Monday, May 11, 2015

An Assemblage too far?

"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."

Dave Cormier

In his article Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum, Dave Cormier sets out a "Rhizomatic model for education".

Might this be an assemblage too far?

Deleuze in a quote taken from what he sees (conveniently) as a 'box of tools', is rather clear about what he sees as the role of education:

"The various forms of education or 'normalization' imposed upon an individual consist in making him or her change points of subjectification, always moving towards, a higher, nobler one in closer conformity with the supposed ideal. Then from the the point of subjectification issues a subject of enunciation, as a function of mental reality determined by that point. Then from the subject of enunciation issues a subject of the statement, in other words, a subject bound to statements in conformity with a dominant reality."  

Deleuze and Guattari, Mille Plateaux.

To cut a long quote short, it appears to me that education and the rhizome make for unhappy flowerbed fellows...

Returning to Dave Cormier's introducton to his 'Rhizomatic Model for Education', he suggests that curriculum is not driven by 'predefined inputs from experts.'

So, here I am, reflecting on a 'predefined input' from Dave Cormier for week 4 of his #rhizo15 course.

I am beginning to wonder what he means by 'input'?

My reflection and that of the other participants is indeed 'driven by input'. Even if we can accept that this particular input has been 'negotitated by those engaged in the learning process', it has been officially sanctionned by the 'course convenor', the 'master of ceremonies', the 'teacher', Dave Cormier.

Aren't participants to this form of educaton being asked to conform to his 'supposed ideal'?

Isn't this a process of 'normalization'?

The giant rhizome.

I note with interest the connections being made between learning in the twenty first century and the internet, or the web.

How often have I heard that we are 'learning in an age of abundance'.

It is so easy to connect this ever linking web with the image of the rhizome.

I am not convinced that we are really 'learning in an age of abundance'.

We might be learning in an age of impoverishment.

The web is a source of the wildest fantasies (singularity), fears, and educative business plans...

It would be difficult to imagine an education today which simply ignores the existence of the World Wide Web.

However, what is the 'dominant reality' of the internet?

What are the dominant values of the internet?

Is learning without bounds education?

If so what is this education that we are proposing?

Isn't it necessary to be critical about this 'dominant' virtuality?

Practicalities of 'connected learning'..

"In the practical example of Couros's class, students created their own rhizomatically mapped curriculum by combining their blogs with information to which Couros pointed them and linking the combination to the particular knowledge that they discovered through discussions with key people in Couros's professional community."

Dave Cormier

OK, in the example taken from Alec Couros's class, we are given what might be described by some as an example of guided, connected a Canadian university.

The key node in the class is clearly Couros, Couros, Couros.

He is defining the activity, the form of knowledge, the means of knowledge sharing, the professional community, and predefining the discussion probable within the community.

This is one vision of education.

"The role of the instructor in all of this is to provide an introduction to an existing professinal community in which students may participate - to offer no just a window, but an entry point into an existing learning community."

Dave Cormier

OK, what is the difference between the role of the instructor here and the role of an instructor in a 'traditional academic course? Going through various steps towards the gaining of a doctorate and a gown, students are given an entry point and the defined path towards becoming a recognised and robed member of the learning community.

Isn't just that the rituals are changing?

Isn't it that some would like the rituals to change?

Rhizome as metaphor for learning...

"In a sense, the rhizomatic viewpoint returns the concept of knowledge to its earliest roots. Suggesting that a distributed negotiation of knowleged can allow a community of people to legitimize the work they are doing amony 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."

Dave Cormier.


Hasn't this always been the case within academic communities in the past?

Don't offshoots of existing communites connect with other people and enable a new 'plant' to emerge?

Isn't this the same thing?

This "rhizomatic model dispenses with the need for external validation of knowledge", if we are talking about a "rhizomatic model of education", I do not believe that this "dispenses with the need for external validation."

Isn't education precisely about 'external validation'?

In the case of Alec Couros's program, the curriculum may be rather open but it is most definitely constructed; it is not organic, even if the learning is, or will always be...


