Wrapping up #Rhizo14


I don’t know where to start this week, so I begin with someone else and then as the King said to the White Rabbit I shall, “go on till [I] come to the end: then stop”. So here’s a point made by Jenny, that got me thinking: “[t]he difficulty is that open spaces attract a diversity of learners. What is a negatively risky space to one will be a positively challenging space to another.  But whichever way you look at it, risk is a factor of open learning spaces.” I’m unsure about what this statement means to me. I have to ask if diversity is really so risky. All of this is depending of course, on what you mean on diversity too, slavery was a diverse space too I would argue the cost is far greater if you lack diversity, but possibly less noticeable if you already have centralized power, such as in a boardroom, or a classroom.

We learn from places that are considered open only if we ignore many privileges. We do deal with risk and vulnerability in these spaces too. Though for me, if you are going to write about vulnerability and expect it to matter, you must show vulnerability. To write risk we must be taking risk. I believe there needs to be a distinction between what is risky, and what is just talking about risk.

As Jesse Stommel says, “[h]igher education pushes out the exact wrong people. Those wrong people are about to rise up. We need more right leaders of wrong”. We have to look for the outsiders, and pull them in for panda bear hugs. We can pull people into our own learning communities or, like we often are in open education, we can all be drawn towards the gravitational pull of our own bright suns.

And speaking of suns, that reminds me of a poem I learned during my Masters residency. It is by William Stafford:

A Ritual To Read To Each Other

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider–
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give–yes or no, or maybe–
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

For me our greatest risk in social learning is that of perpetuating sameness. This is why, as Dave Cormier notes in the week 6 video, we must plan in the obsolescence of ourselves and make sure that, “we don’t become the central point of the conversation”. As we wrap up Rhizo14 we see first hand the importance of enforcing independence, encouraging connections, or privileging community over individualism. If we do not work to form connection we may follow the wrong god home.

If we teach people from the beginning that a network means people who do not look like them, who do not sound like them, is the only community worth having I think we actually help to mitigate risk. With a wider safety net cast we have the ability to fall in more spaces and still land safely.

The risk factor of an open course is not vulnerability, that risk is beginning to be outdated as we have better understandings of privacy and the Internet. Like wondering out too far on thin ice, If you’re only beginning to be concerned about it when you hear the ice crack, it’s much too late.

I have no interest in Coursera—its successes or failures and yet I note that it is not open to students in Cuba, Iran, or Sudan because of the US trade embargoes. Considering the barrier that others face makes me feel quite safe by comparison. It makes me feel that I must take risks in order to matter.

I feel like an outsider a lot, not a marginalized one, but the type that can have trouble making connection with other people. I’m neurotic and nervous. Working on building a community is always going to be a challenge to me. I’ve lived on the sidelines too much to feel comfortable in the spotlight. But discomfort is good. For me, the biggest risk I can take is tied to that feeling of outsider-ness. It helps me in understanding that I am not the center of any topic. It can be hard, especially as a writer, to cultivate a group of readers and yet continue to send them to other spaces and other people, but my ability to do so is what makes me valuable. I think you end things by beginning to end them when you get started.

I leave you with some stormscapes, because they are beautiful and random just like this course. Hope to hear from you again.

Stormscapes from Nicolaus Wegner on Vimeo.


17 thoughts on “Wrapping up #Rhizo14

  1. Sitting in a Thai restaurant in Park City Utah with Christina Hendricks, Pat Lockley, Jim Groom and myself we discussed something very similar to this weeks topic. Projects with the expiry date built right into them. Jim Groom said he feels like they are necessary.

  2. Stormscapes was quite powerful. I used to surf a lot spending a great deal of time under
    water as the waves swept over. Thankfully there was no music.
    How far outside can we be? Enough to be free of petty obligation to small things that others lock onto? But lonely? Unseen?
    Thanks for the posting.

