#rhizo15 Subjective Perspectives

Learning Subjectives

designing for when we don’t know where we’re going


How do we design our own or others learning when we don’t know where we are going? How does that free us up? What can we get done with subjectives that can’t be done with objectives? Good questions Dave Cormier, course facilitator of Rhizo15: a practical view.

For over 20 years my work as an Australian secondary maths and science teacher was driven by objectives and standards based assessment. The thought of walking into a classroom of 30 x 15 year old students without a tight plan of “where we are going” is the stuff of nightmares to me. Nightmarish in the context of the current education system. I’ll leave this thought for the moment and return to Dave’s questions, in another context, that of my professional learning.

I no longer teach maths and science, instead I wander around in open digital networks looking for professional learning opportunities. I’m still a registered teacher and now, educational researcher. Gotta keep current to bridge the academic-practice divide.

My learning in open digital networks is not pre-determined by someone else’s objectives, it’s driven by perspectives, my subjective perspectives and the subjective perspectives of others. If the curriculum of a Rhizomatic course is the people, the learning experience could be seen as perspective change.

Drawing on my love of science ( and open educational resources), take Charles Darwin and his Theory of Evolution as an example of learning through perspective change. The 19th Century brought with it many challenges to how people viewed themselves and the world they lived in. Public debate was rife at the time (still is) as people discussed the ‘truth’ of Darwin’s theory of human evolution. Perspectives clashed, alternative views were considered and, for many, pre-existing beliefs about the origin of man were transformed.

image Credit: A Logical Refutation of Mr Darwin’s Theory, 1871, Wellcome Images

Here’s another example of learning through perspective change. Cholera epidemics in London during the 19th century and public access to microscopes inspired this etching. The woman’s perception of the water in her cuppa was shattered, changed forever. There was no going back, her learning was transformative.

imageCredit: Monster Soup, Wellcome Images

Monster Soup: a woman dropping her porcelain tea-cup in horror upon discovering the monstrous contents of a magnified drop of Thames water; revealing the impurity of London drinking water. Coloured etching by W. Heath, 1828.

Critical reflection of one’s beliefs, in the light of new information, can lead to perspective change. If people challenge us with new information in a Rhizomatic course, is this the curriculum and is perspective change the learning experience? Is transformative learning a theoretical framework for the Rhizo?

An abundance of complex ideas and creative pursuits seem to ooze from Rhizo conversations on social media, in the total absence of learning objectives. Pre-packaged objectives bring learning to an end, subjecting perspectives to change never ends. This frees us up for life-long learning via wisdom of the crowd.

Mezirow, J. (1997). Transformative learning: Theory to practice. New  directions for adult and continuing  education, 1997(74), 5-12. Chicago

#whyopen: Open Content

Why Open, David Wiley tells us about the pragmatic ideals behind Open Content.

As I cleaned the pantry to the sounds of this #whyopen video, the following salient points were scribbled into my notebook:

  • David Wiley seems like a decent bloke
  • he takes a pragmatic rather than moral approach to Open Content, unlike the Free Culture Movement
  • things were pretty much OK before countries became signatories to the Berne Convention
  • now anything we create is instantly copyrighted and to share work we have to give permission
  • it you want to share your work with others you must go out of your way to make it happen
  • we need to focus on “Open” now because of the Berne Convention, if we don’t we are violating each other’s copyright
  • the term “Open Content” describes copyrightable work that is suitably licensed, enabling us to engage in these 5R activities: Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix and Redistribute
  • if you have a creative work that has a copyright licence granting you the 5R permissions, then it’s appropriate to call that work “Open Content”
  • the new R refers to RETAIN…it protects the other 4Rs by giving us permission to retain a copy of the work (otherwise we couldn’t reuse, revise, remix or redistribute)
  • an Open Licence is all about undoing copyright restrictions
  • I’m not certain about this, but I think David’s goldfish own’s the copyright to his crayon doodles
  • there may be additional restrictions to the 5Rs, e.g attribution requirements, commercial use etc
  • the meaning of “fair use” is a bit dodgy in the eyes of the law
  • “Openness” is an attitude more likely to be adopted by others if you begin the conversation around what people care about…such as affordability, social-justice, equity etc
  • people need to see the value of “Open” rather than just being told to comply with the rules
  • start showing teachers the value of using other people’s work, give examples
  • free vs open depends on your “politics” (as in Open Content vs Open Culture)
  • not all “Open” movements have the 5Rs pertaining to “Open Content” e.g Open Access is a 3R movement (you can’t change or remix yet)
  • the next interesting frontier of “Openness” is Open Competencies
  • virtues such as “Openness” and “Connectedness” can be taken to extremes, better to use strategically to support learning goals
  • curation is valuable
  • Google Scholar…it is a direct measure of the impact of our work in the field

