David Cormier on Rhizomatic Education

In the rhizomatic model of learning, curriculum is not driven by predefined inputs from experts; it is constructed and negotiated in real time by the contributions of those engaged in the learning process. This community acts as the curriculum, spontaneously shaping, constructing, and reconstructing itself and the subject of its learning in the same way that the rhizome responds to changing environmental conditions.”

Our correspondent Dante-Gabryell Monson alerts us to an important article by David Cormier in Innovate, a journal of online education.

The article is important because, following earlier attempts to theorize peer to peer learning through connectivism (by George Siemens), which Cormier finds inadequate, the author introduces a new approach: Rhizomatic Education.

Why are connectivism (and constructionism) inadequate?

Neither of these theories, however, is sufficient to represent the nature of learning in the online world. There is an assumption in both theories that the learning process should happen organically but that knowledge, or what is to be learned, is still something independently verifiable with a definitive beginning and end goal determined by curriculum.”

Current systems of education and knowledge building, Cormier charges, means that the institutional delays could make the knowledge itself outdated by the time it is verified.

So what comes to replace earlier modes of learning?

Here’s his explanation:

1.

Knowledge as negotiation is not an entirely new concept in educational circles; social contructivist and connectivist pedagogies, for instance, are centered on the process of negotiation as a learning process. Neither of these theories, however, is sufficient to represent the nature of learning in the online world. There is an assumption in both theories that the learning process should happen organically but that knowledge, or what is to be learned, is still something independently verifiable with a definitive beginning and end goal determined by curriculum.

A botanical metaphor, first posited by Deleuze and Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus (1987), may offer a more flexible conception of knowledge for the information age: the rhizome. A rhizomatic plant has no center and no defined boundary; rather, it is made up of a number of semi-independent nodes, each of which is capable of growing and spreading on its own, bounded only by the limits of its habitat (Cormier 2008). In the rhizomatic view, knowledge can only be negotiated, and the contextual, collaborative learning experience shared by constructivist and connectivist pedagogies is a social as well as a personal knowledge-creation process with mutable goals and constantly negotiated premises. The rhizome metaphor, which represents a critical leap in coping with the loss of a canon against which to compare, judge, and value knowledge, may be particularly apt as a model for disciplines on the bleeding edge where the canon is fluid and knowledge is a moving target.”

2.

In the rhizomatic model of learning, curriculum is not driven by predefined inputs from experts; it is constructed and negotiated in real time by the contributions of those engaged in the learning process. This community acts as the curriculum, spontaneously shaping, constructing, and reconstructing itself and the subject of its learning in the same way that the rhizome responds to changing environmental conditions:

– The rhizome is an antigenealogy. It is a short-term memory, or antimemory. The rhizome operates by variation, expansion, conquest, capture, offshoots. Unlike the graphic arts, drawing or photography, unlike tracings, the rhizome pertains to a map that must be produced, constructed, a map that is always detachable, connectible, reversible, modifiable, and has multiple entryways and exits and its own lines of flight. (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 21)

With this model, a community can construct a model of education flexible enough for the way knowledge develops and changes today by producing a map of contextual knowledge. The living curriculum of an active community is a map that is always “detachable, connectible, reversible, modifiable, and has multiple entryways and exits”:

– If the world of media education is thought of as a rhizome, as a library Ă  la Eco [in The Name of the Rose], then we need to construct our own connections through this space in order to appropriate it. However, instead of that solitary groping made by Brother William, we see as our goal the co-construction of those secret connections as a collaborative effort. (Tella 2000, 41)

3.

In a sense, the rhizomatic viewpoint returns the concept of knowledge to its earliest roots. Suggesting that a distributed negotiation of knowledge can allow a community of people to legitimize the work they are doing among themselves and for each member of the group, the rhizomatic model dispenses with the need for external validation of knowledge, either by an expert or by a constructed curriculum. Knowledge can again be judged by the old standards of “I can” and “I recognize.” If a given bit of information is recognized as useful to the community or proves itself able to do something, it can be counted as knowledge. The community, then, has the power to create knowledge within a given context and leave that knowledge as a new node connected to the rest of the network.