  3. Pingback: The end of the rhizome? | Hit the balloon and comment

  4. Hi Danielle – the idea that diversity could be ‘risky’ is interesting to think about. For me diversity is welcome – and I hadn’t considered that it could of itself be risky.

    The point I tried to make (obviously not very successfully :-)) was that ‘open space’ can be risky for a learner for a whole number of reasons, but it won’t be risky for everyone who enters the space. For some it will be challenging rather than risky. For some it might not be risky or challenging etc. Because opening up the space, for example with a MOOC, means that the diversity of people (and resources) who enter the space is likely to increase, then it will be more difficult for the course designer/teacher/MOOC convenor to judge whether the level of risk is appropriate – that’s assuming that you think that they have this level of responsibility in relation to the open space.

    • Hey Jenny, sorry to use you as the jumping off point for the blog post I’ve also been reading lots about diversity in education as well as open and online spaces so it all combined into a big Rhizomatic swirl! I agree there’s such a wide range of experiences that can happen for people within any learning space. The fact that it exists everywhere and yet also nowhere can actually feel really stressful for me sometimes. Why take a break when you can quickly look something up on your phone? What about that paper you wanted to read? I feel obligated to work more within connectivist learning spaces and so I also struggle with burnout.

  5. These lines really resonated with me:
    “It helps me in understanding that I am not the center of any topic. It can be hard, especially as a writer, to cultivate a group of readers and yet continue to send them to other spaces and other people, but my ability to do so is what makes me valuable. I think you end things by beginning to end them when you get started.”
    It’s the realization of our role in these spaces as writer, connectors, creators … and I think we’re still trying to figure it all out. What it means to be the person you think I am in this space we think we are creating with mostly words and some images/video, and how we can come together for a time and then move on, carrying with us a better sense of understanding in the world.
    Thanks for getting my brain working this morning.

    • Kevin thanks for commenting both here and on Twitter. I agree about the Stafford poem it has been relevant to so many life experiences for me and I bet you will find it popping into your head now too.

  6. I read and enjoyed your post from January but didn’t feel able to comment on it at the time
    I was puzzling over ‘community is the curriculum’ and I am still puzzling so I looked before the emergence of ‘rhizomatic learning’ to see who had been thinking about ‘community is the curriculum’ before 2007.
    This search threw up some links between formal education and communities but one particularly interested me. When the Community is the Curriculum: Teaching Women’s Activisms and Organizations J McDaniel – Feminist Collections, 1999 – PHYLLIS HOLMAN WEISBARD on p35 of http://minds.wisconsin.edu/bitstream/handle/1793/22144/FC_20.3_Spr1999.pdf?sequence=1
    Having read it, I returned to your January post, and though about these two learning experiences in relation to my own experience and reflections on #rhizo14
    “Community organizing is a unique kind of teaching. It isn’t academic but you sometimes use academia. It isn’t self-improvement but you must reflect and work to undue your own prejudices. It isn’t just online or in the classroom it is everywhere, and all the time. I’ve had mentors for this work and so I understand the need to have someone around when things get uncomfortable. ”https://daniparadiseducation.wordpress.com/2014/01/
    I found your description of ‘teaching’ to be very helpful. Your account and Judith Daniel’s portray very different community learning experiences but they have in common that the community members have a pretty clear idea of what they are there for as a community (not to imply sameness of thinking). I don’t have the numbers or spaces for interaction, but I would guess that in both cases the numbers of participants are much smaller than on #rhizo14, and that there is a significant element of face to face interaction. Contrast this with #rhizo14 where there are many spaces for interaction (very few of them face to face). When things get’ uncomfortable’ moderation/ intervention is either bottom up by participants (and that can get messy), or by Dave who has mission impossible if he tries to keep an eye on everything. Another contrast with #rhizo14 that I am not sure that there is the same idea of ‘what we are her for’ as in the other two examples.
    I have found #rhizo14 to be enjoyable but like Jenny, sometimes risky. This may be inevitable and productive but I do wonder if one of the outcomes of the perceived level of risk is that we may shy away from challenging but important topics, and that uncomfortable situations are submerged.

