Technologies, Taxonomies, and Acronyms! Oh My: A MOOC-ish Taxonomy

Lately, I’ve been coming across a lot of posts regarding definition around the MOOCs.  So I thought I would collect some of what I am seeing on the web and in my own personal network into a blog post.

Recently, Fred Mud posted on the xMOOC, cMOOC, and the rMOOC. With the rMOOC being the rhizo MOOC citing Dave Cormier’s #rhizo14 and #rhizo15 as the impetus and prime example. Apostolos Koutropoulos (AK) just took a critical look at SPOCs – I have to agree it is a silly acronym but I am a fan of the small open endeavors. And while it is not recent, I found this Hybrid Pedagogy piece from 2012 created by hundreds in a google doc that spells out the MOOC acronym and challenges the ideas of teacher/student. It is a great reminder that this is not a new discussion.

In personal conversations I’ve found some avoiding the acronym MOOC entirely, while others augment it to meet their needs by changing what the letters mean, some keep the core MOOC but throw something on the beginning or the end, and others create whole new acronyms.

About a month ago I ran into Vicki McGillin at a local conference where she presented as a part of a group that was creating an assessment tool for MOOCs. The tool is aimed at helping schools assess their MOOC endeavors and thus for a moment the conversation shifted itself to MOOCs not designed by schools. The acronyms started flying and Vicki mentioned that she had created a taxonomy of MOOCs. My ears perked up. I asked her to share with me and then asked if I could share with the world – and she agreed so here it is Vicki McGillin’s MOOC-ish Taxonomy.


V. McGillin (August 2013)






Known As “Connectivist” MOOC; Also SPOC (Self-Paced Open Course – anyone can jump in anytime, anywhere) and some DOCCs (Distributed Open Collaborative Course co-developed) MOOC – most common understanding of what a MOOC represents “Blended”/  “Mash up” MOOC;MOOC as Text/MOOC as Open Educational Resource “Wrapped” MOOC ; full MOOC course connected in some manner to an existing credit-bearing course “Guided MOOC; Also SMOC (Synchronous Massive Online Course) and MOOM (Massive Open Online Masters – Georgia Tech)







