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.

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.