Tag Archives: dave cormier

Is rhizomatic learning invasive? (Can I do Week 5 in Week 7?)

I didn’t miss the Week 5 prompt, it’s just that I couldn’t stop my rhizo-head from spinning long enough to stabilize my thoughts.

So this is what Dave said about rhizomatic learning:

Rhizomatic plants are chaotic, aggressive and resilient. It models some of the qualities that can make a good learner. The rhizome, however, can also be an invasive species. It can choke other plants out of your garden such that only the rhizomatic plant remains. (And the rest here which I choose not to address in this post.)

Must rhizomatic learning be an invasive species?

Your challenge
This week take a critical look at the rhizomatic approach. Are we just replacing one authority structure with another? Trading tradition for community? What does this mean in our classroom? How can this get us into trouble? What are the ethical implications of creating a ‘community’ for learning? Community as conformity?

Am I having so much trouble responding because I don’t have anything to say? No, it’s more like I don’t know where to start or how to capture my experiences in the Rhizo15 community. There is no way I am going to be able to respond in coherent linear manner so I might just be impressionistic – turn on the sun and highlight a few things.

Must rhizomatic learning be an invasive species?

Well it depends on your definition of invasive.  A rhizome plant  is invasive and often unwelcome. Some people (like Maha) welcome the plant as well as the experience. The rhizomatic learning community is a chaotic learning experience with an interconnectedness amongst members which appears to have no dominant mapping logic. (I’m struggling to find words for this.) An image is better.

Image source: Jenny Mackness’ blog

Okay, so there is a good textual explanation:

A rhizome is a root-like organism (though not a root) that spreads and grows horizontally (generally underground). Some examples are potatoes, couchgrass, and weeds. Couchgrass, or crabgrass, continues to grow even if you pull up what you think is all of it, since it has no central element. As a rhizome has no center, it spreads continuously without beginning or end. The main principles of the rhizome are “principles of connection and heterogeneity: any point of a rhizome can be connected to anything other, and must be” (A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari).

This kind of unpredictable, unmappable, interconnected learning can be very invasive. It can:

  • disrupt the previously constructed order
  • make people get lost
  • encourage people to reach out into space and grab anyone’s hand so as not to float out into space alone
  • create worlds different to the ones we knew and encourage people to spend a lot of time there
  • render people’s speech unintelligible as they exchange clusters of hashtagged memes, poetry, radio plays, and other dubious projects
  • tempt people to forgo sleep to participate in conversations and schemes
  • make people lose sight of the central premise of whatever it was they were doing before
  • make people find they have a fondness for people they’ve never met face to face
  • disrupt confidence in objective understanding
  • cause a shift in perception of reality which involves subjectivity gaining credibility over objectivity
  • creating doubt in the existence of objectivity

Are we just replacing one authority structure with another? Trading tradition for community?

What authority? I can’t see any authority? Where there is no centre there is no authority. But what about Dave? Oh, he comes and goes like an irresponsible parent. We are left out on the streets to play on our own.


What does this mean in our classroom?

That’s what I’m trying to figure out. Can you come back later?

How can this get us into trouble?

Absolutely. I certainly hope so.

What are the ethical implications of creating a ‘community’ for learning?

Can I phone a friend?

Community as conformity?

Too many questions, Dave. Let’s leave some for another time.

Yes! Rhizomatic learning is definitely invasive. I’ve captured 256 rhizo-related things in a Pinterest board and that’s only a small portion of what’s being created by the Rhizo15 community.

How do we ‘teach’ rhizomatically? Or, even… do we? #rhizo15 #week4

Photo source

I’ve been collecting and categorising (or at least naming) images on Pinterest for a while now. At times it’s been obsessive. Talk about content and non-content – I feel as I ‘own’ these images, that is, I have them in MY collection but actually I know that they are not mine, I don’t own them,  nor do I actually have them in my possession. Just like my playlists on Spotify. I have so much music! I can listen to it any time but it’s not actually mine; I have none of it in my hand.

Anyway, I digress from the topic. So for some reason I started collecting pictures that represented ‘looking out’, for example, an open window like the one above.  Some of these pictures featured a person looking out like this one.

Photo source

See how the next picture shows looking out from a different viewer position.

Photo source

Soon after creating this collection it seemed logical to collect images representing ‘looking in’.  Here’s an example.

Photo source

However this is my preferred representation of looking in.

Photo source

I think of this picture as ‘looking in’ because it feels like introspection. The woman only has a blank wall in front of her and yet she seems to be intent on something.  She is looking inward, don’t you think?

Here’s another ‘looking in’. The woman is concentrating inwardly to such an extent that she is no longer separate from her surroundings.

Photo source

Here’s one which could should perhaps be ‘looking out’ but feels like ‘looking in’. Do you agree?

