Chelsi's Educational Musings

Posts Tagged ‘Rhizomatic Learning

Photo by wildxplorer

Writing an entry to “summarize” my learning for EC&I 831 does not seem adequate for this class.  I have learned so much in such a short period of time that it really WAS difficult to summarize my learning into a 5-7 minute project. (Thus, you will see that my project is 7:32.  Being concise is not my strongpoint!)  Moreover, I feel like a summary is often synonymous with a conclusion, and my learning stemming from this class is only just beginning.  I feel as though this class is a stepping stone to everything, technologically-based, that I am going to embark on.  I truly felt rhizomatic learning happening throughout this class, and that was something that I had not experienced within any class I had taken.  In my post about Dave Cormier’s presentation, I stated that rhizomatic learning “can move in multiple directions, and it is unpredictable.  It is open-ended, experiential-based, creative, and not based on memory, but on forming knowledge.  There is no curriculum because learning from EACH OTHER is the curriculum.”  How true that was for our class!  Our learning was not based on a prescribed curriculum, but it was because of each other and ourselves.  Never before have I taken a Masters class or undergrad class where I felt so motivated and compelled to learn, share, and grow than during this class.  I have been working on my Final Project since two weeks after this class began, and never was I thinking about the mark I would receive or if I had completed “enough” or “the right kind” of work.  I was compelled to create it for myself and others.  The process by which I created my website was challenging, but it forced me to learn for myself, and in that way, I have grown so much more.  I will be continuing to work on my website even when class is complete, and I think that that alone shows the importance of rhizomatic learning.  Alec stated in our last class that we should think about learning beyond our class and that we should learn for ourselves.  Thank you for motivating us to do so, Alec, and providing us with the tools to learn beyond the classroom.  I have enjoyed reading about others’ Final Projects and have witnessed many others creating projects that they will continue to use when class is complete, and that is testament to all that we have learned.

Although it is difficult to summarize my learning, as it is still ongoing, I CAN summarize my feelings about this class.  I have enjoyed it far more than any other class that I have taken.  I am constantly thinking about how I can utilize all of the new tools that we have been given.  I find myself very conscious of who I can share things with, and I am compelled to pass on what I learn to others to make THEIR lives more interesting and easier!  I have learned so much from everyone in the class.  Just today, I passed on Honni’s blog to our school’s kindergarten teacher who is attempting to use technology in her classroom.  I am going to have my students create Wordle posters thanks to Judy’s recent post.  I finally remembered the site that Alec recommended that allows you to caption your pictures, thanks to Katy, and I am now obsessed with picnik and used it to create the picture above.  I will now be showing my colleagues how to use picnik tomorrow!  All of that sharing was completed, and only in the course of a day!  I am even DREAMING about sharing!  Whenever school gets stressful, I have this reoccurring nightmare about tornados (and have had this dream since I was young.)  Last week, before conferences, I had the same dream.  However, when I saw the tornado approaching, I tweeted out a storm warning!  Sharing is now apart of my subconscious!

We still have two classes left, and I have no doubt that many of us will continue to follow each other’s blogs, so I will not say my goodbyes quite yet!  Instead, I will leave you with my Summary of Learning.  I apologize for it being 32 seconds too long!  😛  I honestly timed it when reading my ‘script’ aloud to make sure that it was within the time constraints.  However, I seriously underestimated the speed at which the characters speak!  I edited for, no word of a lie, two hours, and this is as short as I can get it, sorry!  I have three “deleted scenes” that didn’t even fit the cut…but I’ll save those for the DVD. 😛  I also was frustrated that I could not edit them into one movie with five different scenes.  Alas, I would have to pay even more than I already paid to use the account, and that just wasn’t in this teacher’s budget!  I then tried to upload all five to You Tube to create a playlist, but for some reason, the movies will NOT upload. I have tried for two days, searched many help boards for the past hour, changed my authorization several times, and still, nothing.  I tried to embed them into the blog, but that wouldn’t work either.  Then, I tried to download them to my computer to upload to a host site, but I couldn’t download them without paying to upgrade my account!  What a money-grab!  Finally, I decided to take a screen shot of each one and link to that, and it seems to have worked.  So without further ado…

My Summary of Learning, using xtranormal

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Sharing by ryancr, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  ryancr 

…as demonstrated by these insanely cute guinea pigs!

