Alienated from Change11 MOOC

I want to document and maybe provoke a discussion and reflection on last night’s Change 11 web conference with Dave Cormier on Rhizome Learning. I felt pretty alienated and out of place.

But first a few caveats:
1. I like Dave a lot, count him as a friend and find his ideas on Rhizome learning interesting and relevant
2. This was my first synchronous session at Change 2011 MOOC (many mostly, time and priority related issues getting in the way). Thus my alienation may result from my failing to take the time and energy to become accustomed to and grow into the norms of this group/network.
3. The session was one of the most interactive, Elluminate sessions I’ve seen. Dave is a master at both creating the context through his slides and allowing comments to flow fast and furious.

However…..
One of the first slides Dave asked what was the purpose of education. There was about 30 replies entered onto the slide. Many like “create workers”, “babysit kids”, “create soldiers”, “give a space for teachers to endless repeat stories from their youth” and many more reflecting a distinctly EduPunk interpretation of the stuff of Hidden Curriculum critique of formal education system. But not a single comment about education being responsible for and or even associated with learning. This struck me as odd (and alienating) for three reasons.

First, likely all of the participants (including Dave and myself) are products of, and beneficiaries of a variety of educational systems. In fact, many of us participating in the MOOC are the teachers or administrators running or at least participating in formal education systems, and thus the very enemy being bashed. I do not deny the culture homogenizing influence of education systems but look at all the definitions of education from dictionary.com:
- 1. the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.
- 2.the act or process of imparting or acquiring particular knowledge or skills, as for a profession.
- 3.a degree, level, or kind of schooling: a university education.
- 4.the result produced by instruction, training, or study: to show one’s education.
- 5.the science or art of teaching; pedagogics.

The conversation seemed to focus (and get stuck on #4 alone), whereas I like to think of number #1 and work to develop #5.

Second, I’ve spent 2/3 of my adult life trying to improve access to education through various distance education institutions, technologies and systems. My motives are certainly not to create soldiers or workers, but to expand opportunity and give people real choices. Sure, education does lead to better jobs, but it also leads to better understanding and management of our global environment, release of and development of creative juices, as evidenced by the formal education of almost all of the interesting and important cultural, artistic and philosophical leaders, models and trend setters. I recognize that education is a two edged sword and can also stamp out creativity, as evidenced by studies of changes in school aged children – but it also provides a context for students to learn how to create, think and get along with and tend the various weeds (personal and institutional) in our gardens. Education, like other institutional systems both creates and is created by individual and social hierarchies. You can also see that children don’t generally get any more creative when they are denied opportunity to go to school – maybe just the opposite. Except of course if they are the children of or exposed to educated adults or others with large (and often uncommon) personal gifts and abilities

Third, I like others am attracted to the romantic notion of the Nomad. During my 20′s and on, I spent 15 years on a homestead in Northern Alberta, so I am quite familiar with the value and sense of freedom of living outside the mainstream society, but I still had to learn (pre-Internet days) how to research, argue, support and protect that alternative lifestyle – and I was grateful for the formal education tools and skills that I had available and sadly were not, to many of my rural and First Nation neighbours. I also have seen the marginalized and not very pleasant or sustaining lifestyles of modern Bedouin communities in Jordon and Oman and Roma communities of nomads in many countries of Europe. Sure, they have at least equal doses of culture and maybe more creativity than others, but they suffer from all sorts of challenges, not least of which are health issues and the lack of educational opportunity for their kids. If you talk to these nomads, you will find that many of them have high aspirations and regrets about their own lack of education and make great efforts to provide educational opportunities to own children – and not just because they want them to be good factory workers or soldiers. One might also ask are the ecology, anti-war, Arab Spring, social, charitable and volunteer services that are trying to build and mend our world populated by educated people or by Nomads? I refrain from using the the older term of ‘learned people’, because I appreciate the distinction made between learning and education – but I don’t deny the correlation.

Finally, I realized last night how “out of it” I am in regard to skill using Blackboard, graphics, Twitter and other PLEs as compared to many of the Change participants. This is OK, as I am old fart (61 years) and I am at the stage of life, where I don’t feel compelled to keep up with all the new technologies and the skills required to exploit them. But I am light years ahead of most of my generation (Stephen notwithstanding!) and thus I see the EduPunk culture becoming a very exclusionary technocracy. And to be frank, not one that I really aspire to join. Maybe Moocs are its ‘educational schoolrooms’.