Maybe it’s the direction the chair is facing – not out towards the window but inwards. The suggestion of a person having been on the chair, almost still sitting there in spirit, makes me think it’s an introspective picture.

But if we go back to this picture

I also think that the girl is looking inwards. She is simultaneously looking out and in.

Why am I talking about this? It’s the open window. It’s enticing.

Open is enticing and also a bit frightening. Looking through a window intensifies the longing, anticipation or fear because it contrasts with the contained space – the room.  Unlimited space contrasted with contained space. And yet there is no doubt that the space through and beyond the open window is more enticing than the contained space of the room. When our classroom becomes open – for example, open blogs revealing student writing to the world, near and far, or through open ended, unprescribed tasks, do students feel enticed, afraid, both? Does this help them reach out to an unknown audience or reach inside themselves because they have their own space for reflection and slow writing? Both.

Marc Chagall’s ‘The window’ (1924) plays with my perspective. What about you?

If you stare at the window frame and opened window frames long enough does your perspective shift from the way they’re drawn, that is, drawn in (and so the outside is almost coming in) to being pushed out with the energy reaching out into the outdoors, into the vast space.

Openness in learning. Opening the window so that learners have a space to reach out into. An undefined space, a space with limitless possibilities. Is this space too much? Could they drown in it?

As teachers facilitating this kind of learning  are we looking out or looking in? Or is it like the pictures in which both occur simultaneously? We want students to look out and imagine possibilities and also look in to reflect and make sense of what they’ve seen.

Rhizomatic learning is chaos. Delicious chaos for those who experience it so. Overwhelming, perhaps, for those who haven’t found their footing.  I’m writing this after reading clusters of conversations in different spaces – Facebook, Google +, blogs, Twitter. The rhizome bleeds into spontaneous spaces, following its cluster will. Underground it shoots off and off while the world above the surface wakes, eats, works, plays and sleeps again.

Where is the creator?

What creator? Space is. Within it life. Clustered stars, planets. Human reach goes out far, meets others in space, clustered lights illuminating the dark. Can the rhizome break through the ground and reach space? Are the underground and space co-existant?

Where is the artist creator in this picture?

Who knows? We know the artist painted the picture but he’s long gone; now the picture just is in the present.

How do we ‘teach’ rhizomatically?  Or, even… do we?

Are you still asking that same question? Am I teaching? Or am I just opening the window?


How can we measure learning? Week 2 #rhizo15

Data or it didn’t happen.

— Shit Academics Say (@AcademicsSay) April 18, 2015

How can we measure learning? Can we measure learning? Define learning. What did I learn today? I learned about the Australian Indigenous artist, Vernon Ah Kee.

Ah Kee is also part of the Proppa Now group and is one of the most political aboriginal artists of his time.

The above is from his 2002 collection titled “If I was White”. I was interested in reading the transcript.

6×5 A4 grids transcribed L-R, downwards:

If I was White
I could walk down the street
and people would pay no particular
attention to me.

It may not seem like much
but if you’ve ever had
a shopkeeper tell you to
Buy something or move on, or
simply follow you around the shop,
it’s significant.

If I was White
people would speak to me.

Wouldn’t you feel a little lonely
if you were the only White person
in a new school
and nobody including the teacher
understood you or your culture?

If I was White
I would think like a White Person.

If I was White
I would believe myself to be equal
to anyone.

If I was White
I would be more likely
to live longer.

If I was White
I would be less likely
to spend time behind bars.

If I was White
just think of all the names
I wouldn’t have been called.

If namecalling does not seem
all that serious to you
then you haven’t heard the names
I’ve been called.

If I was White
a lot of the fights I’ve been in
would not have been my fault.

If I was White
I wouldn’t have been in so many fights.

If I was White
I would not be part of the Stolen Generation.

If I was White
I would have been counted in the Census since 1901.

If I was White
I could live, shop, and socialise
wherever I want.

If you’ve walked into Real Estate
Agencies where houses and units
To Let suddenly become Taken,
and just as suddenly become
Available when you leave, then
you know what I’m talking about.

If I was White
I would be accepted.

If I was White
I could group together
all the people who don’t
look like me
into their own separate

If I was White
I could accept a life of privilege,
wealth, and power
that the exploitation of Black
People has brought me
without even blinking.

If I was White
I could stand back,
walk on by, sit on the fence,
and do nothing.

If I was White
I would think I have every right
to be here.

If I was White
I would fit in.

If I was White
I would not have to live in a country that hates me.

If I was White
I would have a country.

If I was White
I could say This land
has been in my family
for three generations.

If I was White
I could say My family
have lived on this land
for two hundred years.

If I was White
I could say My father worked hard
to buy this land.

If I was White
I could buy bandaids
the same colour as my skin.

