Tough Questions about Rhizomatic Learning from Jaapsoft

11 Jan

I found this series of questions directed at me from one of the more interesting people I’ve run into during the change11 course. They’re fair… i think… and a helpful way for me to reflect as I’m trying to write a couple of papers right now… so here goes.

I am struggling to see utility and practicality, just like Keith Hamon. I would like to ask:

In what way does your theory of rhizomatic learning change the way you teach?
It’s hard to remember, now, how it ‘changes’ the way i teach, as it IS the way that I teach… but there are some central ideas that I hold onto.
I think of curriculum as an output of a course rather than an input, so i enter a course with an outline of study, or a syllabus and focus on helping students build their own curriculum. This allows them (i hope) to construct themselves as Nomads. If you think of learning as a process of ‘becoming’ then it can’t be something that is enforced. It is a change that is individual and hard to track.

Change11 is about change, and you are part of Change11, so what do you want to change?
I think of the “change11″ to be about looking at change that is happening, rather than changing things. I am hoping to support uncertainty and responsibility in learning (among other things). I am particularly interested (as are many others) in supporting an educational approach that provides critical skills… not replicable ‘knowledge’.

Did the rhizomatic learning theory and reading Deleuze change your way of living?
Absolutely. It has made me accept multiplicity as an integral part of the human experience. I used to see opposing viewpoints as things that needed ‘sorting out’ now i’m willing to accept them both as valid.

In what way does it change your parenting and being a father?
I try to engender the same openness to complexity in my kids. It’s hard though… because the subtlety can be difficult for the kids. Not that they can’t get it… the problem is that the rest of society isn’t prepared for them to speak from that position. It’s hard to be a post-structuralist parent. Saying “that’s wrong” is much easier than saying “think about how that thing is not supportive of the kinds of things that we value”… but i think the latter is more useful to my kids in the long run.

I am an educational journalist and my readers are non-academic teachers who want to improve their teaching. So please do not use academic language, be practical.

What advice do you give to new teachers? 
Be courageous. Strive hard to not be the knower. I would tell them that no one really ‘knows’. We are all on the same journey. Bring your students with you.

Could you explain the magic trick to a teacher of bookkeeping, welding, or farming?
I grew up as a lobster fisherman, spent time working in a lead silver refinery, and have been in academia (in one way or another) all my adult life. I have not noticed any difference in the ability to apprehend complex issues between any of these groups. Rhizomatic learning confirms the suspicions of many. There is no ‘right way’ to ride a boat through a storm, to use a crane to carry a 20 ton kettle down a floor or to write a paper. There are lots of wrong ways :) . These are things that we learn as we absorb ourselves into a thing. As we come to understand its context. As we become part of a context.
I say the same to everyone. There are basics, in every field, that you need to know. Basic language, basic techniques. These are not ‘important’ in a profound sense… but they are required. After that, we make our way. It is not possible to simply GIVE someone the answer to how it is done… everyone must come to it in their own way. This is something many people understand instinctively, be they tinker, tailer, soldier or spy. It is only when we come to formal education that we somehow believe the rules to change.

What do you tell teachers with a history of teaching? Do you want them to change the way they teach? Please do not explain your theory, but tell them ways to improve their teaching and the learning of their students.
I would never tell anyone to ‘change the way that they teach’. We all have different strengths, and it is dangerous to try and remake someone else in your own image. My message to the experienced teachers is the same as to those that are starting out… we do now know things for certain… do not tell the students that we do. Be open.

Your theory of rhizomatic learning is it important for students in vocational colleges?
It can be… insofar as people are actually learning. Many vocational programs are also very much tied to specific kinds of testing… and i wouldn’t want them to be distracted from them. They will have time for rhizomatic learning when they are on the job.

If you could introduce new fresh students at the start of their time in college or univ how would you do that?
I do and have. And i tell them the same thing. There are conventions that you must learn to survive in any field, academia more than many. Remember them. Learning is something else, it is yours to control. Care about it. Be open etc…

What advice would you give your children in learning? I bet you do not tell them “… the intensive becomes hidden under the extensive and the qualitative. …” (DeLanda, Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy, 119)
My last blog post was very much about this. I struggle with it. It is tempting to default to true/false with children. I try to create open ended exploratory learning… and sometimes fail.

Do you discuss your view on learning with the teachers in the school of your children? What do you talk about with them?
My children are still very young, so the conversations with their teachers have been fairly simple on this topic. I have iterated, many times, that i’m not concerned about them getting the right answers, or performing, but rather am concerned about how they explore, how they feel about being in class… but that’s as far as it has gone. I am very suspicious of the system… but so far my kids are learning a great deal. They are learning in a language that is not the language spoken at home… so there is much for them to learn. I’m not sure what happens after that. I imagine i will have deeper conversations with their teachers at that time.

Did your theory change the way you learn and study?
Definitely. I’ve stopped looking for the proper/right way of doing things and am more willing to accept interpretations that are outside of convention. I was non-conventional before… but am now so without the rebellion… with a more open mind.

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