Thanks for facilitating the Google Hangout Christina, a great learning experience.


Source: Biodiversity Heritage Library

Open Educational Practices

Hover Fly
Source: Flickr, Hover Fly 

Do You

Then you’re engaging in Open Educational Practices.


#rhizo14: Digital Desk


Image Source: Photobucket

Learning in a distributed, online environment can get messy and frustrating, ending in tears and dropout.  One way around this is to bring all the “places” you visit back to your blog/website….just one click away. Look at my page tabs above, you will see Rhizo14 P2PU which is where our course originates.  The tab drops down to reveal other places where people are learning, such as the social media platforms Twitter, Facebook and Google +. Digital content is being curated and shared in places like Diigo for bookmarking links and Flickr for collecting images. Dave Cormier’s blog is there to access course updates and his work on Rhizomatic Learning.

Organising your digital desk makes life easier by accessing everything from your place on the web. Please let me know if there are other sites to be added as the course progresses.

#rhizo14: Rhizomatic Learning-The Community Is The Curriculum

Global Learning Commons
This term is appealing, it fits a vision of where I’ve been and where I’m heading in 2014.  I sat and chatted with Helen Crump on the Commons last year during OLDSMOOC, her post explains the concept so well. I’m beginning 2014 by heading onto the commons again, to investigate Rhizomatic Learning.

Rhizomatic Learning-The Community is the Curriculum
Over at Peer to Peer University Dave Cormier kicked off the course “Rhizomatic Learning-The Community is the Curriculum”. It’s been a fun week and my brain hurts.

The Facebook Group and Twitter hashtag #rhizo14 have been my main platforms of choice for dipping into the conversations and connecting with others from around the globe. That’s all you need for this kind of learning, and I’ve learned heaps.

Words to Describe Rhizomatic Learning
OK, so what does Dave talk about on his blog? I needed a place to start my understanding of Rhizomatic Learning. By grabbing the URL of “Dave’s Educational Blog” and running it through Tagxedo, a web tool for creating word clouds, the main words became evident. It was hot this week in Australia, hence the colours.


I posted this image on Facebook, here’s part of the interesting conversation that followed:


Is the Community the Curriculum?
Earlier this week I responded to a question raised by “Empty” in the P2P discussion thread:

“Does rhizomatic learning mean that the nature of the curriculum will reflect the nature of the community? Or is it more of an existential definition, ‘the community is the curriculum?”

Interesting one, I feel it does:

Applied to my context, an ex secondary school science & maths teacher, every year I looked forward to our lessons that covered the more complex & controversial topics in science. Evolution is a typical example…I had to tread carefully being an atheist chatting about evolution, in a Catholic school. Kids chatting about evolution, in the context of their upbringing & values of the school, was fascinating…the tangents in discussion & what we learnt from each other was gold. The scientific “facts” were in the textbook but the students rich and varied opinions & theories made the learning valuable for all of us.