Last night, our EC&I 831 class was treated to a presentation by Dean Shareski.  I had viewed the link to that Alec had suggested, as well as the awesome video that he had created for Alec’s birthday.  Anyone who can put something together a video of that magnitude would probably be a pretty great presenter!  He did not disappoint!  (See his blog for more interesting and entertaining posts!)

When I read “Dean Shareski” listed beside a presentation about The Importance of Sharing and Learning, I have to admit that I thought that “Shareski” was a nickname that had been given to Dean due to his love of online collaboration and social networking.  Turns out he was gifted with a name that suits his personality…or maybe his personality suits his name?  Whatever the case, our class participated in a worthwhile presentation that had me thinking today about how much (and how little) teachers actually share, why we share, and how we can share with others.

Sharing…it’s a very simple concept that we learn as toddlers.  The reasons why we share as adults are much the same as when we were young – to make people happy, to help others, to give back, and to learn.  With each passing class, I find myself becoming more and more aware of how much I share and I receive online.  I posted last week about my feelings regarding the lack of links I have posted to our Delicious stack.  I feel like I’m in a lop-sided relationship with Delicious, as I have taken far more from our class stack than I have contributed, but I really am always on the look out for things to add, honest!  Before this class, I was not as cognitive about how much I share online.  Now, I hear friends or colleagues make statements and then find myself thinking, “We talked about that in class!”  For example, one of my husband’s friends said that I post more pictures and links on Facebook than anyone he knows.  He did not say that negatively, but simply as an observation.  I am very aware that I post a lot of pictures, and whenever I find something that I think someone would enjoy or be interested to read, I post it on Facebook.  (I am now posting much more of these articles on Twitter as well since starting EC&I 831).  WHY do I share so much in this way, I wondered?  Dean answered many of those questions for me last night.  He made statements such as:

“The internet is not just a place to ‘look up stuff’; it’s a place to connect with people.”
“Commenting is as important as blogging.”
“We share to make people happy!”

Each statement resonated with me, as these are the reasons why I enjoy sharing articles, pictures, and websites with others.  When sharing educationally with colleagues and other teachers, I do so because I know how much I appreciate when someone shares with me.  Our days are already busy enough, and it makes everything a bit easier when someone is willing to share their work.  Besides, it is like a good recipe – if someone is willing to share a teaching resource with me, I can usually be sure that it will work and will be worthwhile.

Dean asked a question that I have been thinking about all day.  He asked us, “What is your best work, and where can I find it?”  Artistically, my best work is in my house, such as paintings on my walls and projects that I have created.  Some of the jewellery that I have made has been some of my best artistic work, and some of the neatest moments for me are when I see my jewellery being worn by people whom I have never met!  Academically, however, most of my best work sits in files in a boxes in my basement, and that is quite sad to me.  I have now made it a goal to publish some of my lesson plans online, either on my website that I am creating for my final project, or in our staff documents library so that other teachers can use them.  As a start, I would like to share a Webquest that I created that I feel is one of my best projects.  This Webquest began as an undergrad class project in my last year of university.  At a garage sale one day, I found a 90-year-old autograph book that had no information regarding the owner other than the messages to her.  While reading through it, I inferred that she was a nurse in Saskatchewan who contracted tuberculosis, but recovered and continued nursing.  The autographs span over 40 years, and I thought that if I enjoyed reading through the book this much, students would probably love playing detective, too.  It took me FOREVER, but I scanned almost 100 pages of autographs on my old, primitive scanner back then, and made them into a Webquest.  (I have the real book that the students take turns looking through, too.)  I have used the project in Social Studies while teaching about Saskatchewan, in Health for Communicable Diseases, and in Reading to teach strategies such as inferring and making connections.  If I had the time, I would re-do the site, as it looks kind of outdated now.  I also would like to re-scan the autographs or simply take pictures and upload them, as the scans are small and grainy due to my scanner that I used eight years ago.  However, I have added to the Webquest, created additional lessons, and modified for my EC&I 833 class.  I have used it every year with my class, no matter what grade I have taught.  It is one of the most well-received projects that I have taught, and the students buy into it hook, line, and sinker!  When Dave Cormier was speaking to us last week on Rhizomatic Learning and teaching students as nomads rather than workers, I thought about this project.  I had a student who was the epitome of a nomad.  He was very smart, yet completely clashed with many of this teachers.  He and I clicked, however, and he excelled at projects like this.  He worked on the Webquest at home each night and when he had completed it, he actually tracked down the last person to sign an autograph, and with his dad’s help, he phoned and interviewed her about the autograph book.  He found out that the last person to sign the book in 1952 was the niece of the owner, and she provided him with a plethora of information, pictures, and stories.  He presented all of his findings to the class, and we compared how close their interpretations of the real owner were to what the student had discovered.  The class was amazed to see how accurate their inferences were, and I was so impressed by how this student had gone above and beyond the project’s requirements.

