Saturday, 25 January 2014

Rhizomes vs the establishment - #rhizo14

Posted this originally on the Rhizomatic Learning Google+ community but wanted to keep Bonnie Stewart's post here too, so I can refer to it.
She posted this two years ago during the #change11 MOOC and I wondered what has changed since then - the idea of independent, open, self directed learning in schools seems to be much more viable today than it did then. What has changed?
Others are also tackling this issue, be it from the technology side (allowing students to bring in mobiles to school) say, or opening up education from the pedagogy side as in this TED talk from Jerry Michalski on "What if we trusted you?" (Scarcity, abundance, trust - a little political but with some sound points).
So, what has changed?
The Rhizomatic Learning Google+ Community Post:
Thanks to Steve Wheeler ( for reminding me of Bonnie's #change11 post on rhizomatic learning.
This connected with me since the elements of our schools environment  clash with the broader INDEPENDENT learning concepts.
In her words:
"We conflate learning and schooling. We are subjects of the idea of education as a system, an institution, and so we rely on and replicate this idea in our conceptions of learning: we assume factors like goals and grading and – increasingly – market viability as real parts of what learning involves. They can be, of course. But they do not need to be unless that learning is taking place within the contingencies of mass-delivery and crowd control and normativizing of classed behaviours and literacies that we absorbed with our school milk programs. These practical components of systemic schooling processes are the base map or lens on learning which we, culturally, have inherited."

Friday, 24 January 2014

Enforcing independence at a country level - #rhizo14

Have just heard Miguel Brechner talk on Uruguay's Ceibal project, at one of the Leadership seminars at the BETT (technology) show in London.
Uruguay introduced the one laptop per child project for a specific purpose - equity. They saw the huge gap in access to technology between the wealthy and the rest, and decided that every school child should have a laptop. How they introduced it, the distribution problems, the costs, their perceived benefits, etc, are very interesting topics, but I want to concentrate on the unintended leap forward that occurred.
In one sweep they provided all students with the power to access their own learning. They didn't quite force or enforce independence, but, Miguel judges that around 80% of students use the laptop directly for learning, often learning independently. Despite the best efforts of training teachers in the laptop and the apps involved (including teaching English using tutors in the Philippines and many other countries), most students got to be much more knowledgeable and skilled than the teachers.
There is a huge lag in pedagogy, and this is admitted. But a country has put the possibility of learning in all their children's hands. Uruguay has around 3 million inhabitants, but it has managed to provide this throughout the state school system, often to small schools in rural areas. Think of the connectivity problems that they had to solve.
This may not sound like enforcing independence when viewed from the perspective of the developed world, where most (all?) children have access to this type of connectivity. But in a country where this was not happening, an unintended HUGE leap forward in independence has occurred.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Forcing and enforcing independence - #rhizo14

Sounds oxymoronic but it isn't. Forcing independence is what parents do when they get a child to dress themselves. It would be quicker to do it for them, but the patience pays off later.
Dave Cormier's week 2 topic for #rhizo14 is an important one for those who teach (okay, cause learning to occur). How do we marry the institution's need for direction and measures of success with those of achieving rhizomatism (sorry if this word does not exist)?
In the "open" approaches that we have taken in my school (6th to 8th grade) we had a storyline provide the context and wanted individual and small group independence in how it was tackled. This was not easy to generate. Students are strongly institutionalised and want to know what they are learning and how it will be tested.
However, with very much younger children who have not been institutionalised in this way it has not been difficult. The structured play approach, using also Reggio Emilia ideas, in the Early Years (age 3 to 5), has been extraordinarily successful. It has been the parents that we have had to work with and convince. Here there is real learning taking place, under the control of the learner with the teacher looking for opportunities to enrich this.
What about teachers? Reading George Couros' article about professional development (PD) - thanks Jennifer for sharing - brought it home to me. Surely, real Life Long Learners (LLL) work rhizomatically?
Shouldn't they? Isn't there a difference between Life Long Pupils (receive only) and LLLs who are in charge of what they want to do, are independent?
How ready are our teachers to really take on this responsibility?
Dave Cormier spoke about his 40 year olds doing his course. How do they react to the forced independence? Would really like to know.