Offered By Original Canadian MOOC  developers (George Siemen), feminists (DOCC), UMary Washington Coursera, Udacity, EdX, Blackboard, Canvas, NovoEd, Coursesites, Open2Study Anyone, e.g., Cuyahoga Community College is developing materials for remedial math on a MOOC platform Any MOOC platform Any MOOC Platform (e.g., Georgia Tech MS in CS; UT – Austin F’13 Intro Psych class)
Pedagogy Learning-centered; Co-learning by all; goal to develop communities of practice Teacher-centered; Video lecture /quizzes/peer-grading; Content is downloaded to students who are quizzed on competency; some group work/peer feedback Students study selected background material from MOOC (and other online sources) as an Open Educational Resource to better discuss/engage in fcredit-bearing class/learning lab Face to face class incorporates entire MOOC either as prelude or throughout blended / flipped learning class Students complete xMOOC with support from Assistants assigned to respond to questions/facilitate online discussions/grade
Role of Instructor Collaborate in developing content/goals; take lead initially Creates content, assessment, activities & learning pathways Create course experience including content; select MOOC and other content sources to incorporate; create assessment and feedback for students Create course experience (may be a completely separate class) including other content, exercises, assessment and feedback; Select MOOC around which to wrap/follow the course Instructor-Same as xMOOC; Role of Assistant – to guide experiences, facilitate discussions, evaluate assignments and grade outcomes
Role of Student Open enrollment, Co-creation of experience; share knowledge; create projects and join communities of practice Open enrollment, Receives information; participates in group work, responds to quizzes/assignments Normal admissions; Receive MOOC and other content information; apply concepts in credit-bearing class; assignments Normal admissions; Receive MOOC information; apply concepts to wrapped course materials/assignments Normal admission of LARGE number of students; Receive MOOC information; complete assignments, participate in groups
Credit None ACE recommended Transfer credit for 8 courses; Three state systems approved as transfer credit (given review on campus); More adding F’13 through prior learning assessment Credit awarded for on-campus course Credit awarded for on-campus course; some offer credit for MOOC upon completion of on-campus “half” or other test of learning in the MOOC Credit/degree awarded based on performance on assignments evaluated by GAs
Business Model None Certificate fees (Coursera/Udacity); Modified tuition; Licensing content or platform (Udacity) Normal tuition charged for on campus course Normal tuition charged for on campus course; IF also award transfer credit for MOOC upon completion of campus class, COULD earn two courses worth of credit for one paid enrollment Modified tuition charged for MOOC guided courses (Georgia Tech; UT-Austin); S. Thrun (Udacity) believes this is the formula
Strengths Promotes collaborative discussions; Creates communities of practice; excellent for professional development Efficient download of information that does not change over time; Effective with adults with degrees; Assessment best when R/W answers, machine-scored; EFFECTIVE use of adaptive learning technology helpful. Most non-quantitative courses are survey/intro classes to this date. MOOCs as Open Educational Resources providing mini-lectures, exercises – enhances efficiency if same materials can be used in multiple courses; addresses criticism of MOOCs through promoting student participation in credit-bearing class; help prepare students for in-class, in-depth engagement with the material; “flipping” classroom enhances in-class engagement with learning/application Same as bMOOC but use entire MOOC as primary OER content source. Two courses for the price of one is possible. 1 professor/50 tutors is much less expensive that 50 professors, so can charge lower tuition; student will have someone to engage with and provide valued feedback on performance; adaptive learning software COULD increase effectiveness of quizzes; possibly viable business model and compromise educational model.
Challenges Not efficient if working with stable, consensual content material; no business model Lecture=least effective mode of pedagogy whether face-to-face or online; criticized for western hegemonic model of education; Not efficient if content changes quickly Udacity/Coursera licenses may preclude “reuse” of material; without agreement, unless put in the Commons, no guarantee course/materials would be available Same as bMOOC but more so as dependent on one source for “flipping” materials; like xMOOCs, not at all efficient if content must change quickly Same as xMOOC

(derived from an article written by Jeannie Crowley, Campus Technology 2013/08/15)

Lighten up already

I decided we needed some lightness on “She’s So Heavy”.

It was a treat today when I got home and checked my mail. I found a fun little package marked Royal Mail. (Guess it must be from the queen bee)
There was a nice card inside.

With a skinny little hand knitted infinity rhizo strap scarf thingy.

That I’m not 100% sure what to do with it but I’m intrigued and excited to be challenged to be creative.

Once again.

Thanks Sarah Honeychurch

Reflections on the start of #tomereaders: Disclaimer on a living artifact

Well, #tomereaders is set to “start” this week and I am feeling a little out of sorts. I mean what the heck was I thinking opening this thing up to the whole world? I’m not Dave Cormier or Jessie Stommel – I’m just some girl with a twitter account and a newly christened blog. What if this goes horribly wrong? What if I say something mean and hurt someone’s feelings? What if I commit some egregious online sin and they all laugh at me? What if I break some kind of law? Sigh… Old age should burn and rave at end of day… I suppose…

You may have noticed I like disclaimers – If not let me just state “I like disclaimers”. Maybe they don’t do anything but make me feel better, however, they spur the conversation in my head and help me set the extremes of what things are and what they are not; somewhere along the way I realize the gradient of in betweenness.