I belief connectivism has much to say to formal education systems, but change is a very complex and needs many advocates and workers – both in the trenches and by Nomads. If we really want to CHANGE systems, we have to insure that we don’t grow as rhizomes, reproducing clones of ourselves or establishing gardens in which only certain types of weeds can flourish.



16 Responses to “Alienated from Change11 MOOC”

  1.   Japsoft Says:

    Hi, nice cry.
    I agree with your cry for wisdom in discussions. In my opinion the discussion on blogs are of a different kind, more complex than the Eluminate discussions. I would like to read more of Deleuze. Some French philosophers are notorious romantic and have very strange ideas.
    In the Netherlands some people want to give education back to the teachers, just because of the alienated teachers. Teachers who are strangers in the schools they have to teach in, because outsiders do make the rules. I guess some of the EduPunk interpretation of the Hidden Curriculum critique is a sign of alienated teachers.

  2.   dave cormier Says:

    Hi Terry,

    Thanks for the critique.

    1. A few comments. I’m sorry that you somehow felt excluded from the discussion. I am never attempting to create a situation where anyone, regardless of their fartishness, is not included in discussion.

    2. I am not, in any sense, talking about replacing an organized system of education with some anarchic state. I am speaking specifically about what we want from out ACTUAL SCHOOLS. School is a critical component to any journey towards emancipation in a society… it can be a very effective means of addressing class inequalities.

    3. The term Nomad (like rhizome) come from Deleuze and Guattari. Critiquing it as a metaphor in the way that you have here is equivalent to saying that rhizomes, untended, can break foundations of a house and therefore threaten family life. I am not suggesting that we all BECOME nomads in that we leave our houses. I am suggesting that our current system of high stakes assessment on marrowless objectives encourages an acceptance of alienation and disconnectedness that is very, very bad for a democracy.

    I am shocked that you thought i was making a duality of Nomads and ‘educated people’? I think this is the real disconnect. I’ll go back to the drawing board and make sure that this connection is clear. Have you read the rhizomatic learning paper that the presentation was based on?

    Thanks for coming to the session Terry and leaving your thoughts.

  3.   dave cormier Says:

    One more thing…

    Keith Hamon has done a much nicer job explaining things than i did http://idst-2215.blogspot.com/2011/11/change11-defining-rhizome.html (and he often does. If you’re still willing to take a look, any chance you’d read his blog post? Also… here is that first article. http://davecormier.com/edblog/2008/06/03/rhizomatic-education-community-as-curriculum/

  4.   Simon Ensor Says:

    You can’t separate education from its social, technological and economic context. Edupunk, it seems to me is an indicator of the redefinition necessary of the topography, chronology, and typology of learning necessary for a new context. It is in no way clear that the short-term changes which result from the present crisis will be favourable to individuals used to a particular frame. The battle lines are being drawn as concerns the ‘ownership’ of the means of distribution of ‘knowledge’ and the access to accreditation. The latter years of the Great Rock and Roll Swindle are uncomfortable viewing. Punk is a necessary challenge to bloated, formulaic,complacent educational institutions. In the end we will we have to lay down arms and discuss how best to share learning freely, globally, respectfully and work towards a post-Gutenberg, post-Colonial,post-capitalist, post-punk, post-individualistic era , if our time permits…

  5.   Michael Hotrum Says:

    I think a lot of the terse, dismissive comments re learning today are synaptic responses to an educational system that hasn’t served all equally, is in need of reformation yet seems to make little effort to change. We are in the early stages of a revolution and these crude rejection messages are a result of the tear it down phase. As Keith says in his posting cited by Dave in comment above ” The danger is when we become attached to a system, an ideology, and refuse to acknowledge that it no longer helps.” And people have to recognize that education is not at fault – it is the system of education.

  6.   Nancy White Says:

    Terry, as an approximate “old fart” (53) I wanted to stop by and say, “hey, I’m reading and reflecting on your post.” And wondered about a few specific practices that I notice in MOOCs and… in other online spaces that attract smart, clever people.

    1. Speed – do we go so fast that we favor the smart, FAST, CLEVER people?

    2. How much of our interaction is performance (art)?

    3. When we do hour long synch events, why do we pack in so much that we can’t unpack much of anything?

    It seems to me we have the bright people. We may want to play with some different practices.

