#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.