In this week’s #Rhizo15 writing prompt, Dave asks, “Must rhizomatic learning be an invasive species?” People have explored this idea, talking about echo chambers and filter bubbles, but I think people are looking at this incorrectly.
Yes, rhizomes choke out other plants, but not all other plants. They fight for resources with other plants, particularly other rhizomes. From a practical side, this past week for me is a good example of this. Normally, I write about #rhizo15 soon after the prompt comes out. However, this week, I was at a conference at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music on poetry in the church. It has been the focus of much of my reading and writing over the past few days. To stay with the rhizome metaphor, for the past few days, that conference choked out even the #rhizo MOOC.
Likewise, I believe the ‘filter bubble’ discussion is off track. I’ve long been focused on filter bubbles, especially because of my background in politics. To the extent that #rhizo15 is the only filter someone has, is the only context of someone’s online communication, then yes, it could be a filter bubble. I recognize that this could be the case for others, but I suspect it is the exception rather than the rule.
If we stay focused on formal education, it would be like saying a person is taking only one course. Yet that is not often what happens in formal education.
To return to Dave’s questions: “Are we just replacing one authority structure with another?” Yeah, perhaps. But so what? Instead, we might want to ask, is the authority structure of rhizomatic learning more or less beneficial than traditional authority structures in education? Is it more democratic? Is that a good thing? Likewise, when Dave asks, “Community as conformity?” I see this as a potentially serious issue, but I have to wonder, is rhizomatic learning more or less driven by conformity than other forms of learning?
Dave Cormier commented on my previous blog post and it seems that my reply deserves a blog post of its own.
Dave expressed a lack of fondness for the digital immigrant language. To which I reply:
I recognize the difficulties of the digital native / digital immigrant construct. Determining whether someone is a digital native or digital immigrant is not simply a question of age, and I suspect there are more options than the dichotomy. Personally, I’ve often referred to myself as a digital aborigine.
He then goes on to talk about how digital media is affecting power structures in health care and education. To which, I reply:
In terms googling medications, or asking for a link, this is a big topic in healthcare and I suspect it parallels discussions in education and beyond. It probably reflects some larger issues. In health care, we talk about the e-patient movement and participatory medicine.
Is it polite for me to ask my doctor for a link to the medication she is suggesting?
Yes. It should be encouraged. Ideally, the doctor should be able to provide a handout with a link, or send a message via a patient portal with a link for more information.
Can i come in with the website that told me what's wrong with me?
This gets a little messier. One problem is that some people have a tendency to Cyberchondria. Also, the amount of information that patients bring in can, at times, be excessive, especially in these days of life logging. On the other hand, for special situations, patients may have access to more information than their doctors and bringing in information can be a great help. It also depends on how well the doctor responds to information being brought in or whether there is some other power struggle going on.
The final question Dave asks is Is it polite to digitally check an expert?. This, it seems, is the key underlying question. Years ago, I wore a T shirt saying Question Authority. I’ve always believed it is not only polite, but important to check experts, no matter whether we do it digitally or using other media.
Working in health care, I often come across the phrase, Cultural Competency the idea of providers delivering services that are respectful of the diverse cultural needs of the clients. Often, the cultures considered are ethnic or based on country of origin. However, there is an important culture that doesn’t get considered, digital culture.
In2001, Marc Prensky mapped out the digital culture divide in his seminal work, Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. He focuses more on educational methodology and content, but it is interesting to think of this in terms of cultural competency.
When I was young, the telephone hung on a wall in the kitchen. If the phone rang, you answered it. It was rude not to answer the phone. Then came answering machines and caller id and it became culturally acceptable to screen calls.
Now, I hear digital natives telling their parents it is rude not to respond immediately to a friend’s text message. The cultural shifts continue. To use the phrase from Linda Stone, today’s digital natives are expected to pay Continuous Partial Attention to their digital peers. Asking them to do otherwise is to ask them to violate the rules of their culture.
There are times when we have to choose which culture’s rules we are going to follow, but we have to remember if we are providing services to members of a certain culture to seek follow the rules of the culture we are serving. If you can’t, you need to at least be aware of how you are violating the rules and seek ways to mitigate this. Whatever the situation, it is important to stop and consider to what extent we find a behavior objectionable because of the social context we grew up in and how others might find our behaviors objectionable.
“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.