    What do you think?

    #socialartist

  7.   svmoose Says:

    Hi Terry,
    You bring up some interesting points for me to ponder over. I have always been a firm believer of “people learn more outside the formal school systems”. I never really understood why, except that I have seen it with my own eyes. But come to think of it, it might have to do with the way they learn and are being educated. I realize through your post and through Dave’s information now that they learn in a rhizomatic way and that’s why it is so powerful. I think usable learning is very important. You can read all about Darwin in the classroom but when you have been in the Galapagos and have seen the animals it makes an everlasting impression. Those kids I have seen vary from 5 to 18 years old. And what creative, smart and beautiful kids they were/are! I was amazed and I never realized home schooled kids could be so bright (clearly I have never seen ANY kids so bright as those ones).

    Of course you don’t need only nomads, but I doubt that is even a possibility. We, as educators, may want our students to think for themselves and come up with their own learning goals and what not, but there are kids who will have trouble with that (hell, I have trouble with that!) and you have to have usable learning for them as well. Indeed, nomads may give a lot of people a romantic idea, but lots of people won’t be able to live up to that image…..

    I like your comment of “being out of it”. I am with you on this one. I think I tried to be “in on it” but it really wasn’t me (why I even tried is beyond me). I actually don’t want to be “in on it”. I feel happy with the way my life has been going and I have learned tons without any web 2.0 tool (apart from some emailing) for the last 11 years. Now I am back in full swing with Mooc and life in a city (Fredericton, NB) and I am still happy without Twitter, Fb and blogs…….I have accounts, but use them sparingly because there is too much other stuff I like doing and learn from. The other day a “friend” send us an email asking advise on a certain matter. When I saw that the email was addressed to 50 other people, I thought, why bother to even answer? I still like the personal touch and I haven’t found it yet on the web……

  8.   suifaijohnmak Says:

    Hi Terry,
    Thanks for your thought provoking post. Here is my response http://suifaijohnmak.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/change11-education-and-rhizome-my-reflection/
    John

  9.   Stephen Downes Says:

    I guess my main reaction to this post is to observe how poor an idea it is to judge an entire course – 2100 people, 270 feeds – on the basis of the comments in one Elluminate forum on one day.

    Contrast Terry’s impression, if you will, with Nancy’s White’s reflection after a week of participation. http://www.fullcirc.com/2011/11/08/reflecting-on-socialartists-and-change11/ I don’t think that a read of the many blog posts reflecting on Nancy’s contribution – and Dave’s, from this week, and others from the preceding weeks – would leave one with the impression of a very exclusionary technocracy.

    That’s not to dismiss out of hand the responses that Terry and the rest of us viewed in Elluminate – we need to own that – but to make the point that a Connectivist course isn’t one that walks up to you and presents itself. You have to go looking for it.

    All of that said, there’s a whole debate to be had about alienation, but I’ll save that for another day.

  10.   Jeffrey Keefer Says:

    Terry-
    One of the points you mentioned really struck me, namely a duality you seemed to posit between your perspective and the edupunk notion, especially regarding the issue of inclusion and power (something I was ironically encouraged not to discuss in the session as being off topic). What I find so rich here is the notion that any movement, whether it be the edupunk folks to the OWS people, can very easily become as exclusionary as those they are critical of, namely of people who think or act differently, however that may be understood. But hey, what would I know about that living here in Manhattan . . .
    Thanks for a most thoughtful posting.
    Jeffrey

  11.   Nick Kearney Says:

    I wonder how much the nature of the activity and the tool elicits the “glib” kinds of response that Terry refers to…

  12.   Terry Anderson Says:

    Thanks VERY much for those who have taken the time to respond to my rant.

    As I said in my caveats, I know, I have not been involved in the MOOC and Stephen correctly points out that I shouldn’t judge the process by one very small act of participation. Secondly, I am grateful to the organizers and the participants for creating the MOOC, not least because we really needs tests and exemplars of connectivist learning. Thus, I apologize if my comments seemed too negative.

    Second to Dave’s concerns, I own my own sense of alienation that evening – it was not because of any actions of the facilitators or even the participants. I can get grumpy even at the best of times!! (ask my wife!).

