Week 2- Enforcing Independence–Explore a model of enforced independence. How do we create a learning environment where people must be responsible? How do we assure ourselves that learners will self-assess and self-remediate?
A revolution dawned this week on #rhizo14’s FB page, perhaps as a result of the age of connectivism! Academics vs. Non Academics. Yikes! Or perhaps, we should call it a conversation between pragmatists and theorists. There was no bloodshed, or flames thank God, but lots of learning. The rhizomes sprouted aggressively like they had been overfed with alien Miracle Grow! The uprising was bound to happen because of this community’s diversity, and its “openness” with so many different folks rubbing elbows from K-12 to HE and everything in between. But, as Dave asked in Week 2’s hangout, does everyone have the literacies to handle these conversations?
Cath Ellis shared a brilliant post, the catalyst, which sparked a revolution in Maha and Maddie to assert their independence. Upon reading ensuing posts across several platforms, I also feel compelled as a (pragmatist) to voice my opinions and experiences. Notice I say these are my opinions and my experiences because I think the most important skill we need for true community building, if we genuinely believe in creating thriving networks, is to not minimize, or dismiss what someone has to say. We don’t all have to agree and how boring would it be if we did, but as Dave said, we need to “find space for each other”.
The irony of this week’s conversations is that the teacher’s role was the week’s focus. How do we as teachers create a learning environment where students must be responsible for their own learning? How do we assure ourselves as teachers that learners self-assess and self-remediate? Dave told us in the week 2 hangout that “for rhizomatic learning to work, people need to feel like they are empowered and in control of their objectives. It’s not possible to tell someone to be independent.”
Maureen, another frainger, shared an interesting Zen Koan on her blog. Koans are open to interpretation, and for me it was about two students, one whose teacher conditioned him to rely on her for the questions and answers, and the other who demonstrates the literacy to independently untangle and confront whatever problems and questions are thrown his way. In my two decades as a high school teacher, I did not fall back on the influence of Deleuze & Guattari to create a positive culture of life long learning in my classroom. Did pedagogical theory inform my practice; of course, but I also used my instincts, intuition, and developed my own methodologies that met the needs of individual students. I can also assert that my years of practice can disprove several theories, whole language for one, multiple intelligences another.
These experiences are posts for another day. For this week, I have come to the conclusion we can’t avoid dealing with hierarchies in the field of education. We can’t force people to want to learn. People know what their individual strengths and weaknesses may be, although they may have difficulty admitting what those are, or finding ways to self-remediate. Students often go kicking and screaming toward goals teachers know they can and should reach. But, can the teacher force students to behave or learn something just because he/she thinks it’s good for them? Perhaps, if we truly redefineschools.com and create “spaces of permission”, K-12 and HE can have conversations about the power struggles we face in education which so often prevent us from reaching solutions that will ultimately benefit all students. But, we’re human, and it’s difficult to create a space where “all people feel free within”. We can only set expectations for ourselves and enter these spaces with no expectations about how others should or should not learn and behave. We are each paving our own learning path. No one can make anyone feel inferior without their consent. And, while we may not be able to validate everyone’s feelings, simply listening sometimes is enough, which I think the FB community did as best they could given the limitations of the medium.
We also don’t have to walk on egg shells to avoid offending anyone because someone somewhere will always find a way to take offense. What we can do is what Dave said during the week 2 hangout: enter these spaces with a feeling of good faith knowing that people are here to learn, together. Dave also quoted Bertrand Russell, about the importance of allowing ideas to live before one tears them down. I found this quote by Bertrand Russell also gave me food for thought: “I think we ought always to entertain our opinions with some measure of doubt. I shouldn’t wish people dogmatically to believe any philosophy, not even mine.”
When I enter these spaces, I enter being responsible for my own learning, and offer support for others whenever I feel I may have the capacity to do so. We have been talking about scaffolding, I always think about building people up. Regardless of where one is on the journey of life long learning, everyone may have something valuable to contribute, there should be no “ahead” or “behind”, “academic” or “non academic”; we are in competition with ourselves.
In the spirit of connectivism, and promoting good faith Cath Ellis’s encouragement to read
Dolce and Gabbana, Deleuze and Guattari, is a good thing. A very good thing. Her post serves as a model of enforced independence. It definitely sparked conversations which need to be had, and we’re sometimes too uncomfortable to touch…hierarchies in our educational institutions, cultural sensitivities, labels such as academics vs. non academics, academese, even feminism…the rhizomes sprouted wildly and naturally, as rhizomatic learning should! The dialogue between the pragmatists and the theorists this week forced me to assert my independence. To self-assess and declare I may not be familiar with D&G, but I feel confident that I “did the work”. And, boy did I do the work! That has to count for something. Redefineschools.com encourages us to ask, do we have anything to prove when interacting in any of these shared spaces? The answer should be “No” if we genuinely want to make a difference in the lives of our students. Is it dangerous that I haven’t read D & G, that I may have skimmed it, or have a vague understanding of it, I run the risk of making things up, or not being able to engage in discussions? These are theories, and in education or other aspects of life, old theories are replaced by new ones, which are a better fit for the needs of the times. Some are disproven; others reworked. D&G is fitting for learning in the age of abundance. The real danger, in my opinion, is not understanding or determining if theory works in practice.
Do I need to heed Cath’s advice and read critical theory? Yes, because anything that makes me a more informed individual, a better teacher, is good for my mind and my soul, and obviously, my students. However, I won’t tell you if you should read it too. I’ll let you self assess, self remediate and decide whether or not to assert your independence.