I don’t think #tomereaders is a MOOC

I’m not sure what #tomereaders is exactly but I don’t think it is a MOOC. It is not a course – it is a book club. There is no way it is massive – I think there are less than 20 of us. It is online but I am meeting face to face with just as many people most of who are not participating online. I want to discuss the online interactions face to face… I’m sure the face to face discussions are going to shape my blog posts – which will be “in the wild”. I’m not sure what #tomereaders is but I don’t think it is a MOOC – I am borrowing from what I learned in #moocmooc and #rhizo15 and I have debt to those experiences for sure but I think #tomereaders is different from a MOOC… I could be wrong…

I don’t think #tomereaders has a teacher – since it is not a course

I can’t speak for Matt but I am not really thinking of myself as a teacher or even a facilitator (okay maybe a facilitator) – I suppose I have promised prompts… (why did I do that?) I’m just reading this book. I would love it if other people would read this book too and talk about it so that I could process it from multiple perspectives… because that is how I learn best – and I think that some other people like to learn that way too…

“Focal Dates” work for everyone

I want to announce that the first prompt is not coming on the 11th (it will come out around the 11th) that daily Spur’nMakes may not come every day and that they might actually start before the 11th… What can I say… On a nomadic journey you never really know when or where you are going to end up or what is around the next corner… embrace it…

I’m not sure #tomereaders is rhizomatic

#tomereaders is a living artifact of #rhizo15 born from my desire not just to learn online and in the open but also to serve as an example to some others in my face to face life about how that works.  I am sure that I will be applying what I learned in #rhizo15 to #tomereaders. It is rhizomatic for me – but I’m not sure it will be rhizomatic for everyone. I’m still figuring the rhizome out and I’m not sure if I can convey it to others. I want to embrace the spirit of the rhizome but I’m not sure if it will answer. Let’s see.

Travel Guide for a Living Artifact: 2015 Summer Reading Circle #tomereaders

Taken from TOMB RAIDER 2013 | Simplified by Joshua | Ezzell licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 by Esra Malkoc

Tomereaders 2015 Summer Reading Circle

Online Participation Outline/Travel Guide

Facilitators/Fellow Nomads

Autumm Caines


Matthew Cook

Twitter: @matt_t_cook

Every summer I facilitate (or at the very least instigate) a book group on my home campus and sometimes include a small group of friends. This year, inspired by my participation in #rhizo15 (don’t worry if you don’t know what that is), I’m wondering what will happen to this thing that I do every year if I cast an open call to invite everyone.

There are many ways to participate online so if you would like to come along on this journey let’s start down the trail.

The book

The first thing is the book. If you can get a copy of the book it will make participating in the online group much richer. We are going to be reading Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning by Jose Antonio Bowen. I recommend getting it from your local library because libraries are awesome!

The schedule

In the nomadic travels of my youth I met another nomad named MiRanda who used to say “Time is nothing; Timing is everything”. There will be no “due dates” in this group. We will have “focal dates” instead that will correspond to the three parts of the book and one date for reflection. If you fall behind, jump ahead, or go off on your own it is fine – this is more about timing than time.

June 11th – Part 1: The New Digital Landscape

July 2nd – Part 2: Designing 21st-Century Courses

July 23rd – Part 3: Strategies for Universities of the Future

Aug 6th – Wrap up: What did we learn and how is it going to affect our practice

Next choose how you want to participate online. “In the wild” or “From the lodge” (you can always do a little of both).

How to participate “in the wild”

Participation in the wild will happen on the Internet at large in the open. The trail gets a little rocky here and may be for more experienced travelers but I want to encourage everyone to push their boundaries a bit and learn something new. This can be a great way to build your Internet literacy.

It will help if you know something about facebook, twitter, blogging and other online tools to play in this way. If you need help, try google or post to one of the groups with your question.

Sign up for our facebook group here

On Twitter we will be using the hashtag #tomereaders

I would like to start a google plus page too.

How to participate “from the lodge”

Participation in the wild is not for everyone – it is a little scary out there. When I first pitched the idea of opening this up to some others they felt the need for a more private area to work.  Fawn Winterwood a director at a local university over here in Central Ohio offered space on their LMS and they are offering accounts to anyone that is interested in working in a more private centralized area. If you would like to participate in this way you can sign up here Once your account is created – you’ll get a link via email to confirm things. Once in the course there may not be much in there as I am still sorting that out.