    My unease with the Nomad image, was not because of the references to Deleuze and Guattari, and I confess to never having read their work – but just to the picture from Dave’s slide. I’ve seen too many images of real, exploited nomads. I kept thinking of the irony of seeing a Mortar graduate cap on the image.

    Nonetheless, I think we need to develop roles as change agents that speak WITH rather than AT our formal education systems – as well as developing and building alternatives.

    I am committed to leading (make that facilitating/animating/keeping pace with) my week in Change11 next spring. But I have no idea what I will talk about then.Suggestions welcomed. I only hope I make the time to be more involved before hand!!

    Thanks again all.
    Terry

  13.   Alex P. Real Says:

    Thanks for disclosing criticism, Terry (and Nancy for the #socialartistry beauty). I’m far from being an “old fart” yet (38), but I have an acquired disability which I guess positions me outside mainstream “normalcy” :) I sometimes feel we may be mistaking form and content (besides the obvious content of the form, White dixit), mastering the new app or latest tech gadget rather than proper analytical reflection upon its potential & consequences, occassionally even substituting thinking for design. Much as I enjoy Deleuze & Guattari, I particularly appreciate the reference to “real-life” Nomads as a means to break the vicious circle in which we could be incurring from our privileged comfort zone inconsciously reinforcing barriers we aim at overcoming (or so we claim). Sorry if harsh, but this “against schooling system” discourse seems to have become some sort of buzzword, paradoxically strongest proponents belonging to such social institution as Terry says, though still the trend is to align any innovation/suggestion to the three big learning theories (as Dave’s rhizomatic learning) rather than plunging into a veritable interdisciplinary approach. Deconstructing such positioning and educational u & distopias over time could be an interesting variable to assess change (?).

  14.   Mary Pringle Says:

    A belated observation on the use of metaphors–humanities people sometimes go off on bizarre tangents with metaphors, which can be problematic in two ways as I see it: first, they quickly start to reify the figure as if every possible analogy to be drawn from the comparison had some corresponding reality, and second, the figure is always based on a simulacrum–an imagined construct of nomads or bees or grass.

    This may be apocryphal, but I remember reading that Einstein was so dismayed by the crazy metaphors spun off from his relativity theory that he wished he had called it something else. On a much smaller scale, I can remember being dismayed as a person with a master’s degree in linguistics hearing the crazy metaphors that people were spinning off from Saussure’s concept of signification in my English graduate seminar. When Roland Barthes used the unmarked case (degre zero) as a metaphor, it worked because he know what he was talking about. I can’t say that for my wild and crazy fellow English grad students. Nevertheless, as a humanities person steeped in the appreciation of metaphor, I love to see people enjoy one. It’s like any intoxicant, though; one needs to use it wisely.

    And (continuing my mini-rant) ever since adolescence became a revered category in our culture, teachers have been trying hard to keep up with the youth. When I was getting excited about Second Life as an educational tool, my sixteen-year-old dismissed it as a lame chat room. Whatever educators come up with will soon become the status quo and not that cool to the youth. Some of it will work better for certain groups, as you noted, Terry, for complex reasons. I am proud to be an educator because education is the only thing that can make good on the promise of a better life on so many levels. I never want to lose sight of how wonderful it is to encode thoughts with a writing tool on paper or a screen, or how important it is for every human being to be able to reach their educational potential, however that gift is conveyed.

  15.   suifaijohnmak Says:

    Hi Terry,
    I read your post with great interests, and again I have written a post in response. http://suifaijohnmak.wordpress.com/2011/11/13/change-11-is-this-rhizomatic-learning-my-view-on-mooc/ I think you have a lot to offer, especially in this climate of great change. I think the use of metaphor is healthy. I am not sure if we are the clones of rhizomes, as for sure that is not me, in that I want to see a healthy and great institution in support of learning, both for others and myself. I don’t see those negativities as posted on the slide as you do, may be I am just a little bit younger than you, so I just don’t see them (in reality, the session was held at midnight of the time, and so I seldom attended those synchronous session). I like your approach towards integrating institutions and informal learning, as I have used your picture of your post again this time.
    Thanks again Terry for stimulating me to create another post in response. John

  16.   Glen Says:

    Something that may have gotten lost this week, I think, is that the Rhizome metaphor (and others like it) are metaphors about the potential and structure of education, not the content or results.

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