Aldon Hynes's blog

You Have the #Rhizo15

“Are you a leader? Are you a follower? Are those the only two options?” That old quote has come to mind a bit recently.

In the Rhizomatic discussion, we are currently talking about “what is the role of the facilitator/teacher/professor where we are using learning subjectives”. Are you a teacher? Are you a student? Are those the only two options? My initial approach was to talk about the importance of someone creating a structure, a safe place to learn.

Another context is a cartoon I shared on Facebook. A speaker addresses a crowd of people asking “Who wants change?” and everyone raises their hands. The same speaker addresses the same crowd asking, “Who wants to change?” and no one raises their hands. It seems like we see this all the time of Facebook. People trying to change everyone else’s opinions, but not being willing to change their own opinions.

Perhaps we see this best in current online political discourse. It is also showing up in the political process. Who are you supporting for President (for my U.S. friends)? Is this a person that represents your views, who you think will be most effective in getting polices that arein line with your views, elected? Can we get a transformational politician that will say something like,

The biggest lie people like me tell people like you at election time is, if you vote for me, I’ll solve all your problems. The truth is, the power to change this country is in your hands, not mine.

As much as I like this idea and the politician I’m quoting, it makes me think of the scene in Life of Brian where Brian tells the crowds, “You are all individuals, and they change back in near perfect unison, ‘We are all individuals’.

The power to change this country doesn’t come from voting for the candidate that promises change. It doesn’t come from voting for the candidate that tells us we have the power to bring about change. No, the real power of change comes from being the change we want to see in the world.

So, are you a leader? A follower? A teacher? A student? Do you have power, if so, what is it?

#NationalDayofPrayer Reflections

Today was #NationalDayofPrayer. The idea kind of makes me bristle. The verse from Matthew 6 comes to mind:

When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

It seems like the synagogues and street corners have been replaced by hashtags, and that many of the people participating in the National Day of Prayer seem to worship the country, the Republican Party, fetuses, flags and eagles more than they worship God, and if you don’t mention Jesus in your prayer, it just doesn’t count.

This is met by cynical militant atheists with a #NationalDayofReason which seems to worship rationality and hostility at the expense of anything beautiful. I’m surprised I haven’t seen Hume’s quote, “Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames” Those who studied empiricism have already committed that quote to the flames.

In contrast to all of this, I have friends who are very devote who post about their prayers online. These are the people that pray for peace, justice, healing and reconciliation. They provide an important contrast to those who pray or reason in hashtags.

So, my first tweet for #NationalDayofPrayer was

This ‪#‎NationalDayofPrayer‬ I'm praying that we protect creation, love all people, and help the less fortunate.

I followed this by a tweet noting that “‪#‎NationalDayofPrayer‬ is also National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day” and a link to a video about the beauty if the Muslim call to prayer.

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Shifting #rhizo15 Chairs

I’m looking at this whole rhizomatic learning from a group relations conference perspective. A group relations conference has a specific time and structure. There are people who facilitate the conference, but the learning is experiential and people come in looking for something closer to the learning subjectives of rhizomatic learning than the learning objects you would find in other classes or conferences.

The facilitators, or consultants, are there to observe the processes, not get drawn up into them, and to help people stay on task. In many ways, I see Dave’s role in #rhizo15 being similar. Set the time, establish the structure, and then let the experiential learning begin.

Part of the structure of a group relations conference is that the large group meets for a certain amount of time starting with the chairs arranged in a spiral. What can we learn about leadership from where we chose to sit in the spiral? Are we choosing to sit in the center? At the outer edge of the spiral? How does that affect the way we interact during the large group?

Once, I in a large group where some people challenged the structure of the group. They thought it would be better to move the chairs from a spiral to a circle, so everyone would be more equal and could better see one another. Some people agreed to move their chairs and got up and started moving them. Other people stayed put and an odd shaped structure was created. The authority of the consultants had been challenged. I don’t recall exactly what the consultants said or did. If I recall properly, they staid put and waited for things to settle down. When people had settled into their new spaces and talked about it a little bit, the consults made simple comments which seemed to be constructed to get people on task of reflecting on what they were learning from the experience.

This story came back to me, as I read Dave’s post, Can/should we get rid of the idea of ‘dave’? How do we teach rhizomatically?

Dave is more involved in the rhizomatic learning than consultants are in a Group Relations conference. Not only does Dave set up the structure, the time, the hashtag, etc., but he also provides prompts. From a Group Relations conference perspective, I could easily imagine Dave setting up and introducing the structure, and perhaps sharing comments to keep us focused on learning rhizomatically, but not providing the prompts.

To the extent that this is what Viplav is suggesting, it makes sense. On the other hand, it seems like there needs to be some sort of structure or boundaries to the rhizomatic learning. Otherwise, these nebulous porous boundaries become even harder to perceive and people may just wander off, getting completely lost and not returning. There may or may not be advantages to that, but it would be a different experience, and I suspect people might not get as much out of a cMOOC if that’s what happened.

Yes, Viplav can make suggestions like he has, because he has been learning rhizomatically alongside Dave for many years. But, what about people like me, participating in my first cMOOC? How do I figure out how to engage? To feel welcome engaging? What happens if someone significantly challenges the structure?

Or, do we have some sort of unconscious power struggle going on? Is Viplav vying for power in this cMOOC?

In the Group Relations conference, we move through times of working as a large group, working as a small group, taking breaks, eating, etc. The next time that the large group met, the chairs were again in a spiral, and this time nobody moved the chairs.

#rhizo15 Content and Connections

Crowds of meek young men and women growing up in libraries,
believing it is your duty to accept the content,
which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon, have given,
how curious you are to me!

Huddled away in lonely dorm rooms,
reading sanitized facts
in the hopes of passing a multiple choice quiz,
you are more curious to me than you suppose.

Surfing the internet at dawn looking for an angry fix
forgetful that Cicero, Locke, and Bacon
were only young men in libraries,
when they created their content.

You will graduate to lead lives of quiet desperation,
boredom, routine, and petty frustration
in the day to day trenches of adult existence,
until you make the connections.

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Woodbridge, CT - May 4th 2015

It has been a very long day, starting off with people wishing “May the Fourth” be with you, or singing, “Tin soldiers and Nixon coming.” I thought about Kent State. I was there ten years later. I thought about Baltimore, and Texas and how divisive our politics has become. Some friends have been saying it’s going to be a long hot summer.

But I had work to do. I took the day off from my paying job to volunteer to help get the vote out in the Woodbridge municipal election. There was a lot of data entry and number crunching, but not much time for reflection.

Now, I’m finally home, and I can reflect, but I’m too tired to go into detail. The incumbent Democratic First Selectman, Ellen Scalettar narrowly won re-election. The Republican under ticket did well, and it looks like, after a very divisive campaign, we will have mixed government in Woodbridge, perhaps doing as well as our mixed government in Washington has done.

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