Monday, February 4, 2013

Writer's Jam
It happened, writer’s block, or maybe I should call it writer’s jam because that might be a better description. Like this image, I have numerous connected learning logs trying to squeeze through into one coherent, flowing post but nothing is getting through. For the past two weeks, the #etmooc ‘Topic 1 Connected Learning – Tools, Processes & Pedagogy‘ has inspired and consumed me, from Alec Couros’ Introduction to Connected Learning, to Dean Shareski’s Sharing As Accountability, to Sue Waters’ Introduction to Blogging (and I haven’t even had time to watch George Couros’ Becoming a Networked Educational Leader!), but Dave Cormier’s Introduction to Rhizomatic Learning is the one I am having the most trouble with.

“What is the purpose of learning?” I love that question posed by Dave Cormier the other day in his session on Rhizomtic Learning. I’ve been wrestling with the question, “What is the purpose of education?” for sometime. Are these two different questions, or are they the same? Merriam-Webster defines each as:

Learning – knowledge or skill acquired by instruction or study
Education – the knowledge and development resulting from an educational process

According to these definitions, learning occurs throughout an education, or something like that. So, they are different but related questions. Symantics?

1. ‘Learning is preparing people for uncertainty.’
Cormier said, ‘If we believe we are preparing students for a future we don’t yet understand, an uncertain, unknown future, then, our whole learning process should be about preparing people for uncertainty, preparing people for decision making and giving them the skills they need so that when they are in those situations they know how to respond.’

I love this, but I’m having trouble processing it and figuring out what this would look like in K-8 settings. Could there be rhizome days where students were allowed to dig deeper into a topic? Would these be bi-weekly? weekly? monthly? I know I am being pragmatic, but that’s how my brain works. I immediately want to do this and begin thinking of ways to make it happen, but at the same time be able to ‘sell’ it to those who will be skeptical.

2. Community can be the curriculum
Where you learn is the curriculum. Informal learning. This reminds me of communities of practice, the apprenticeship model, only it is much broader in scope. According to Cormier,
In the rhizomatic model of learning, curriculum is not driven by predefined inputs from experts; it is constructed and negotiated in real time by the contributions of those engaged in the learning process. This community acts as the curriculum, spontaneously shaping, constructing, and reconstructing itself and the subject of its learning in the same way that the rhizome responds to changing environmental conditions.
Amazing stuff! Informal learning. Where you learn is the curriculum. When the ‘community’ is enabled by Twitter, learning potentially reaches around the globe. Cormier said he doesn’t think he has seen anything as wonderful as Twitter for informal learning . . . I totally agree! Not necessarily the tool, Twitter, but what the tool that is Twitter enables. Today it is Twitter, tomorrow, or next year, or five years from now, who knows? The informal learning that is enabled by Twitter is the engine driving #etmooc and most other connected learning experiences.

However, as a K-8 educator, I am back to some kind of structure or framework, two words that kill rhizomatic learning. Well, I need to leave it at that for now, not an easy thing for me to do. If I don’t move on, I will miss the exciting learning opportunities that are awaiting me in Topic 2 Digital Storytelling – Multimedia, Remixes & Mashups.

I do have to share one more thing I learned from a fellow #etmooc blogger, Jeannine St. Amand. It is advice from Stephen Downes to a reader who asked, “I would also like to know if there is any advice that you could give me as I attempt to make a meaningful contribution as an academic and perhaps even have some influence on the quality and availability of education around the world?” Here is Stephen’s brilliant advice that I plan on framing:

Stephen Downes (03.02.13) by Jeannine St. Amand, on Flickr”>Advice from Stephen Downes (03.02.13)

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