    • Hello Frances, you’ve given me a lot to think through this morning about connections. I’ve seen activism in face to face and online spaces like Twitter or Tumnlr and like Rhizo14 it can be a challenge when things get uncomfortable. And online when things go bad they tend to go very very bad.

      • You have given me a lot to think about too Danielle;) After I saw your response to the word diversity in your post above, I went to read some more of your stuff and had an aaaHH! moment. Diversity can be quite a loaded term, and I have, not surprisingly, had several experiences of a word being interpreted differently from how I meant it on #rhizo14 – some funny some less so. At rhizo14 we simultaneously can appear mono-cultural and multi-cultural but I feel that there is quite a lot of misunderstanding and sometimes at #rhizo14 we don’t seem to be very agile at developing coping strategies.Learning to be kind and tough and admit when you have made a mistake is not easy.

        For many years, I have been interested in how women and other under-represented groups can make a difference in public discourse online. Since I don’t see this as solely a ‘problem belonging to the under-represented’ it can benefit from approaches like fraingers http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=frainger , support groups, quad blogging http://quadblogging.net/2012/11/27/what-is-quadblogging/ and the backchannel that sit behind public discourse but can help participants in various ways. It also requires approaches that activists will know well.

        This popped into my Twitter stream this morning http://www.hei-flyers.org/wordpress/ – also seems interesting. I think I should go and blog this and stop clogging up your comments.

  7. Thanks for your reply Danielle. Sorry, I was thinking more about placing ourselves outside a toxic environment but understand being pushed outside without our permission. Community as Curriculum has me thinking about the price of “belonging” as sometimes being too high. So I’m talking about choice here which we may not have or just won’t / can’t pay in order to stay intact.
    Do you think “belonging” is an inappropriate word to use in a (for lack of a better word) Rhizomatic community? In some groups, no part of me but my surface skills are offered. I’m there but only as a neutral object, not complete. Other times I’m almost completely there as a participant–almost.
    Sorry if I made it sound like being outside was just another lifestyle accessory:-(

    • OH! No need to apologise I was waxing a bit poetic on the whole subject. As far as toxic environments go it is nice not to have to be in the centre of them. Well it is for me, but judging by behaviour I have observed in the workplace it really does seem like some people enjoy them.

  8. Hello, Danielle. Having read your post and this thread of comments (thought-provoking ones), I will say this much: opening up to learning is risky business, always, like living life. It’s messy, and complicated, all the more so within a connectivist approach to learning. So if learning=being alive, then we’d better brace ourselves, take a deep breath, and dive in…
    Thanks for the inspiration and the lovely, lovely imagery with the stormscapes. I read this post very early in the morning today, and, I tell you, it was just what I needed to read and experience, those stormscapes are the reflection of my inner space, on this day, thundering back at me.
    I stand deconstructed.

  9. Having worked in construction most of my life it was a shock for me to move into an organizational setting at a college. The constant change of work sites in construction broke up dysfunctional social structures–no time to really develop clusters of pisseyness. People would try to nurture resentments but they couldn’t grow a history and membership.

    Most organizations to me represent an artificial arrangement where people can pretend to be adults and indulge in pretend relationships. Responsible people don’t fit.
    This is a quote that I like from “Recreating the World” by Michael and Judi Bopp on community development and speaks some of what is missing in casual grouping of people. The mention of spiritual core can apply to any human connection and need not be religious:

    “Most often, when communities become dysfunctional or disintegrated, and fail to provide supportive context for development toward prosperity and well-being, it is (at least in part) because people have somehow become disconnected from the spiritual core. Just as people need to be able to turn to its highest ideals and to experience again the warm embrace of unity within which the soul of the community is nourished.”

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