(Much of this is stolen from conversation with Laura Gogia and from participating in #rhizo15 and watching Dave Cormier – I think maybe they stole some it from others but shout out them from me):

Promt’nBlog: Around each focal date Matt or I will issue a prompt/challenge to the group for your consideration. You can then blog on your own personal blog “in the wild” or the group discussion board “in the lodge”. Blogs do not have to be a written narrative! They can be a graphic, a video, an analysis, anything you would like.

Daily Spur’nMake: Once a day a short prompt will be posted (taken from the book) to spur your imagination. With the prompt make something in 15-20 minutes and post it to the groups “in the wild” or the discussion board “in the lodge”. This could be an image; a selfie of how the prompt makes you feel, some take on an Internet meme, or even some art. It could be music or a sound – post it to soundcloud or some other sound hosting service. This could be video or some text… your choice but quickly respond to the prompt and post your results. This is just to get you thinking creatively.

Read’nTweets: I’m really hoping that Laura will help me with this one. The idea is a synchronous reading of a chapter and live tweeting impressions.  Laura does this several times a year with Twitter Journal Club and it is not just enlightening but also a lot of fun. I would like to have one of these around each focal date depending on interest and participation. Read’nTweets can only happen in the wild because Twitter is about as wild as they come.

I hope that you will consider joining us online be it in the wild or in the lodge. I’m excited to read this book with a bunch of others that are interested in it too. 🙂

The Living Artifact: An Open Letter/Invitation/Call for Help to the #rhizo15 Community

Dear #rhizo15 community,

You guys were an awesome curriculum. I need to thank you all for helping me to put some structure around what I have long considered the natural way that I learn. That may sound really strange – the rhizome as a form of structure – but all of those metaphors, memes, arguments, conversations, contradictions, challenges, questions, cartoons, music, etc. were like a solid example of the way that I try to make connections in learning. I think that most people do but I am just speaking of my own experience here. As I consider the last prompt I had to start with a thank you to all of you from me as the individual.

Now on to my response to the prompt –

Dave, in the last challenge you asked us “What would you say, do, show, explain to a colleague about the rhizome to explain it to them?

I’m not sure if the rhizome can be made intelligible by saying or explaining.

I think that we may have better luck with showing and doing.

A few times a term (but at least in the summer) I try to get the faculty at my home university to do a book discussion together. It is a great success for some reason, getting better attendance than any of my other workshops.

This year I settled on Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom will Improve Student Learning by Jose Antonio Bowen. Several of my faculty have recommended it in the past and though I have not done a deep read of the book I have gotten into it enough to find some of the arguments compelling for conversation.

Again “What would you say, do, show, explain to a colleague about the rhizome to explain it to them?

When I try to explain the rhizome I get some interesting looks from people. Maybe I’m just bad at explaining it but I think that maybe it is not something that can be explained by showing examples of what it was. Not that reflection is bad – please don’t take that from what I am saying. It is just that as a metaphor of something that is living it needs a living artifact to truly reflect it’s essence.

I wanted to offer my book group as a living artifact and see if I could get others to join. Besides opening it up to the faculty at my home university I approached the leadership of a group that I knew was looking to create some shared professional development between different local universities.  They loved the idea but what they did not love was the idea of doing it on the Internet open and free. They offered a closed LMS.

I said yes – I never want to leave anyone behind but I have been wondering… Can I still do something open, connected, rhizomatic, with this book group? Can I do it simultaneously with a face to face group and a closed online group? Can the face to face group and the closed online group be my colleagues that I am doing this explaining for and the open rhizomatic group be a living artifact of #rhizo15 that serves as a kind of explanation? They might get it – they might not.

Maybe I’m crazy.

I put out a tweet. Maha Sarah Honeychurch (the rhizome is so helpful I can’t keep up) connected me to Laura Gogia. We scheduled a hangout.

Laura, you blew my mind in about an hour listening to my ideas and talking to me about Twitter Journal Club, Connected Courses, Creative Makes… I had no idea so much was already going on. Whew. I’m still spinning after that conversation. I took notes but I should have taken better notes.

So, now here I am with this face to face book club and this closed online book club and what I want to know is if there is any interest in a rhizomatic moocified connected book club that is open?