Dean’s presentation also made me think about the importance of having my students share their work.  Tomorrow, my students are presenting “Radio Plays” that they have written.  Rather than simply present to the class, I am hoping to have each group create a Voicethread that I can post on our class blog next week.  I will let you know how this goes!  In the meantime, I am interested to hear where your best work can be seen –  whether it is your children, as some people said, a specific document, an artistic achievement, a website, or anything else!

In the meantime, I will leave you with an interesting clip pertaining to the 7 billionth person being born recently.  Are you typical?

Roots by mutbka, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  mutbka 

Before I begin my post about last night’s EC&I 831 class, I have to share something that demonstrates the endless possibilities of online learning.  I was talking to a student after school and asked her what she was doing tonight.  She is Muslim, and she informed me that she has prayers for two hours tonight.  I asked her if she worships at home or at a Mosque, and she said that she does her prayers online!  I asked her about it and she told me that she and her siblings follow an online teacher who leads their prayers from 7:00-8:30.  Students from all over tune in so that they can participate.  I found it very fascinating that a formerly very “traditional” practise is being taught online, making it more accessible to children and adults alike.  It was also neat to see that children ten and under were participating in their own online community.  What a great time in which we are living!

Last night, we were lucky enough to have Dave Cormier present to our class about Rhizomatic Learning.   Prior to class commencing, I read Dave’s blog about Rhizomatic Learning so that I could be more prepared for his presentation.  I recommend checking out his blog, as I ended up spending time reading about more than just Rhizomatic Learning!

Dave began by asking us why we educate.  After a number of responses, he informed us that there are three kinds of outcomes within our education system – workers, soldiers, and nomads.  He said that we originally began to educate to produce workers – people who were obedient, passive, and their learning could be measured by our standards.  This was the traditional way of educating, often referred to as the “assembly line” method.  Next, there are the soldiers.  The soldiers know more than the workers; they are in charge of establishing what is to be learned, what competence is, and how we will measure that competence.  The soldiers are essentially the teachers.  Dave writes in his blog post defining the roles of the three outcomes and explains that “[The soldiers] are the defenders of memory. They are the ones who establish what things we currently know that the worker should remember, and then establish the system by which we will measure that knowing.”  The more we study in this class, the more I question what I teach.  How much of what we teach is now important?  It used to be that we needed to remember information.  In today’s day and age, we have access to facts at our fingertips.  Thus, we must teach students HOW to obtain knowledge, solve problems, and discern what is truth and fiction from all the data to which they have access.

Our traditional school system has been based on soldiers training the workers.  Dave’s third outcome, however, is one that is less common in our society – that of the nomad.  The nomad is a creative thinker who is not afraid of divergent thinking.  Nomads carve their own paths, create their own meaning, and learn things because they need to, not simply as an objective or a memory test.  The nomads do not learn from rote memorization, but from the knowledge that comes with experience.

After establishing the three outcomes, Dave explained the definition of Rhizomatic Learning.  Before we understand this learning style, it is important to understand what a rhizome is, as Dave uses the rhizome as a metaphor for his proposed learning environment.  I was unfamiliar with this term, so let me explain.  A rhizome is a type of plant that is incredibly resilient, aggressive, and chaotic.  It is difficult to contain, follows its own path, take off in random directions, and cannot be controlled.  I guess it is like twitch grass to the extreme!  When given the chance, a rhizome takes off on its own, and its roots are incredibly deep.  Dave compares the rhizome to the learning environment suitable for nomads.  This class gets chaotic, can move in multiple directions, and it is unpredictable.  It is open-ended, experiential-based, creative, and not based on memory, but on forming knowledge.  There is no curriculum because learning from EACH OTHER is the curriculum.

