“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?
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.
A friend of mine posted on Facebook yesterday,
It'll be interesting over the next several days to see if my students can make connections between what is happening in Baltimore and our discussions this semester in my Urban Politics class about the formation of ghettos in America's central cities.
My initial reaction was to encourage them to share their thoughts online. How well can they explain what they’ve been learning in Urban Politics and how it relates to what is currently going on? What can others learn from their experiences? Can we have a meaningful discussion?
This led me back to thinking about the #rhizo15. How do we make sense of different perspectives on race in America in an online learning environment? Can online learning circumvent the ghetto walls? Do filter bubbles just create new information ghettos?
It’s late. I’m tired. There is so much more to say about this, about helping people find their voices, about learning to be a motivational listener, about measurement, mastery, and mystery.
Yesterday, Lenandlar Singh posted a link to the Facebook Rhizomatic discussion, The quantified self movement: some sociological perspectives. It is a great article about measurement which relates nicely to the Rhizomatic learning discussion.
It is interesting to think of measurement as an effort to keep things under control. We can measure our exercise, our nutrition, how much sleep we get, and all kinds of different things. We can measure how many problems we solve. We can echo Brene Brown, “life's messy, clean it up, organize it and put it into a bento box.”
Yet I go back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We can measure the lower level needs, physiological and safety. We can measure our grades get into good schools, get good jobs that help us earn money to meet the physiological and safety needs. It might even bring us a little esteem.
But I go back to other parts of Maslow’s hierarchy. I echo Rent and Rhizo, “Measure in love” (and belonging). But how do you measure self-actualization?
Perhaps next I will tackle measurement and mystery, and the realm of part objects and the divine.
It has been a very long day, spending time in a setting with people who seem to approach life very differently than I do. When I got home, I looked online to connect with people a little bit more like me. Some of this was preparation for Podcamp Western Mass 7, which happens tomorrow. Will parts of my tribe be there? What will we talk about?
I haven’t seen much discussion online this year from people going to Podcamp or topics they are interested in, so we’ll see who is there and what they are interested in.
After this, I hopped over to some of the #rhizo15 discussions. We’ll see if there are folks at Podcamp who are interested in #rhizo15. I suspect there may be a few, which would be cool.
Lisa Chamberlin tweeted,
So how do we reconcile #freerangelearning (my term for "learning is not a countable noun") with reportable results (and funding)? #rhizo15
It turns out that a #freerangelearning has been a pretty active hashtag over the past few years. Perhaps it captures some of the ideas I’ve talked about when I refer to myself as a wandering autodidact. Whatever meaning people are attributing to #freerangelearning I’ll try to do some of it at Podcamp, some of it as part of #Rhizo15, some of it by blogging, some of it by following the hashtag, and, if I get a little free time, I might even do a little light reading of Deleuze and Guattari before bed time.
P.S. Fun tweet from my wanderings "I told them we could measure learning." pic.twitter.com/kf4yWebDe3