We would not have to read the whole book right away – it could run over the summer and we could chunk it out.  We could do Twitter Chapter Chats based on the type of stuff that Laura is doing with the journal club (did I mention that I’m doing my first one of those in June) we could do some creative makes around interesting ideas from the book…

As #rhizo15 comes to an end everyone in the community will start working on other projects. If we take parts of our #rhizo15 experience and incorporate them into our new projects then they become living artifacts. My little book club will be a living artifact even if we are not able to moociify it… and that is okay. However, I think that it would be a great example to the other two communities that I am working with if I could even organize a few open conversations around the topics that they will be considering.

That is only one reason why I would like to do this – the other reason is somewhat selfish. I think that I learn more and learn deeper when I am getting more input and when I am able to make more connections. I think that creating this other layer to this experience will deepen it for me, that I will learn more, and that I take more away from it.

If you are interested in participating and can get your hands on the book leave a comment, send me a tweet, message me on facebook or g+ and I will gauge what kind of activities people are interested in…

If you have ever run a twitter chat, creative make, mooc, or connected course and you have ideas or would like to help me organize please reach out – I have virtually no experience in doing this.

Again, I want to thank the community for an amazing course.

Let me know,


Is Rhizomatic Learning an Invasive Species? You Bet Your Sweet Ass It Is: The Wild vs the Civilized; A Serious Response in 4 parts

Part 1 – introduction

I get the impression that in some interactions around the Internet I have come off as being on the side of answering “No” to the question about if rhizomatic learning is invasive but please be assured that the jury is still out for me. I really am pretty agnostic in most things.

All of this talk about invasives made me think of a few years ago when MOOCs were all the buzz and everyone in higher ed was afraid that they were going to kill higher education as we know it. I felt more excitement than fear about MOOCs and I found myself participating in #EDCMOOC as well as the #moocmooc Moocification.

During #moocmooc I was prompted somehow to write up this Coyote myth about MOOCs. It’s silly and rereading it now I can see how my context as someone who persuades faculty and administrators that technology is not something to be afraid of but something to embrace, explore, and examine comes through as the main takeaway of the story. I was trying to show that MOOCs were not something that had to be feared but were a natural indicator of change to be embraced.

Rereading the comments I realized that Scott Johnson (who I have gotten to know and appreciate a little better here in #rhizo15 through several enlightening conversations) provided an eloquent rebuttal with his badger myth.  Scott showed the other side of this where nothing really changes because the administration is so steeped in tradition.

What happens when the wild bumps up against the civilized? When the trickster runs through the hallowed halls screaming “Silence!!!” giggling and jumping all the while?

Part 2 – definitions

To be able to do this I feel that I need to set two definitions for myself. 1. what is an invasive species and 2. what is rhizomatic learning?

As far as I can tell there are several factors that are often considered in defining an invasive species:

  1. That it is foreign – though this is up in the air sometimes
  2. That it is harmful to humans
  3. That it grows and grows and grows never ending and taking over

I hedge in defining rhizomatic learning only because I heard the words “rhizomatic learning” for the first time a few months ago. It seems to have a philosophical base with Deleuze and Guattari but I have yet to even get to that (damn you Ernest Becker).

When I first entered #rhizo15 I noted that it reminded me of some nomadic traveling that I did in my youth; moving from town to village not really sure where I was going to next. At the time, I had not read Dave Cormier’s thoughts on rhizomatic learning nor had I heard some of the other voices using this metaphor – it just felt the same, being in the course, as when I was a nomad. It seems like a very natural way of learning – maybe a reflection of how people naturally learn without schools or structure of any kind.

So, at least for the purposes of this post, I will be working with rhizomatic learning as I understand it as:

  1. Learning in the wild
  2. Learning from connections – branching, forking, splitting, hacking and the like
  3. Learning as a natural creative chaotic process

Part 3 – contrast and compare

Okay so now that I have laid some ground work in terms of what each of these two things are lets do some comparisons:

Invasives are foreign 

If rhizomatic learning is a kind of natural learning that is outside of structured learning I suppose it can be perceived as foreign in a structured environment.

