why then do we teach? Are we passing on social mores? I want my students to know more than me at the end of my course. I want them to make connections I would never make. I want them to be prepared to change. I think having a set curriculum of things people are supposed to know encourages passivity. I don’t want that. We should not be preparing people for factories. I teach to try and organize people’s learning journeys… to create a context for them to learn in.
Many teachers would agree with these sentiments, but it can be a radical step up from conventional forms of education for others. How can this approach be implemented? Tonight's #EDENchat discusses these and related issues around the theory of rhizomatic learning. What tools and technologies do students need to be able to learn in this way? How do teachers engineer such learning opportunities? What role does the personal learning network play in this kind of learning? What challenges does it present to traditional forms of education and where is it heading?

Join us on Twitter tonight at 20.00 GMT for an hour of chat and sharing.

Photo by Jef Safi on Flickr

Creative Commons License
#EDENchat Growing minds by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


dave cormier said…
Canadians allowed to come to this chat?
Steve Wheeler said…
Absolutely Dave - love to hear from you on the subject! ;)
Barry Dyck said…
In exploring learning with high school students who were given permission and space to follow the question: what do you want to learn? the only explanation I could find to write my thesis was rhizomatic learning and rhizomatic analysis. I am a proud disciple of rhizomatic learning as a lens to describe the tangled mess that learning is. http://mspace.lib.umanitoba.ca/handle/1993/21938
Caroline Kuhn said…
It is a radical change, I agree. I have been interested in this way of learning, in part I guess, because that is how I learn. My question always is how can we change the structure, the prolepsis or ways in which we structure the environment to promote development or learning. I feel trap in the bureaucratic structure of HEI and I am looking at ways to demount that structure. But being within that structure seems paradoxical to me...solving paradoxes are a good stimuli to learn and change. Thanks for sharing!!

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