Cheating as Learning #rhizo14 week 1

I am participating in Dave Courmier‘s Rhizomatic Learning cMOOC at Peer 2 Peer University which started this week. I really enjoyed Dave’s session on Rhizomatic Learning in ETMOOC and I am excited to participate in this unstrucutred learning experience with a group of friends that I have (virtually) met in other MOOCs, games and learning experiences over the past year. I even have a few friends that I know in person who are on this learning journey with me which is really exciting. I am looking forward to the next six weeks.

Like Christina Hendricks I was initially planning to post an audio podcast this week because I didn’t think I could find the time to write and polish a post. I was planning to record one take, and post it without editing. On Friday at lunch I went for a walk along the streetcar tracks and did my recording. I felt a little bit like I was doing a Rick Mercer rant when I passed the graffiti along the underpass, although I was more reminiscing than ranting. When I listened to the recording I thought I was done; the audio quality wasn’t fantastic but my thoughts were recorded and no sirens had interrupted my recording. But it didn’t feel finished. I kept thinking of more things I wish I had said, especially about the school system that I had moved so easily in and the upcoming changes here in Alberta. This is a revised and expanded version of my initial audio recording.

Graffiti and streetcar tracks
Graffiti and streetcar tracks

Cheating as a weapon

The challenge this week was to use cheating as a weapon:
How can you use the idea of cheating as a tool to take apart the structures that you work in? What does it say about learning? About power? About how you see teaching?

I thought a lot about cheating the system as I watched Dave’s video, read posts in the #rhizo14 streams in Twitter and Google+. I thought about cheating as I watched my coworkers at Alberta Education deliver and prepare to mark Diploma Exams. I thought about cheating when driving and passengering in cars and city busses when the rules of the road sometimes seem like guidelines and most drivers seem to cheat, at least some of the time.

Cheating in School

I also thought about my experiences with cheating and school. The time I managed to smuggle the formulas for a Science test in with me they didn’t help me with the test because I had no understanding of the content, I had idea how to use them. When I was learning to develop photos in I high school, I did a photo essay instead of a book report about Vol de Nuit which to this day I haven’t read – sorry Mr. Harvey, Darlene just told me about the characters. In university, especially the last time around, I tried to combine work for more than one class into a project or paper. I learned early on that this was not normal behaviour so I needed to seek permission before I did it. I seemed more efficient and helped me understand the material better. I was a rhizomatic learner even then.

I’ve cheated the system as a teacher, trying to do the right thing for my students. Back when all cell phones were to be kept in lockers my students would use theirs for simple machine scavenger hunts. As long as I warned my admin and the teaching staff my students didn’t get called down to the office for using their cell phones in the middle of the scavenger hunt. I have not followed a grading policy, even my own, if it could help a student to have another chance or try a different way to show me that they understood. I have worked around having to use the exact same tests and exams as all the other junior high Science teachers at my school, they were not the assessments I would have used if I had a choice.

Cheating to Learn

I’ve cheated to learn – stretching the rules a little bit so I qualified, convinced, created the opportunity that I thought I needed. This fall I read that there was a fantastic entrepreneurship conference, eTown, being planned here in Edmonton. Chris Hadfield was going to be speaking, the Barenaked Ladies were coming. The sessions, and even the format sounded interesting, but I couldn’t swing the fee and I knew there was no way I could get it paid for by work. So I volunteered. It was a fantastic experience, enhanced by the interesting people I met on my volunteer shifts.

It sometimes feels like MOOCs cheat the system; especially cMOOCs. ETMOOC was my first MOOC and is the experience that I measure my rhizomatic learning experiences against. Now I actively I seek out cMOOCs and other opportunities to learn, collaborate and play with others, like DS106 and Post EtMooc, because I like to learn with others. The more connected educators I meet, the more opportunities I hear about.

My Teachers Convention is coming up next month. We are required to travel to Calgary to attend sessions and listen to trade show booth pitches once a year. I found it really inconvenient when the girls were younger and I needed to arrange extended child care if Tom was working. It is not the type of PD I would choose to attend in Calgary like #EdCampYYC or ConnectEd but at least over the past few year they have started to include more sessions about integrating technology into your practice. I find it hard to learn at my Teacher’s Convention because the venue doesn’t have wifi so I have to disengage from my learning network to be there. There is no Twitter back channel or quick web search for more information during a session, QR codes have to be saved to camera roll to follow up later at the hotel. With that type of PD model from my district, I guess it’s understandable why cMOOCs and Rhizomatic Learning might feel like cheating.

Cheating is about the System

As I thought about my experiences with cheating I realized that the situations were all about cheating the system, working within or around the system. One of the reasons that I have been so successful at cheating the system is that I understand it. I always have. My school experiences were mostly good ones, I played sports, was on students council, worked on the yearbook, helped out. That is not the case for all students. Or even all teachers. If you don’t understand the system, it is harder to understand what the system will allow; what behaviour might be allowed and what would labeled as cheating.

New Systems

There are other ways to react to systems that don’t work. The Open Education movement is an attempt to suggest an alternate education model. Creative Commons licences evolved as a reaction to a restrictive copyright system. A few years ago there weren’t many people who were using Creative Commons licences for their work, or who took the extra step to look for media with a Creative Commons licence. Now Creative Commons licences have reached the mainstream and our students are taught how to find and cite Creative Commons images when they learn Digital Citizenship.

I am not working in a classroom right now, I have been seconded to Alberta Education where I am working on a brand new curriculum, Career and Technology Foundations (CTF). Right nowAlberta Education is reimagining what education can be, Curriculum Redesign is based on the vision in Inspiring Education, a Dialogue with Albertans. We are exploring different ways of learning and teaching; a different way to think about “big C” Curriculum (programs of study, assessment and resources.) It’s a huge undertaking, they are trying to change the system, the Curriculum and the way that Curriculum is delivered, at the same time.

There is a tremendous opportunity to change the system. CTF has one set of learning outcomes for grades 5-9, and has a levelled assessment model. We are trying to design a Curriculum that connects the classroom and the community, where student interests and passions are considered when designing learning experiences.

This week I have been wondering if we could we change the system enough so there is no longer a need to cheat.


What kinds of changes would be needed in order for cheating to no longer be needed?

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