Invasives are harmful to humans

Again, outside of it’s natural setting (in the wild) I can see how those that rely on structured learning could see rhizomatic learning as being harmful.

Invasives grow and grow out of control, never ending, and take over

Here is where my limited knowledge really does hold me back. My gut tells me that the rhizome must die – eventually. I suppose I am getting this from my experience as a nomad – the journey is filled with endings – new beginnings yes – but beginnings don’t exist without endings and to focus only on those beginnings just feels hollow to me.  But everyone that has more experience than me with rhizomatic learning (well… those who will even entertain this notion at all) swears that the rhizome does not die… it just goes on and on and on and on…

When trying to discuss this sometimes I feel like this guy

It doesn’t help that my name is Autumm which is very close to Autumn and if thought of metaphorically…

I wonder if the invasive rhizome ever feels this way?

Part 4 – conclusion

So, the thing about invasives that I find interesting is that their identification is so subjective. It has a lot to do with bias and fear. It has a lot to do with what is harmful. But I think it is true that Sometimes Invasive Species are Good.

Is rhizomatic learning invasive? You bet your sweet ass it is. But an invasive is only given that label because someone has deemed it to be foreign, harmful, and immortal. I think that in the larger scheme all of these things are over exaggerations most of the time… however, a warning to any tower creatures that may have stumbled onto this post; invasives can be very dangerous if they find fertile soil outside of their natural environment.  But perhaps we need to check our own biases before we pour the weed killer too liberally.

The Posts that Could Have Been

So, I’m trying to get back on track with #rhizo15. I got thrown off a bit as I am currently in this whirlwind tour – I just got back to Columbus from Detroit via Cleveland today and I leave for Chicago tomorrow. I went to Detroit to visit my Mom for Mother’s Day the day after having this salon at my house and entertaining more people than I have in about a year or so. My thoughts are all tangled and there are too many of them so this is my brain dump at the end of week 4. These are some of the posts that could have been.

The Exquisite Corpse: Connections We Can’t See

I pulled out the old exquisite corpse for the salon. If you don’t know what an exquisite corpse is – it is either drawing or writing (yes we did a writing one too but I don’t want this post to get too long) where participants are asked to complete a portion of a piece without seeing the whole thing. In this case we covered each square when finished drawing in it – leaving a few lines sticking out for the next person to continue.

Notice some of the similarities in these panels.


This made me think of rhizomatic learning in so many ways… the connections branching off of one another, the similarities and synchronicity’s…

I have seen several posts in #rhizo15 that refer to “something that I saw on one of the blogs somewhere” or posts talking about similar themes that are not citing one another in any way. What is going on here?

I’m no better – I know I have done this but I have to wonder: Are some people intentionally snubbing one another? Do they not see the connections? Are people just lazy? What is up with the connections that we can’t see – as consumers and producers of content (people).

This also makes me think of Bonnie Stewart’s research on vulnerability in using social media in the academy. I mean who puts their budding ideas out on the web to be hacked by god knows who in a industry of publish or perish?

At the same time – our ideas grow and expand when others get involved.

But if I take on this experimental mindset what if I make a fool of myself?

Bahhhh. Paradoxes. Making. Brain. Hurt.

Maha’s Challenge to Me on Why the Rhizome Must Die

So, last week Maha Bali challenged me to take my idea that the rhizome must die to the next level. I had started talking about this at the beginning of #rhizo15 in relation to unlearning. I had all intentions of exploring it in week 4 but … yeah.

I have to say that I am especially struggling with this one because it seems to drum up some intense reactions from people. People get really defensive about it. No one wants the rhizome to die. Disclaimer – I don’t want the rhizome to die.

One of the most frequent responses that I get is at the heart of this week’s prompt – pointing out how hard it is to kill a rhizome and how rhizome’s have a tendency to “take over”. I understand this problem but I really do think that it is adjacent to my point. I’m not talking about killing a rhizome – not necessarily… though that could be a part of it.