A teacher is not required for there to be learning.

I don't believe that you can have an education without a teacher, even if the teacher is distributed by a MOOC.

In  #rhizo14 or #rhizo15 there are clear curriculum choices being made, very clear tool choices and very clear modes of behaviour being encouraged (even silently).

There are indentifiable educative values present in Dave Cormier's videos, introductory statements and blog posts.

I share many if not most of these values.


I believe the rhizome may be a useful image for the construction of knowledge, a metaphor for learning, for the evolution of society, and for the emergence of dominant groups and theories...

I am coming to believe that it may provide the background to endless debates, parlour games, and soul-searching.

I think that Dave Cormier uses it well as a means of entertaining educative dissimulation, like a skilled conjurer pulling a rabbit out of the hat,  to attract people to his vision of education.

I am coming to the conclusion that the 'Rhizomatic Model' for education is a nonsense.






  1. I found this blog really useful. I am always suspicious of charisma as it can be used for both good and bad. I have learned a lot from the Rhizo15 course so far - for which I am grateful - but I still found your post a necessary blast of fresh air in the general overall miasma of struggle to conform to expectations. Thank you

  2. I don't approve of this level of sensible analysis of the random things i say.

    1. Too coy by half, but I am already a self-admitted member of the hillbilly booboisie who has spent the better part of week trying to discover what you say doesn't exist. If what you say is true, then all of us are just a clutch of hoodwinked hawks. To what purpose? I have exercised a willing suspension of doubt as part of the ante up for the believing game that is part of #rhizo15.
      If this is true, then I will now cash out and find my silence.

      Or maybe I am just playing a role, say Iago who says at Othello's end, "Demand me nothing. What you know, you know. From this time forth I never will speak word." Or maybe I am the Flexo character in Futurama who admits after harsh words, "Nah, I'm just yanking your chain."
      But hey, miracle of miracles, I have actually discovered some rhizomish practice that I will use in my classroom and in informal learning spaces like my farm and in my naturalist volunteer role. Turns out that acting "as if" has been its own reward. Of course, I could be wrong, I could be deceived, I could be lying. I could be.

  3. fascinating. i think the model gives us a way to look at what's already happening, or not, and then build on other possibilities. i'm not so sure that education is about external validation, although surely we're all caught up and expected to participate in that, and many of the people in #rhizo15 come from there... but there are now thousands of people who don't participate in traditional educational structures which never welcomed them and yet do participate in educative processes. there's interesting research about what people are learning in gaming communities that serves business, innovation and social justice, as just one example. i think the most interesting part of the rhizomatic education idea is tracking the subversion - of all methods of plant propagation only the rhizome creates what is in effect a community and pops up new shoots here and there and wherever. the question i keep coming back to is whether we are investigating what is already happening and, once we pin that down, how long will it take the war machine to subvert the subversion. or are we inventing potential new models. how, as educators, do we honor the potential for subversion? as Sandra says, it is a bit of a breath of fresh air (almost wrote french air) to read about your thinking about all of this.

  4. and this be why I am just having fun with a bunch of amazing smart people and not trying to define anything except how to keep learning and connecting.

    but that's my anti-intellectual intellectual self rearing its head [shaking its head]

    These concepts seem more necessary to define in higher ed, which seems (from my reading of Dave and others) to be heavily enmeshed in its canon, vetting and its experts. Since I am in k-12 education and I have always been one to question the canon and create what passes to the "authorities" as a creative version of such canon while basically pursuing my own headless rhizo knowledge growth with my students, it seems to have less power in terms of a massive "shift" in my world. My masters degree in bullshit helps me to take Common Core objectives and twist them to my own devices in actual practice.

    Our students, if we do our job well, "will connect the node to the larger network. ...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."

    I agree with Simon about the Couros example.

    connectivism rhizomatic rhizo-ism connected learning collaboration decentralized learning nodal learning collectivist learning collaborative learning

    Isn't this what education is??? "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."