What if all bandaids were black?

If I was White
and in an accident, I would be
wrapped in white bandages.

If I was White
I wouldn’t be asked if I was
Fullblood, Half-caste, or part White.

If I was White
I would not hear other White People
say to me You don’t look like you
have alot of White in you, or
You don’t look White.

If I was White
my fair skin
would not be such an issue
with other White People.

If I was White
it would be okay
to claim to be White.

If I was White
I wouldn’t have to claim to be White
just to get a job.

If I was White
I would be taken at my word.

Try accepting everything written
here as being true
simply because I say it is.

If I was White
I could really identify with
Australian TV Soaps.

If I was White
I could really identify with
Australian TV Advertising.

If I was White
popular Australian newspapers
would print what I want to read.

If you don’t think so
then count how many Black People
appear in the weekend social

If I was White
I could go to church
and Jesus Christ would
look like me.

Imagine Christ images all over the
world being black.

If I was White
I would not have to be smart
to keep a good job.

If I was White
I would have more chance
of getting a job.

If I was White
I could wear a suit and tie
and not look suspicious.

If I was White
I could own a luxury vehicle
and not look suspicious.

If I was White
I could shop in luxury stores
and not look suspicious.

If I was White
I could walk
in a white neighbourhood
and not look suspicious.

If I was White
I could dye my hair blonde
and it would not look strange.

If I was White
I could have blue eyes
and it would not look strange.

If I was White
I could marry another White person
and it would not look strange.

If I was White
I would have a better chance of becoming PM.

If I was White
I could write history any way I please.

If I was White
ignorance could be my excuse.

If I was White
I would have nothing to fear
from Police.

If I was White
I would not have to explain
the things I say.

If I was White
the world would make
more sense to me.

If I was White
I could make myself believe
that Black People were evil.

If I was White
I could shelter my children from
the evil that exists in the world.

If I was White
I could lie to my children about
the evil that exists in the world.

But I am Black
and I am as misunderstood as the next Blackfella

but I am beginning to understand the White Men.

What did you learn from that text art by Vernon Ah Kee? Does it make you curious to  know more? Does your understanding shift into another context? Are you thinking about this in a broader sense? How did you feel when you were reading this? How did you feel when you were thinking about it?  How would you assess the learning during all of that?

Give yourself a mark out of ten. Make sure you address the outcomes which sit neatly in lines next to their dot points. Don’t forget to ignore everything that is not neatly summarised by these points. Don’t go including the metacognition.  Make sure you toss all those airy fairy ‘what if…’ thoughts. Don’t even think about including the way you felt when you were reading the text; that’s not important and we can’t be getting all touchy feely when we’re assessing serious learning outcomes.

So, back to Dave.


Learning is a non-counting noun.  It’s not something we should worry about counting, I don’t think measuring it makes any sense. Once that’s done, what can we measure? Dig into the possibilities of measurement. What can we use to send to administrators? Some way of talking about using all these numbers and  How can we map out the rhizome? a tool for people to map out their own rhizome.  I understand this conflicts with the freedom but work with that.

Really. This is hard. If I knew how to do that …

Taking a look at my own learning which has taken place in MOOCs lately – Connected Courses and now Rhizo15…

If we are talking about connected learning rather than the consumption of learning then counting is no longer useful. You can’t ‘count’ connected learning but connected learning does count. Turn it on its head. It counts. Show it, write about it, share it, discuss it – make it transparent. There it is; you can see it for yourself.

Learning is complex. Yes, we could map it. But… there’s so much to take into account. It’s giving me a headache. Big data.  That term gets bandied about a bit lately. Looking it up on Wikipedia gives me a bigger headache. (Not sure where I saw this image; someone shared it on Twitter?)

And don’t forget –

As I’ve said in a previous blog post, Einstein, Newton, Edison, Tolstoy, Pasteur, Lincoln – these are only some of the notable gifted people throughout history who were assessed as failures in school.

How could that happen? Is it happening now? How reliable are our methods of assessment? One thing I know – we should definitely assess assessment.

Dave Cormier, I can’t answer your question. Fail me.


Mixed metaphors. Putting the jigsaw together can be challenging when it’s a rhizome

Image source: Mashable

Warning: My current confusion (chaos) – which is (I remind myself) a necessary state during the process of understanding – has got me clutching at different metaphors in an attempt to liken rhizomatic learning within a rhizomatic connectivist MOOC to this and that.  Already I have mentioned a jigsaw and a rhizome but I will also be talking about a river (which is actually a rapid) as well as swimming and drowning. Sorry.

