Rhizomatic Learning – Thanks to my Weak Links

Over the past year and a half I have been back-channeling whenever I can at the professional development opportunities I attend. I have started to get at least as much out of the back-channel as I do from the actual professional development experiences. In fact, I sometimes follow the back-channel from conferences that I am not participating in, so I guess there are times when I get more from the back-channel than the event! I loved Langwitches post last month about how to participate in a conference, 21st Century style about this very topic, check it out if you haven’t already read it.

For events that I take part in virtually, I also like having a front-channel of real people who are participating in the same event. I like to talk about what I am learning face2face so I will often invite others to join me. Since I started at Alberta Education at the end of August I have hosted several webinars which I invite my co-workers to attend. We have participated in webinars about Project-Based Learning by the Buck Institute, and a session about using Google presentations in the classroom.

I have also made it my goal for this Mooc to be more visible on-line with my learning by blogging about the webinars I host, instead of just following up via email. I committed to this in my ET Mooc introduction, so I am going to have to do it! Stay tuned for future posts with links to our previous webinars.

Today at lunchtime I participated in Dave Cormier’s ET Mooc session Rhizomes, Moocs and Making Sense of Complexity. I was intrigued by the title, and had already read some of the Tweets and blog posts by those who had participated in the same session last night so I knew the session was going to be interesting. I wasn’t expecting very many people to join me at the webinar but I had one confirmed participant and a few tentative acceptances.

It was a good session, which gave me a lot to think about. Dave talked about allowing participants to choose their own learning path and take ownership for their learning. I loved his suggestion that the community can be the curriculum, because that is what we are working on with the new Career and Technology Foundations curriculum. In fact, what he talked about sounded a lot like project-based learning.

I am not going to summarize Dave’s presentation in this post. Instead I’ll cite Dave’s own description of Rhizomatic learning from his blog: “The idea is to think of a classroom/community/network as an ecosystem in which each person is spreading their own understanding with the pieces the available in that ecosystem. The public negotiation of that ‘acquisition’ (through content creation, sharing) provides a contextual curriculum to remix back into the existing research/thoughts/ideas in a given field. Their own rhizomatic learning experience becomes more curriculum for others.”

There have already been several blogs posted about Dave’s session, please check them out: @Edu_K posted Rhizomatic growth – learners as weeds or explorers and survivors? as well as his notes from the session. Kirsten Tschofen posted Complex and Complicated Theories of Learning. Claire Thompson posted On Rhizomatic Learning. Michael Buist posted Visible and Connected. @jhenze44 posted Inquiry, Google, Genius Hour… it all boils down to Rhizomatic learning. April Hayman posted her live notes. And Jillian Walkus posted Like Bamboo…, which although short is probably my favourite.

But the experience left me wondering: “What if I hosted a webinar and no one came?” as I sat in the conference room and ate my lunch alone. I realized that, although I would have enjoyed sharing my learning face2face, just by being there and participating in the session chat and Tweeting about it I was creating my own rhizomatic learning experience. So although my co-workers weren’t there participating with me, I was sharing and connecting with my “weak links” a concept I learned about from @courosa in an earlier ET Mooc session.

And the rhizomes are spreading as I write about the experience in my blog.

  1. Rhonda Jessen says:

    Eric you might be interested in a MOOC that is starting next week: World Wide Ed’s #WWEOpen13. Bonnie Stewart and Dave Cormier are each going to be facilitating one week. I am too busy to take on another course right now but it sounds really interesting.

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