Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Metaphors that don't work for me - Social Artists, Rhizomes, Nomads

We are categorisers. It is how our brains work. We can't help placing labels on concepts and this helps us refer to huge ideas in a simple way.
We use metaphors as particularly apt labels. The mind-ideas generated by the metaphor helps us remember and work with the concepts.
I have found both the Social Artist metaphor and now the Rhizomatic Learning (including Workers, Soldiers and Nomads) particularly difficult to work with.
Dave Cormier's facilitation on #change11 MOOC's session yesterday was excellent. A fairly large number of participants interacted on chat and on the screen. But it took me the session to understand each of the metaphors for Rhizomatic Learning and none of them, for me at least, "clicked". In fact, they seemed distracting. The "Workers", "Soldiers" and "Nomads" metaphors brought many other not entirely relevant ideas to mind. They simply did not work for me. As for Rhizomatic Learning, I was left with the feeling of "so what?".
Clearly the work on the Rhizomatic Learning concept has gone a long way. Have I been left behind in a developing thought process where the original labels worked but the ideas have matured?
The only benefit of such a loose or inappropriate coupling of metaphor to concept is that it needs such deep explanation and understanding - perhaps that is a good thing.
Oh, it did seem to me that there were too many flippant comments in the interactive session. You come to expect it on chat but I was disapointed with the negative and lightweight responses on the interactive board. Purpose of education? Why did my fellow participants have such limited and cynical views?


dave cormier said...

Hi George,

Your comment echoes similar sentiments from terry anderson last night re: cynicism.

Do you see the cynicism as unwarranted or unhelpful?

I think that an education system that is increasingly designed to reward compliance is problematic, but that doesn't mean i think we should throw it away. I need to be able to talk about the challenges if I'm going to look for solutions. What say you?

Nancy White said...

You hit the nail on the head for me... and I just had a short Skype chat w/ Dave about the hazards of a) metaphors and b) our glib talk.

Now, still thinking about how to practically wrestle with the pros and cons of metaphors without losing the value of the ideas beneath them.

Nancy White said...

Is it cynicism, or cynicism without consideration to the bigger picture and unpacking the cynicism. If cynicism is just a short hand for a group of people who think the same way, we have a problem. If it is an indicator of something we need to explore, we can use it productively, no?

George said...

Dave - cynicism can be helpful at times - it does not help when trying to work with such a big concept. I just thought that the discussion of the participants (including me) was not at all deep or meaningful at that moment.
Now, on reflection (and it would not have occured to me beforehand), such a deep question might have been a "bring along to the session your definition of ...." so that some thought went in to it.
On Doug Belshaw's #purposed exercise a couple of months ago, the purpose of education was discussed, and it was a really difficult answer to develop.
I worry about rewarding compliance and it is a problem when you are trying to allow creative and problem solving individuals to develop. Will think about this since even the somewhat traditional and staid International Baccalaureate Diploma is being discussed by the IBO and practitioners as needing to move from traditional knowledge approaches to more conceptual ones. The tide may be right for halting the reward of compliance at the expense of learning.

Tony Searl said...

Thanks George

Wow what a different perspective of the same chat.

To me the inclusive 'room' (elsewhere flippant, shallow, too busy) that Dave's facilitation, live slides and chat created has now piqued a number of thoughtful reflections on participatory styles and values evident in MOOC learning. That to me is far more significant than the weekly content.

Participant's reflections on and engagement with the established conditions of each week's mooc learning is what interests me most. It seems to me that the creation of this week's 'loose'syncronous session has allowed more participnts to find a comfortable voice. Positive conditions of learning (inclusivity, fun, play, active hands on, brainstorm) were initially modelled in the live session and our reflective selves can now tease out subsequent deeper meanings. If in that one hour I was hit with a sledgehammer of knowing, I wouldn't be writing this now. I still don't get much at all about nomadic roots, but I'm more willing to engage to find out.

Many other factors obviously affect that resonance (place on course timeline, participant time & goals, previous connections) but recent efforts by facilitators to aggregate and respond to inputs in some sort of timely central location, with links to salient points, has then stimulated further reflecion.

A mooc fire has to be fed to some degree. The size, number and location of the bellows has more impact on the spread than the wood used. If we still have embers weeks later, and memories forever, we know the planning, bellows and wood selected were likely most appropriate. If too much of any condition, or dampeners dominate, we just have wildfire #fail or squibs that resist detonation. I suspect if we can deconstruct what each week's mooc fire tending results in, we may have more replicative insight.

Thanks for provoking and allowing.

George said...

Tony - great metaphors about the MOOC fire - wonderfully vivid! But also apt and followable...
The medium (live sessions) is fairly closed in terms of inputs (facial expressions, body language, etc) just as in much online learning, and so we build a mind picture which may well be different from that intended or pictured by others. So it can easily be misread.....