Week 5: of viruses and knotweed

japanese knotweed
Sorry Week 5, I’ve not done you justice. I’ve been floored with a chest infection and trying to do anything on the study line was just a bit too hard.  I’ve dipped in and out of blogs, tweets, watched a couple of videos and attempted to relate connectivism and rhizomatic learning to my own context. Slightly apologetic about putting my  shallow ponderings out there, but c’est la vie!

What’s useful about the terms connectivism and rhizomatic learning?

  • they both foreground issues of complexity.  In a fast moving world with a decreasing knowledge half-life our problems are less about finding an answer and more about choosing an answer.  Making those choices will frequently require perspectives from experts in different fields.    Although I valued the rigour of Price and Kirkwood (2010), the timescales involved in pulling together this type of analysis (from idea, to approval, to paper, to publish, to review) do not help us with decisions we need to make on technology today. In contrast, Weller’s (2012) interview of Siemens and Cormier suggest a more emergent attitude regarding early MOOCs – as Seimen’s put it “we took advantage of some of the technologies that were available at the time, and our goal was really just to see what happens”.  Technological advances will continue to open opportunities to innovate.  By definition there will never be an evidence base for innovative practice.
  • It’s not always about the journey to the centre of the network or community – the organic mess of the Rhizome embraces serendipity, experimentation, mutiple and transient memberships and replication.
  • The educator’s role changes eg Downes (2011)   “the instructor, therefore, is required to take an active role in the disciplinary or professional community, demonstrating tactics and techniques, and modelling the approach, language and world view of a successful practitioner”  (are we not back to Sfard, Seeley-Brown, and Wenger here?)

What’s not so useful?

  • Rhizomatic learning, connectivism and constructivism each present a viewpoint on the larger entity of “learning and how we learn”.  I am however, far from convinced that these are that new. As I see it,  technology mediated communications apply a spotlight on facets of how we have always learned.  Knowledge is indeed held in networks – if I want to put together a menu, plan a cycle tour, or design a garden I have a network of gifted people I can draw on and for some things I’d get a few of these people together to work on it with me.  Cross-disciplinary ideas continue to be fostered by random conversations around the kettle.    Technology makes this possible over time & distance, but is is not like we are learning differently
  • Rhizomatic learning aptly describes on-the-hoof workbased learning.  I’m still a bit confused about “pedagogy” in this context.  Maybe it is that pedagogy moves away from the “science” of efficient curriculum defined learning, towards the art of creating online-spaces where self-directed discovery, community and sharing can take place? It sounds a bit laissez-faire to me!
  • Abundance puts valuable resources within a few clicks, but does not help the novice to negotiate a path through the plenty.  I can access the BMJ via the university library, but unsurprisingly it doesn’t make any sense to me.  Good teachers (whether f2f, or MOOC creators) help me by defining and suggesting sensible pathways, activities and interactions that will help me to grow understanding.  Abundance in no way diminishes the skills that differentiate a good from a poor tutor/teacher/course designer.  
  • Is there not still a place for other approaches? Conole mapped technologies and pedagogies to the framework below, placing them along three axis: Individual<->Social, experience<->information, passive <-> active. Connectivist/Rhizomatic approaches are clearly in the social/active/experience segment, but surely other approaches have a role too? (See my love of Udacity)

More questions than answers and more confusion than clarity, but it will have to do for now. May return once the H817 train stops in August, for now onto week 12 and 6.

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One Response to Week 5: of viruses and knotweed

  1. Paige Cuffe says:

    Nuala “there will never be an evidence base for innovative practice” – this is profound, not part of “shallow ponderings” at all! This is the difficulty with the evidence-based practice approach to education, fine for deciding massive costly/risky roll-outs of new policies, but a little ridculous in many of the instances when the ‘where’s the evidence’ mantra is employed.
    And I’m with you too on the different roles for different approaches argument too 😉 So nothing to offer here but agreement.

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