Saturday, 2 February 2013

Rhizomatic Learning

This week I participated in several Blackboard Collaborate Sessions for ETMOOC.  One of them was on rhizomatic learning led by David Cormier.  It was an interesting topic with a rich discussion.  As I listened to the conversation, I thought of my overgrown garden which is year by year being invaded by strawberry and mint plants, which are rhizome plants.  The roots of a rhizome grow laterally and it can propagate anywhere.  David was proposing that learning needs to be rhizomatic, especially with the use of collaborative learning communities on-line.

His 5 key points were:

- the best teaching prepares people for dealing with uncertainty
- the community can be the curriculum - learning when there is no answer
- the rhizome is a model for learning for uncertainty
- rhizomatic learning works in the complex domain
- we need to make students responsible for their own learning (and the learning of others)

It was a very interesting discussion, but the piece that resonated with me the most was that we need to make students responsible for their own learning.  I connected with this because I have been trying to learn more about and to implement Genius Hour in my classroom.  Genius Hour is self directed passion based learning.  Many teachers in our district and all over North America have been successfully implementing this kind of learning/teaching in their classrooms.  A high school, Fraser Heights Secondary, in our district even has a new elective course that students can take for credit that is based on Genius Hour.  (For more information on Genius Hour you can visit the Genius Hour wiki.)

David discussed how this kind of teaching can't be used to teach the basics such as the multiplication tables.  In elementary school, when we are trying to teach so many basic skills it can sometimes be difficult to use an open syllabus and begin teaching students how to take responsibility for their own learning.  However, if we make that leap into putting students into the driver's seat of their own learning, where they can choose what they learn and how they share their learning, the rewards can be amazing.

My own experiences with self-directed study as a student left me with mixed feelings.  I was given the opportunity to choose what I wanted to learn when I took part in the TLITE (Teaching and Learning in an Information Technology Environment) Program at Simon Fraser University.  I felt confused with this new found freedom to choose.  I missed the comfort and familiarity of being told what to learn and how to show my learning.  I wanted a set syllabus and I wanted to know what hoops I needed to jump through to finish the program.  However, with some guidance, I eventually created my own projects and reflected on my learning.  It was tailored to my needs and enriched my program in my classroom.  Now, taking part in ETMOOC, I am excited to drive my own learning and to go where I wish with my learning plan.  Finally, I have a label for it too: Rhizomatic Learning.

(Now, I have a newfound respect for the strawberry and mint in my garden, those industrious little rhizome plants.)

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