Feelings and happenings:

So I’ve jumped into the MOOC Rhizomatic Learning, otherwise known as #Rhizo15. In Connected Courses I had my first taste of being part of a MOOC which is a Massive Open Online Course. Some of the people I met and continue to interact with have done #Rhizo14 (Rhizomatic learning: the community is the curriculum) and so I eavesdropped a little and was intrigued.  And by the way, I learned that #Rhizo15 is a cMOOC and not an xMOOC.

So, the MOOC.

It’s massive so you feel initially as if you’ve been thrown into a raging river while trying to study a map. The map you’re using is rendered useless and the only way to keep going is learn how to swim while you’re drowning.

It’s open. As much as you  might be feeling there’s enough to interest you in your career and life, your social network, suddenly it’s as if a section of the planet has been sliced with a giant cheese knife. You can see inside and you realise there is so much activity going on in there  that you didn’t realise,  and from afar it looks both fascinating and frightening. You draw closer to make sense of the activity; you try to find patterns in the activity, guides for the social behaviour, but there is too much going on at once, and so you give up trying to figure it out and jump into one of the conversations. Only when you do, they lead you to so many more – for example, in the Facebook group: Rhizomatic Learning: a practical discussion,  the Rhizomatic Learning Google+ community and around the Twitter hashtag #Rhizo15.

Suddenly there are not enough hours in the day and you desperately want to keep up. But you also want to be everywhere at once. You remember you have a job and personal life and you wish you could put them on hold for a while.

And sleep! What is happening when you sleep! You’re missing out on conversations and posts, and your time zones are not synchronised with much of the population so at the start of the day you have so much to catch up on.

But while you are taking part in conversation in groups all over the place, reading and commenting on posts, you realise that there are books you haven’t read, educational theorists you should be researching. You need background so that you understand more fully what people are talking about. When will you have time to do this?!


At this point I’m stopping before I hyperventilate. Time for a bit of grounding reflection. Dave Cormier introduced the MOOC as a curriculum that writes itself. It’s writing itself now from many, many spaces and simultaneously. I remind myself that nothing is compulsory; everything is optional.  A bit of focus and self control amongst all the choice and I should be able to replace anxiety with a calm acceptance of the raging river, and manage to keep afloat.

Okay so that’s all about how I feel about taking part in cMOOCs.

Who am I? (for some reason I don’t feel like doing this now)

A brief introduction (suggested by Dave Cormier) for those who don’t know me:  I was born in Australia to parents of Russian and German background – mainly Russian. For a while I taught English, German and French at school and a Russian at a Saturday school. Now I’m a teacher librarian but I won’t try to explain my role in this post although I really should finally write a post dealing with the frustrations I have explaining my role.  Currently I’m at a selective boys’ secondary school 9-12.

Happily I found my way into cMOOCs after looking for an online learning community. When I ‘became’ a Google certified teacher I found myself pulling back from going further with this role and I wasn’t sure why; I just knew it wasn’t me, and I felt like a phoney. I love Google tools and encourage their use but I didn’t see myself as a promoter of Google or as an expert presenting Google to others. I didn’t feel at home with the cohort of confident, outgoing people who seemed to have no problem taking on this role. I needed to find people with whom I could ask questions instead of giving answers and continue learning. The cMOOC communities are where I want to be.

(I’m not happy with this introduction.)

More importantly (for me), why am I here? It’s because I’ve connected with super-moocers like Maha Bali, Terry Elliott, Laura Gibbs, Kevin Hodgson, Simon Ensor, Tanya Lau, Sarah Honeychurch, Laura Ritchie and many others through Connected Courses – all people I admire greatly and would like to keep talking to.  And in the last few days I’ve connected with so many more people I want to talk to and learn from.

And how can you even try to keep up when someone like Keith Hamon writes a post that will take me a semester to really get through?

So, what is rhizomatic learning? Many people know a lot about this but I’m just starting so I go back to Dave Cormier’s 2011 post where he talks about successful learning :

Rhizomatic learning is a way of thinking about learning based on ideas described by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari in a thousand plateaus. A rhizome, sometimes called a creeping rootstalk, is a stem of a plant that sends out roots and shoots as it spreads. It is an image used by D&G to describe the way that ideas are multiple, interconnected and self-replicating. A rhizome has no beginning or end… like the learning process.

What does successful learning look like?

the rhizome pertains to a map that must be produced, constructed, a map that is always detachable, connectible, reversible, modifiable, and has multiple entryways and exits and its own lines of flight. (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 21)

I should read A thousand plateaus by Deleuze and Guattari. Someone shared The Beginner’s Guide to Deleuze (I think Sarah Honeychurch and Kevin Hodgson).

Meanwhile others have led me to this 2010 video by Dave Cormier about how to successfully navigate a MOOC. Good place to start.

I really want to write about what happened after I shared the Mr X story in my previous post but I thought I’d get this post over and done with and then devote a post just to Mr X. See you soon. (Or not).