As I was learning about this theory, two thoughts were going through my mind.  The first was that I would love to have a classroom of experiential learning at all times.  I thrive on creativity, and I love seeing my students be creative and “in it,” as Dave referred to the real, true grasping of knowledge.  Having ended yesterday’s school day with a hands-on, messy science experiment and watching my students really understand and be involved in the concepts we were studying, I agreed with how important and exciting this Rhizomatic Learning can be.  I also understood when Dave explained this kind of learning as messy (it was!), loud, less structured, and much more difficult than a worker-soldier type of classroom.  This kind of learning is what the students remember because they CHOOSE to remember it, not because they have to.  This part of me was all for Rhizomatic Learning.

Then, there’s the Type A part of me that says, “But what about the curriculum?  I can’t just teach whatever the students feel like learning or where the discussion takes us.  I have content to cover!  What about my DNA, RAD, and school goal scores?  All of this chaos will be so tiring and quite frankly, somewhat scary!”  Then, Dave said something that I feel was the most important part of his presentation.  Someone (I think it was Kelly?) asked him how it is possible to teach in this fashion when we have the K-12 curriculum to cover.  Dave replied, “Do it when you can.”   I felt much better and more confident hearing that it ISN’T completely possible, nor effective, to completely throw away the curriculum.  Instead, we SHOULD have a guide to follow and parameters set, but that we should also leave room along the way to let our students learn things that are interesting and important to them.  I think that Dave was saying that we shouldn’t always be teaching them WHAT to learn, but giving them situations to figure out HOW to create their own learning.

In my teaching, I feel that establishing a relationship with my students is extremely important.  Not only does that allow me to understand their personalities, family situations, and needs better, but I am able to understand what is important to them.  I cannot build an entire curriculum around their every desire, but as Dave explained, I can fit their interests into my plans whenever possible and allow that to become part of the curriculum.  I have been working more with inquiry-based projects, where we study a certain concept, and the students can work on a project of their desire in the way that works best for them.  For example, I had a class last year who were quite difficult.  However, they were intensely interested when stories of animal cruelty were brought to school during our daily Current Events discussion.  (I find that a ten minute discussion each morning pertaining to the world’s events can lead to excellent discussion and can allow me to understand what the students are passionate about.) I decided to take hold of that interest level and planned my writing lessons around animal cruelty.  The grade six writing outcomes stated that I had to teach persuasive writing, so why not make it about something that mattered to the students?  We researched a lot of animal cruelty incidents as a class, and then they were free to create a project that educated others about animal cruelty.  The students completely ran with the project and wrote letters to MPs, baked dog treats to sell to raise money to donate to the Humane Society, created posters to present to other classes, made t-shirts, and wrote reports to read to friends and family.  This was far less structured than a ‘typical’ writing class, but the results were much more thorough, creative, and meaningful for the students.  It was definitely Rhizomatic Learning at work.  The students’ interests dictated where we went with the project rather than the outcome telling them where they should go.

Dave made another statement that resonated with me.  He said that “people always want to know what success looks like in order to reach it.”  We then discussed how this kind of thinking stifles creativity, as the only objective is to do what is deemed successful by the assessor.  I really struggle with this concept because of the standardized testing that we have to complete each year.  We have a reading assessment (RAD) and math assessment (DNA) that are completed at the beginning and end of each year.  I will not even go into detail about these tests, as it will turn into pages of me ranting about the reasons why I feel they are so ineffective.  I just feel that in university and in our graduate studies, we are taught to teach with nomads, rather than workers, in mind.  When we get into the school system, we are so stifled by so many standardized tests, objectives, and outcomes that must be met or else we look incompetent as teachers.  I will try to keep Dave’s statement of doing what we CAN do in mind when I feel frustrated by the school system’s objectives.  I am wondering what anyone else does to balance the demands of meeting objectives and standards with trying to create a more rhizomatic learning environment?