I am intrigued by the idea and question that Dave Cormier poses this week (spurred on by a post by another Rhizo15 participant about giving Dave a break and posting our queries this week) about what it means to be the teacher in a Rhizomatic Learning course. He doubles down on the word course in his introduction, saying that the word still indicates a flow of learning. I won’t quibble.
This all came about because folks began wondering (in a kind-spirited way): Do we really need Dave at all? Not Dave, the person. Dave, the facilitator. In other words, wouldn’t a true Rhizomatic Learning environment run on the fuel of its own inquiry?
But then Dave asks us to consider: how do you teach rhizomatically?
Good one. (This is why we need Dave).
For me, here’s the thing: I am a sixth grade teacher in a K-12 setting, unlike many in the #rhizo15 learning community, who are in a university setting. I’m not saying they have much more flexibility than I do. They may not. But I do think there are slight differences when we consider our teaching practices.
So, tweaking his question a bit, I began to wonder: how to you teach rhizomatically in a K-12 setting? With the philosophy of wide-open learning and deep inquiry — set against standardized testing and for some (not me, thankfully, or not yet anyway), standardized curriculum — there’s a sense of conflict in values.
But, listen, when we do classroom inquiry projects and project-based learning and even adopting the Google 20 percent/Genius Hour to our K-12 classrooms, where we give students choice and help them find direction in their inquiry/research, and then allow them room to present their findings in a variety of formats …. that’s a taste of the rhizome, right? We just call it something else.
The key here, as a teacher or facilitator, is to have the stepping stones for forward motion, to allow learners of any age to build on their own experiences and scaffold the next steps. In Rhizomatic Learning, Dave has purposely set the tone for exploration with intriguing, open-ended questions and there is room to do that in our classrooms, too.
Maybe not all year. That probably is not realistic, given the confines and mandates looming over our heads. But we can bring a taste of the rhizome into our students’ lives and empower them to do more to pursue their interests, while still meeting the standards we are required to teach them, no matter the age.
We just don’t call it Rhizomatic Learning.
Peace (in the think),