I suppose, at times, portions of the rhizome needs to die so that it does not strangle out the rest of the garden. Does this take us back to the role of the teacher? Not just pulling that weed but getting out the shovel. 

I kind of overuse disclaimers in my posts (getting back to that vulnerability thing I guess) but this one would have to include one stating that I personally fear death myself and that I don’t want the rhizome to die any more than the next gal… but…

My point is simply that everything that lives – dies. Some things live longer than others and some things are more resilient than others but everything that lives – dies. Some day – some how. And if we are going to use a metaphor of a living organism then we should accept that there will be death in that. This could be as simple as the end of the “course”… It could be related to unlearning (which is too strong of a term for some apparently so who the heck do I think I am by calling it a little death).

My intention was to expand on this whole idea by defining death as an archetype for loss or endings, parse out some differences between Death and death, of course tie in that all death is also a kind of beginning…  But it is all tangled up in knots in my mind right now.  I would like to revisit it soon – if I can sort it all out and connect it somehow.


So, week 4 snuck by me with a lot in my head and not a lot of time to articulate it. I know this post is pretty disjointed and not so poetic. No apologizes – it is what it is.

I’m looking forward to week 5 though I’m not sure where I am going to take it.

Enough About Getting Rid of ‘dave’: Exploring Spontaneity and the Metaphor of the Gardener

I know that it is going to take me a few blog posts to get through week 4 of #rhizo15 – there are a lot of things going on with this prompt that I need to unpack. But I had to put out some initial thoughts.

First off, just like during week 2 when Dave said that learning was a non-counting noun and that we needed to just set that off to the side in thinking about measurement because it is something that we cannot measure…

…I’m going to do the same thing with the question of if we should get rid of dave. I say we need “teachers” and “dave” (simply because learners are teachers) but I am also going to take it one step further and say that #rhizo15 needs Dave Cormier. Let’s just take all of that and set it off to the side for now.

Rather, I would like to focus on the second part of the question; what does it mean to teach rhizomatically? I love this question as I work with faculty in a faculty development center. I think that Dave has done a good job of modeling rhizomatic teaching and I feel that perhaps I have some kind of sense for it because it is resonating with me so much but this is a really new kind of question for me as I don’t have a lot of experience in “rhizomatic teaching”.

For now I just have these two thoughts:

First off, I want to point out that what Dave just did in this prompt is something that I think is fairly rare in institutionally based online learning and while I’m not sure about cMOOCs … I know it happens all the time in face to face learning. This thing seems essential to rhizomatic learning… I’m talking about spontaneity. Allowing the conversation to derail and head in another direction. As a student I love instigating this in a face to face environment (I guess its the trickster in me) as it allows me to connect the conversation to something adjacent and hope to bring it back around… eventually. I find that this increases my learning. But I have never seen it in an institutionally based online course.

I googled “spontaneity in online courses” and I found this blog post entitled “Online Teaching is Inferior to the Classroom Experience” from 2013 on a blog called The Contrary Perspective that articulates this lack of spontaneity very well.  But I think that Dave has just shown us that it is possible in an online environment.

Second I wanted to dive into the metaphor of the rhizome a bit. I haven’t gotten into Deleuze and Guattari at all yet but it seems to me if the rhizome is a metaphor of the community connecting different ideas together perhaps the teacher is the gardener?  You don’t have to have a gardener. As rhizomes run wild all of the time – but when you do you get some pretty beautiful landscapes.

Of course it is the gardener who decides between the “weeds” and “flowers”… sets the parameters of the garden, and ultimately decides who lives and who dies – but that is my next blog post.

A Question Concerning the Interpretation of Content

Before we move to week 4 of #rhizo15 I wanted to post about something that has been coming back around for me in the whole journey of “Content is People.”

What is to be said for the way that content is interpreted? I think that we often don’t take away what the person intended. How does this fit into the idea of content is people and what does it say about the nature of what many call content?

