Exploring Digital Culture

Entries by a MOOC participant

Creating Order out of Chaos

It is my nature to want to create order out of chaos.  This week Rhizomatic Learning has been extremely chaotic, so I’m going to try and make some sense of it here, although is is going to be more of a string of random ideas then a cohesive thought.  But if I don’t get this blog out there, I will be faced with next weeks challenge before you know it!

The fact is that I am not alone.  Terry Elliot sums it up:
I am swamped and I am reading how others are swamped.  I am tempted to call this cognitive dissonance, but I don’t think that concept catches or carries the embodiment that is #rhizo14.
Our challenge for the week was to explore a model of enforced independence.  I love these challenges.  Some referred to it as a Zen Koan (Maureen Maher), an Oxymoron (Vanessa Vaile), and a Paradox (Jaap Bosman).  It reminds me of the importance of metaphors in learning.  In order to understand something new, we categorize it to something similar that we already know and then try to learn more about it.  In a networked environment, we are all sharing our own metaphors.  It is up to the individual to sift through all the chaos to make meaning of the new.  That is the beauty of Rhizomatic Learning.
Consider this metaphor.  Peter Taylor [asked us to visualize our rhizome.  For me, it was easy.  The most beautiful irises grow in my garden in Colorado.
Did you know that the  Iris is one of the oldest garden flowers. Iris is often seen as the only remnant of a long since abandoned home.  Species are separated into two major groups – rhizomatous and bulbous. Rhizomes are horizontally growing underground stems that are used as food storage for the plant.   The most important thing to know about growing iris is if it is producing very few flowers, it’s time to divide and conquer.
iris bulb
What this Rhizome metaphor teaches me is the importance of pruning in order to produce flowers.  What is the flower of our learning?  How do we demonstrate what we have learned?
I think as a group we are building our learning together because we are able to share it.  At first it seems chaotic, everyone jumping to define the idea, solve the puzzle, interpret the riddle.  But in fact, it appears that the synthesis of all our ideas is what contributes to the learning.  The community is the curriculum.
Helen Crump explores the metaphor from a different perspective:
“But what I’m interested to learn more about, what’s drawn me,  is the anthropological metaphor that’s associated with rhizomatic learning; the nomad as metaphor for “a rhizomatic learner”; The nomad is trying to do what I call ‘learning’. Not the recalling of facts, the knowing of things or the complying with given objectives, but getting beyond those things. Learning for the nomad is the point where the steps in a process go away. Nomads make decisions for themselves. They gather what they need for their own path.”
 It forces us to look at how learning on the Open Web changes our perceptions.  In fact, Gardner Campbell cites “the link” has changed everything.  Just like the rhizomes that are linked together, so is this new information that we are creating together.  Campbell goes on to say that we are all nodes.

“People are nodes. Not discourse, not “culture,” not “society.” People. People are nodes. How can I connect? How can I be a connector? How can I be a connection?”
We were further challenged with the questions:
How do we create a learning environment where people must be responsible? How do we assure ourselves that learners will self-assess and self-remediate?  
Trying to wrap my head around all of this gave me a headache.  I was delighted that a colleague shared Laurie Smith Camp’s TedxOmaha talk, “Wolves and Brownies.”  She reminds us of Rudyard Kiplings Poem, The Law of the Jungle.

Now this is the Law of the Jungle —
as old and as true as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper,
but the Wolf that shall break it must die.

As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk
the Law runneth forward and back —
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf,
and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.

For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf,  And the strength of the wolf is the pack.
Is our Learning Community a Pack?  Have we come together willingly to share our knowledge and learn from others through communication and collaboration?  How do recreate this environment in our classrooms?     We must teach our students how to make connections.
How do you connect? Have you taken the opportunity to divide the rhizome so that flowers continually bloom?

For me, it is a bit less chaotic.  I have wrapped my head around some great ideas, because you just can’t Google the answer.  And that for me is learning.  It is even better when it is shared.  Perhaps by reading my post, the light bulb will go off for you as well.   If it does, pass it on.

Welcome to the Pack!

10 comments on “Creating Order out of Chaos

  1. Frances Bell
    January 25, 2014

    Oh! thanks for that Cathleen – I want to be that wolf (though I was once a brownie)

    • cathleennardi
      January 25, 2014

      Frances. I appreciated the nomad reference. Each piece makes the picture of the puzzle more clear.

  2. Terry Elliott (@telliowkuwp)
    January 25, 2014

    Classic summary and reflection. Thanks. I still don’t quite get it–this rhizomatic thing. I have posted on this here: http://impedagogy.com/wp/blog/2014/01/25/i-know-not-wtf-some-shallow-arboreal-learnage/

    I think what bothers me most in my struggle is that all of this feels like an a metaphor at best. It is not the satisfying learning that is embodied, that clicking into place that means we have taken it to heart. Your writing takes me one step closer–dammit there go those metaphors again 😉

    • cathleennardi
      January 25, 2014

      Terry. Those damn metaphors…but without them how can we build upon our knowledge? The web allows us to share with the building and this is what makes the learning so dynamic. I enjoyed your post and will comment directly there.

  3. Simon
    January 25, 2014

    You have obviously been dividing well.
    Lovely flower. Thanks

    • cathleennardi
      January 25, 2014

      I call it Purple Silk Pajamas…..Glad you liked it and thanks for stopping by.

  4. Pingback: Rhizomatic learning: chaos, provocation and conflation #rhizo14 | Learningcreep

  5. Pingback: Enforcing Independence Part 2 | Nomad War Machine

  6. mtmaher
    January 26, 2014

    Cathleen, this post is so you. I just love the very visual metaphor of the iris. Leave it to you to create order out of chaos:) I like this thoughful and very frank bit “I have wrapped my head around some great ideas, because you just can’t Google the answer. And that for me is learning. It is even better when it is shared.” Thanks for that!

    • cathleennardi
      January 27, 2014

      This was a tough one to write. My thoughts were just as chaotic. Fortunately I was able to use some metaphors to provide a semblance of order. Glad they resonated with you. If teachers would ask questions that students couldn’t google the answer to, we wouldn’t have so much cheating, now would we? When did Google become a verb, anyway?

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This entry was posted on January 25, 2014 by and tagged .