Rhizomatic Learning on P2PU, initiated by Dave Cormier is an opportunity to explore a topic that is paradoxically near and dear to my heart, and at the same time feels uncomfortable against the backdrop of formal education. I came to the field of education first through applied linguistics, finding myself drawn to social linguistics and then moving towards instructional design. I’m not sure these areas could be philosophically more different, but the juxtaposition through my career has been essential. I think the most important lesson in life, no matter what your profession is that context matters and that adapting one’s approach based on the situation at hand is critical for expertise. I’m being very surface level right now, because I know that one could conceptualize learning in some other organic metaphor besides a rhizome, but I think it works, particularly for trying to capture the nature of social learning, of the randomness but interconnectedness of experience, and the shape of nonformal learning. As Deleuze and Guattari note: “A rhizome has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo.” A learner is always in progress, always in the learning process– there is no end.
That’s where the tension comes in. In formal learning, if one were to tell a student that there is no end, no mark of accomplishment, no grade, no graduation, no degree, this would not be particularly motivating (to most people). When planning out a learning experience, for learners who are learning for the sake and enjoyment of the learning process, of discovering something new, and of being inspired by these new findings, it doesn’t really matter what the desired learning outcomes are– the learner will define those themselves. But even the same individual might find this to be a fine approach for something that they are really motivated to learn about, but for other subject areas might want a more structured approach.
At any rate, these are my assumptions at the outset of this experience. I look forward to delving a bit more into the rhizome and seeing my ideas evolve. Thanks to Dave Cormier for assembling this experience!
Next post will be about Week 1’s topic– Cheating as learning.