How does Rhizomatic Learning compare to Connected Learning?
Being familiar with Connected Learning I was interested to know how it differs to Rhizomatic Learning. I asked on Facebook, here’s a few responses:


Cheating as Learning
After sharing ideas about Rhizomatic Learning we shifted focus onto “Cheating as Learning”. Can students find their own path around learning objectives…is that cheating? In my context as a science teacher, it would happen often:

We used to joke in our office of maths/science teachers…which Mum got the best mark for the latest assignment. Sure, there’s an “unwritten code of conduct” assuming the work submitted for assessment is done by the student. But hey, if one of my students was smart enough to go home and work with his/her parents to learn more about something…good on them I say. All you need to do is sit and chat with the student, it’s easy to spot what they have gained from the task. Better than any copy and paste effort.


So Rhizomatic Learning is messy, sure is, thinking about it is messy too…so hard to articulate. My understanding of things was helped by the “unhangout” live session where ideas were tossed around while Dave relaxed on his couch. Good stuff.

With  “Cheating as Learning” on my mind, thoughts wandered to the developing culture of “mixing and remixing” of knowledge in the classroom. Here’s my Facebook post:

There’s a huge gum tree outside my window with a couple of Kookaburras laughing away. While thinking about cheating & Rhizomatic learning, this laughing reminds me of a sad case of iconic rhymes, ownership, copyright, creativity, plagiarism, the law and suicide. I love the Men At Work song Down Under, many of you may have heard it. While this song was being recorded, Australian musician Greg Ham belted out the wonderful flute riff with unique improvisation. Subconsciously (or not) inspired by childhood music, 2 bars Greg’s flute riff come from the 1934 nursery rhyme “Kookaburra”. The Federal Court of Australia judged Men at Work, and their record label EMI, guilty of plagiarism. Greg Ham committed suicide in 2012.

Here’s the comparison…listen carefully to the flute riff towards the end of the “Down Under” snippet.

If you’re keen, here’s “Down Under” by Men At Work.

Students are mixing, remixing, sharing & possibly breaking the rules to meet their objectives. I’m hoping the law moves with the times.

Next Week it’s “Self Assessment and Self Remediation”…I look forward to the conversations.

Relocating, Roaming & Rhizomes

It’s almost four years since jumping into the murky waters of an online space to connect with and learn from other educators. I’m relocating, not quite jumping ship from my original blog but more like moving on. Reclaim Hosting is enabling me to own and control my domain and web hosting, using the WordPress platform I’m familiar with.

Exploring the Open Education movement.

Source: Nadia Paola Mireles Torres

Rhizomatic Learning
My 2014 professional learning begins with #rhizo14

Rhizomatic Learning: The Community is the Curriculum

Rhizomatic learning is a story of how we can learn in a world of abundance – abundance of perspective, of information and of connection.

Take Your Pic

A Touch of Mobile Learning


Source: Penny Bentley

You’re “doing” mobile learning if:

  • you’re not constrained to a particular location
  • you’ve got a device that’s easy to carry around (tablet, smartphone)

It’s beneficial because:

  • opportunities are everywhere
  • it’s an informal and spontaneous way to learn
  • makes learning more personal and authentic

Here’s an example…my iPhone has a pretty good camera for taking photos. It’s with me all the time and takes up little space. I have apps that enable me to add text to a series of photos, pin them to a map, share with others and upload to an archive.

The image above was shot with my mobile device. It’s a weed, a humble dandelion. Not only does it look amazing through a macro lens, but it has a fascinating history. By using the internet I’ve discovered that dandelions have been around for 30 million years and are used in coffee, salads, sandwiches and wine making. They’ve also been used for medicinal purposes and their seeds are easily spread by animals. The public domain image found on Wikipedia helps me to identify different parts of the dandelion life cycle. 

I can contribute to a Citizen Science project by uploading photos to the Atlas of Living Australia. Contributing to Australia’s biodiversity knowledge is a wonderful learning outcome. 

The mobile phone is a capable content consuming, creating and sharing device.


Source: Kohler’s Medicinal Plants, Wikipedia

Here’s more of my images on Flickr.