In many ways this is the same as the artist’s dilemma – the one where the artist paints a picture of a rabbit and someone comes along and says oh what a nice picture of a duck.

As teachers and learners how do we deal with the Gestalt of the everyday real world?

Choosing Content: The Use of Imagination in Direct Faculty Instruction

Part 1 – Content is People

What is content?


but People??

I had a hard time with the week 3 prompt for #rhizo15 at first. Content is People.

The first thing I started thinking about was the problems with defining content in this way: corporate personhood came to mind. Problems of plagiarism would continue to be of issue if “Content is People” and how is that addressed in mashing, sharing, retweeting, and the like? But who are these people? Are they okay? Could they be dangerous? How do I go about vetting these people to decide if they are good for my life? My class? My students? My faculty?

A big part of getting my head around this prompt actually came from a good friend’s mom who came to visit me while she was passing through town doing research on genealogy. In our conversation I was relating to her about how I’m always arguing points and ideologies in my head – comparing and contrasting them based on context and position. And then it hit me, while we were standing there at the rooftop waiting lounge trying to get dinner, that all that arguing (many times only in my own head – cameo to the solitary learner), was not with


but People.

People that created


Content is People.

Part 2 – Choosing Content

And then I realized all of those “problems” that I saw with defining content as people they weren’t problems that were in conflict with making that definition but rather real problems that we have to hash out every day when we deal with content.

What does any of this mean in the “real world”?

Which brings us to choosing content… say for a course. This recently came up at work as we were trying to show that online courses meet the federal definition of the credit hour which here in the U.S. relates to a ratio of “direct faculty instruction” and work completed outside of class. And is it direct faculty instruction to expose students to someone else’s content? Well if they were in class and you played a movie that would not be questioned. However, if you have them watch the movie online (potentially a better use of class time I would argue) that seems to be a harder sell as “direct faculty instruction”.

To what end? or What does it mean to choose content?

While it is great to have these arguments in one’s mind – to what end? This week I read a great post by Keith Hamon in regards to imagination in MOOC ethics but I think that his points are easily extrapolated to online, hybrid, and even face to face learning in regards to choosing content. First, if I am reading him correctly – I hear Hamon agreeing that we need other points of view to grow and learn so it seems like bringing in other people is a good idea. Second, I hear a call for tolerance in confronting beliefs and behaviors (that will often come to us in the form of content) so that we might rethink our own beliefs and behaviors. Finally, I think that Hamon is drawing on the theme of imagination to call for teachers and learners to imagine themselves in those differing viewpoints while evaluating them to find harmony among them.

Going all the way back to week 1 of #rhizo15 I am reading Earnest Becker as I grapple with bias as it ultimately ties to fear and then to fear of death. Becker has this harmony and talks about it in the preface of his book The Denial of Death. He uses the word Eros (one of the ancient Greek words for love) to describe a longing to bring truths together rather than keep then in a perpetual state of discord. He says one of the reasons for writing the book is because he has “had more more than my share of problems fitting together valid truths” (xi). He says that the book is “a bid for the peace of my scholarly soul, an offering for intellectual absolution” (xi). He is bringing together different voices and ideas to create a valid truth. He is choosing content to make a point.

Choosing content.

I would like to posit that the more one grapples with the choosing of content – the more one engages in that internal conversation, uses their imagination to understand that point of view from the context of the person that developed it, compares it and contrasts it to other view points (content) with the end in mind of creating harmony among those ideas to create new ideas – the closer that is to “direct faculty instruction”.

I would love to hear more about choosing content while we are still in week 3 of #rhizo15.  From the prompt I got the feeling that Dave Cormier was struggling with the idea of preloading any kind of content into a course whatsoever. So I am curious what everyone thinks. If Content is People how do we relate to them and how do we choose who we are going to bring into our classes? What is that process like?  When is the best time to do this – more often in my own work I need to help faculty do that up front before the course ever runs. Does this kill some kind of spontaneity in the learning process? How does choosing content work for you?

Becker, E. (1973). The denial of death. New York: Free Press.