Week 1 Challenge – Use cheating as a weapon. How can you use the idea of cheating as a tool to take apart the structures that you work in? What does it say about learning? About power? About how you see teaching? Bonus – Do lots of rhizomatic teaching? Tell us about it
For me the expression “cheating as a weapon” when we discuss teaching and learning suggests there’s some sort of call to arms. Why do we need a weapon? Who are we waging a war against? Are we in combat against our educational institutions? Because of our leaders’ failure to recognize collaborating is not cheating, that learning should be social and networked, that the teacher is no longer the sole expert, and the smartest person in the room is the room because to know in the 21st century means to leverage the power of our networks?
“Cheating as a weapon” and “cheating as learning” are the focus topics for week one of #rhizo14, a six week connectivist
course event taught organized by Dave Cormier through P2PU university titled “Rhizomatic Learning: The Curriculum is the Community.” I discovered this “happening” on Twitter and I’ve been searching for the same organic surge of connectivism I experienced in #edcmooc 1 and 2 as a student and CTA.
I am a former high school teacher with rhizomatic tendencies so I have been at war with public education for the last 20 years, defending my students’ right to think, question, create and express themselves, so hell yeah I’ve cheated! But the type of cheating I’ve done is not the clandestine kind, like writing answers on the bottom of my shoe, or moving my test paper ever so slightly so my best friend sitting behind me could copy. That’s not the kind of cheating Dave wants us to think about, at least, that’s what I’ve gathered.
The kind of cheating I’ve done is the cheating to deconstruct the power structures that oppressed and prevented my students and me from being creative and divergent thinkers. Dave wants to know how those of us who use cheating as a weapon do this?
Well, for one I never taught from a textbook or assigned a workbook. I always got to know my students to discover what they wanted to read and write about. I asked them what they wanted to learn, and I listened. Many times they were shocked and didn’t know how to answer these questions. No one had ever bothered to ask them what they wanted to learn. So I taught them how to ask thought provoking questions, set their own learning goals, and reflect on how they learned and what they learned. I let my students lead their own discussions. I let them ask the questions. I let 15 and 16 year olds teach the class, design their own tests and quizzes. I turned the power over to them because, guess what, they were waaay more interesting than I was. However, this type of learner autonomy and empowerment didn’t happen on day one. Nor is this feasible in every classroom setting. It took months to set up this type of infrastructure and culture in my classroom, and honestly there were always those students and (their parents) who preferred to passively learn, answer questions at the end of the chapter, or complete a worksheet than to rewrite, remix and modernize an act of Romeo and Juliet, podcast it, or perform it live for their classmates.
Some people prefer traditions. It ‘s safe. My students took risks. They weren’t students; they were actors, producers, writers, directors, poets, pod-casters, radio show hosts, bloggers, analysts, reporters, detectives, mentors, lawyers, teachers, game show hosts, artists, mimes…they did it all! They created “stuff” all the time even when the school’s claim to have cutting edge technology was a euphemism for one computer for 35 students. I managed. I cheated. I found ways to flip the classroom before I even knew the strategy existed. I hid the test workbooks. I prevaricated when asked if my students were working out of the test prep books…sure they are, I told them! I submitted hard copies of lesson plans that satisfied the power structures of the test crazed environment but differentiated my lessons in practice, embedding the state standards, but ensuring opportunities to create and think critically. I knew very well how to cheat the system to protect my students from being cheated by an education model that failed to engage, inspire and stimulate their critical thinking. Ever year, when my students had the highest scores on standardized tests, I knew that cheating had become a way of life for me I could never recover from.
So, as a cheater, a rhizome, a learning nomad, I have been searching for a tribe, like minded educators with a hunger to learn and grow…and cheat! I discovered MOOCs over a year ago. I have a small tribe I tend to travel with online. We’re a diverse group who live around the world and have never met in person, so we call ourselves fraingers (friend+strangers)…many of my fraingers, I met in edcmooc, on a FB page just like rhizo14’s. I hope I can cultivate this blog, “my small plot of new land”, engaging with old fraingers, familiar faces and new connections interested in joining me on this amazing journey we call life long learning.