(Initial) Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali's blog has now moved to http://blog.mahabali.me

Is this what rhizomatic learning is? #rhizo14


It has happened three times in less than 24 hours. I have thought of something, considered blogging about it, only to find someone else saying the exact same thing before I had time to complete the thought. Seriously.

Three examples on these three blogs:

1. The idea of developing uncheatable assessments (an ideal to aspire to, though obviously, some people still find ways to cheat around them) – I jokingly commented that she stole the idea from my mind a few hours before I thought it ;o))

2. The idea that we are under the illusion that all our thoughts/ideas are original and independently reached, when in reality, they are almost never truly just “ours” alone (in a comment here)

3. The idea of cheating for diplomas, since the external world values diplomas over learning.

So I’ve been reflecting on how this phenomenon takes place and writing comments about it all over other folks’ blogs, but thought I’d just put it again over here to sort of organize my thoughts (have realized that I get loads of ideas from reading and tweeting, then need to blog about them to organize them in my head and get some sort of release and peace in my head!)

So one of the things I wrote in a comment on Heather’s blog is “great minds think alike” and that her quality of writing was so good that I reached the same conclusion she reached before reading her own expression of it. I wrote a comment on Maureen’s blog reflecting further on this phenomenon: “I think there is an aspect of social media (that we are maybe reading similar blogs and tweets) and have similat theory backgrounds (eg as educators about social constructivism) and now have a similar interest (rhizomatic learning) such that our ideas aee influenced by each others in ways that are not always explicit or conscious”

And then suddenly, it occurred to me that this might be what rhizomatic learning is… this realization that your ideas and thinking are interconnected with those of others in your community. It happens quite often that things that we integrate and synthesize things together in strange ways (e.g. I watched the film Martin Luther and thought the start of protestantism and the chaos that ensued was much like what Freire discussed in his work about how the oppressed, when first liberated, can get chaotic and violent for a while). It happens quite often that something that occurs in my physical world (at work, at home) intersects with ideas going on in cyberspace and something creative comes out of them. But equally, there are times when nothing much intellectually inspiring is happening my physical world, and most of my ideas are coming from cyberspace and a particular community of people (e.g. when I’m following the hashtage #rhizo14) and so whatever ideas I come up with are really heavily influenced by what others are saying and doing.

This might be the first time I interact so much with the community in a MOOC without going back to read the sort of seminal work on the topic (meaning Dave’s book – which I keep intending to go back and read, but I need an offline copy – any ideas how I can get that? – to use while commuting).

But this might be the point: that I am learning from the community much more than I am from any one person or source of content or knowledge.

When I first heard of the idea of “community as curriculum” I thought it was much like what I do in my own classes – which is give students a lot of freedom about how to learn from each other’s experiences, and how to use the course to benefit their own teaching in their own schools… I was once accused by a student of “learning from them” without giving too much of my own self or expertise… when really, what I was intending to do was make them realize the value of their own expertise and let them learn from each other… where my real expertise is in facilitating those discussions rather than giving more input or heavier or more authoritative input than everyone else’s…

But in this #rhizo14 course, I am seeing how we are all sort of facilitating, on our own blogs, some of the ideas by bringing them together… and I’m seeing how no one place is “the” place to learn, and I’m happy dipping in and out of P2PU, blogs, twitter (can’t get around to facebook and google plus or I’ll go crazy) and capturing seemingly random thoughts and ideas that turn out not to be so random because we’re all here thinking and talking about similar things.

Loving this experience :o))



Author: Maha Bali

Associate professor of practice, American University in Cairo

8 thoughts on “Is this what rhizomatic learning is? #rhizo14

  1. Pingback: Is this what rhizomatic learning is? #rhizo14 |...

  2. A happy synthesis here. Thanks. Reading your bulleted list above I am struck that the word ‘cheat’ is a way into the blindspots we all have about what constitutes ‘knowing’. If the goal is to know and gain power over ones own knowing, then is it even possible to cheat? If the goal is to gain power over others, then can it be anything other than cheating?

    I also like the definition-“this realization that your ideas and thinking are interconnected with those of others in your community.” Is this some kind of hivemind epiphany? The sum is greater than the parts. And wouldn’t it be cheating to even cite something from the zeitgeist. Is rhizomatic learning represented by the zeitgeist globally and by the gestalt locally?

    • Thanks Terry, you abd Kevin were the kings of creative synthesis yday!
      I think as you say issues of power make all the difference in how we perceive cheating and rules
      Zeitgeist and gestalt – I ignored those terms all thru my PhD but maybe it is time I look them up? Haha
      I once asked a German friend what bildung meant and she said it was difficult to translate (but I got the gist of that one)

      • Hey Terry and all. So I looked yhem up but must be missing connotations
        If gestalt means synergy or some such idea, and Zeitgeist means societal norms (do u mean society as in rhizo14 community or the wider community?)
        Sorry 🙂 but am sure u will be happy to enlighten me (my laziness not to have followed thru on these terms in formal education but aha! Hadcno rhiZomatic connections to support me in my solitary remote phd experience til I discovered twitter in last few months!)

      • The confusion is not on your part. I suspect that I am using these terms very idiosyncratically. Gestalt — a felt sense of the whole but on a very personal level, embodied knowing on a personal level. Zeitgeist–a felt sense of the whole but on a global level–we might call it culture. #rhizo14 has each of us reaching out roots into the soil and trying to gain nourishment so that the whole plant might live.

      • Thanks, Terry… Clearer now 😉

  3. Pingback: The role of power, social justice and empathy in our perception of cheating vs learning | Reflecting Allowed

  4. I really like this post especially “And then suddenly, it occurred to me that this might be what rhizomatic learning is… this realization that your ideas and thinking are interconnected with those of others in your community. ”
    Thanks Maha

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