Indeed, the members themselves will connect the node to the larger network. Most people are members of several communities—acting as core members in some, carrying more weight and engaging more extensively in the discussion, while offering more casual contributions in others, reaping knowledge from more involved members (Cormier 2007). This is the new reality. Knowledge seekers in cutting-edge fields are increasingly finding that ongoing appraisal of new developments is most effectively achieved through the participatory and negotiated experience of rhizomatic community engagement. Through involvement in multiple communities where new information is being assimilated and tested, educators can begin to apprehend the moving target that is knowledge in the modern learning environment.”

2 Comments David Cormier on Rhizomatic Education

  1. AvatarDante-Gabryell Monson

    Its interesting to feel there is a increased awareness about learning. I have no doubt that I am not alone , and others too become aware of the futility of specific artificially limited learning settings. An artificial creation of scarcity in learning : where there is one teacher , or even , one ” specific ” facilitator.
    I used to brainstorm about my choice to step out of imposed expectations.
    It has now been a long time I have been living this alternative life , so much so that I start to forget what it is to be stuck in other peoples expectations. For me , and no doubt many of us , OUR EXPERIENCE OF LIFE IS OUR MUTUAL LEARNING PLATFORM.
    Some practices seemed proper to accelerate the potential of ” reflexivity “. For example , the multiple reality reflexivity of traveling through space and cultures – and even more so forms of traveling with reduced expectations.
    For example , traveling without money , as to not be able to impose your expectations ,
    yet increased intention , which can inspire others to join and create synergies and mutual empowerment. A good example being hitch hiking and hospitality. Such characteristic seem to extend to anything we do , including through the p2pfoundation ecology :
    Living with a consciousness of shared intent , instead of a world of imposed expectation.
    Such shift often demands surrendering our ” specific expectations ” , coming to a state of detachment which is reached through increased awareness , and as the awareness grows , remember our intentions , and the co-creative paths in which we feel intrinsically motivated to manifest them with the world. LEARNING AS A LIFESTYLE , AS A CO-CREATIVE PROCESS.
    The Rhizome is always there , yet the awareness facilitating its navigation through creation , might not always be.

  2. AvatarPamela McLean

    Ref Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum – Dave Cormier

    Dante – thank you for pointing us towards this useful article. It seems to me to cross the boundary between the established academic community and people like me (who are learning through informal Internet-enabled study, strongly enabled by discussion). How great to have a name now for what we do in our Online Communities of Learning – it is “Rhizomic Education”.

    I recognise the “Rhizomic Education” description as fitting how I have been learning about ICT for Education and Development (ICT4Ed&D) in the last eight years. It probably describes how the World Without Poverty study group will develop as well described more at http://learnbydoinguk.blogspot.com/2008/08/five-months-catch-up.html. My ICT4Ed&D studies have been a mixture of practical work combined with deliberation and discussion on the Internet. I move from one online Community of Interest /Learning to another, depending on what I need to discover. (I can think of membership of each of these communities as different modules in my course of study.)

    My repeated problem has been a culture gap between academia and informal communities of learning. On a personal level I have been helped enormously by many academics who have included me, in ways far beyond my hopes and expectations (after all – I am a complete outsider). However when I have entered into a certain level of discussion with traditional academics, whose reference points are all within academic norms rather than within the experience of rhizomatic education, there have been problems. Our reference points are different. For my part I forget that they need to consider the curriculum and assessment, instead of just the need to learn something, and that they are accountable to others. These are people who are paid for their work, or they are doing formal studies. They belong in a different world to me. I have no formal support, but equally I have no formal constraints. I can keep re-directing my own learning according to what I have just learned.

    I have also found it difficult to explain “where I am coming from” because I am not part of any formal academic institution. I am not employed by any university and I am not registered as a student, and yet I leap in to online groups and join in discussions. I do it because I need to share what I am trying to learn, in order to clarify my thoughts and learn from others. Of course, as an outsider I don’t find a way to contribute formally what I have learned. I am not part of the culture of published papers and dissertations. I don’t know the academic references etc that would be needed to make my contributions academically acceptable. My initial attempts to cross that boundary were, rightly, dismissed by reviewers as unacceptable according to their culture (just journalism, i.e. reports not research) so I decided to keep away.

    Perhaps the Rhizomatic Education article will help me to cross that divide. I think we do need to connect more. Maybe this academic description will act as some kind of passport if, in future, I venture out of my Online Communities of Learning into the culture of the academics.

    Many thanks for this academic analysis of how “rhizomatic education” happens through informal online Communities of Learning.

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.