Friday, 28 February 2014

Farewell to #rhizo14 (– hello #LiveArtHistory – next post)

So it’s a sort of goodbye to the wonder that was #rhizo14 – but not quite and not yet… For one thing we are taking forward the autoethnography project – so if you were part of #rhizo14 for any amount of time – we would love to have your experiences here:

For another – who could let go of a FB Group (Sarah, Simon, Apostolos, Scott, Dave… you know who you are!!) that sprouted wonderful discussions like this:
Heeeeelp! I have to write a piece titled: "What does the metaphor of the rhizome mean for collaborative learning. How would it impact on teaching methods?" and I am stuck. What the heck is this rhizomatic learning anyway? [How can learning] be structured, but still be spontaneous. 
Be still. Let em sing/dance/write/graft/dig and together make a show. This came to mind:
It's all very woolly. My thesis might be about collaborative learning in undergraduates, it's up to me to make up some models. There's this thing called patchwork text that I am quite drawn to, also some comments by John Seely Brown that I have half remembered ... 
I suggest knitting.
I’m always knitting, fecking uni won't accept it as a PhD thesis!
Our Dave: What does the metaphor of the rhizome mean for collaborative learning - the rhizome challenges collaborative learning to allow learners to really be at the centre of the learning. If there is no beginning and end, and all is middle, then we need to allow for student to make their own map of the territory being studied. The facilitator sets the ecology for learning, tends the garden, but allows the rhizomes to spread, be cut off, and re-grow elsewhere. It also challenges the possibilities of outcomes as being seen as objectives. Goals can be shared as a community, in face, they shape the community, but objectives grow as part of the mapping process.
How would it impact on teaching methods - many teaching approaches start from the hoped for outcomes and work their way backwards. The rhizome challenges this as an artifice that is a child of hierarchy. Hierarchies for learning and knowledge that are legacies of a book driven, yes/no, final product history that overlays a deep complex human experience. If the outcomes are actually the coming together of the lines of flight that occur in the middle space, they will shape themselves differently for each learner, and the maps themselves will be unique (or close enough to it). This actually mirrors the 'real life' experience of professionals and more closely emulates our goals in that as educators to prepare students to be creative participants in their field of study: This course hopes to prepare the learner for dealing with uncertain situations with respect to educational technologies. The goal is *not* to teach any specific area of edtech nor to achieve a level of competency with a specific tool but rather to introduce and develop the literacies required for being able to make good decisions with respect to technologies in an educational context.
There are lots of tools out there, and, in some cases, they change all the time. The communication skills involved in being social... those are constant. The process of converting your existing skills in being social, in doing research, in project management, in information literacies - this is the focus of the course. And I expect that to work out differently for each student. We all come to this kind of course with different understandings and a different background and I expect we’ll all come out with different outcomes. That’s good. And expected. If I do my job in this course as an instructor, you’ll be working for yourself... not for me.  
I talk about literacies. uncertainty. decision making. creativity. lots of nice buzz words. This year I'm going to be adding 'abundance' and 'permission'…
People like terminology. From what I was reading recently: Agent-Based Modeling ABM's (fits with shaken not stirred). "Thus relying mainly on experimental and descriptive approaches places limitations on a quest to seek understandings of the possibility space over which an emergent phenomenon may unfold." Dad, you're talking out your ass again. "...can reveal insights that may otherwise remain elusive..." (I love "elusive" much better than "slippery." … I'll keep slippery then. Goes with just having our car fixed. They took 3 days and claim it was because they were "short one seal and had to order another." I can see this as problematic for an active circus but not a car dealership. Having fish left over at the end of the day should have alerted someone? … Don't the slippery town fathers always take the badge away from in-corruptible sheriff in the westerns? Badge-less I stand on the side of honesty and the more elusive, justice.
If that leaves you a bit breathless and hungry – join the #rhizo14 FB Group – you will be welcome. Spread the rhizome. Be the fungus!

Thursday, 20 February 2014

#rhizo14: W5: Community as Curriculum: Poetry as a Mode of Inquiry?

Rarely have I been so time poor – sad that it coincides with my engagement with the brilliant #rhizo14 led by Dave Cormier. This one might be a MOOCers MOOC: there is no set reading – scant introductory remarks – no trail of video tutorials or lectures… just trickster questions designed to get us thinking – posting – commenting – blogging – FBing – Google+ing… and lo – the community IS the curriculum. It is emergent – it emerges – it is what we want it to be! This post is a little reflection - and an invitation - let us write some poetry as a collaborative means of researching #rhizo14?

My project – if you can call it that – for #rhizo14 has been to bring as much of this busy fizzy messy stuff as possible into my first year #becomingeducational module and see what it sparks in first year students who in the end want to become educationalists.
In the process I have shared DogTrax ‘Steal this Poem’ ( and with him used the concept of cheating as a tool to analyse the power structures of education. I have re-blogged several #rhizo14 blogposts directly to the handful of students who actually follow the class blog. I don’t know if the excitement sizzles through – but I hope so!
Research: Collaborative writing as inquiry
Some of us in the rhizome are exploring the idea of collaborative writing as a form of inquiry about #rhizo14. We are thinking about exploring (as radical un-content) the blogs that have emerged – the words that have touched us, weaving a paper in, around and through our own responses to the ones we choose – and our responses to the writing of our fellow flaneurs.
In this, I have been very influenced by Ken Gale – who has himself studied Deleuze through collaborative writing…  (see Ken Gale )
Poetry and Inquiry?
Given the power of the rhizome – and the huge creativity in this ‘wonder’ (my collective term for us all – rejecting community – network – group); do #rhizo14ers want to generate poems (in the broadest and most multimodal sense) of our experiences – either as our own collective mode of inquiry for capturing (dead word!) our collective learning – that could be posted on a #rhizo14 website for just that purpose???
OR - for the LinkedIn Group: Higher Education Teaching and Learning and their Call for poems and creative works. Confession – I haven’t performed a rigorous back check on all this – but it serendipitously appeared in my email in-box from a friend who knows I like this sort of this. I am sharing it with a community that I know also loves this sort of thing…

Anyway – here’s their invitation - Submission Deadline: June 20, 2014:
Teaching as a Human Experience: An Anthology of Contemporary Poems
An edited anthology volume by Dr. Karen Head (Assistant Professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Literature, Media, and Communication), and Patrick Blessinger (Founder and Executive Director, Higher Education Teaching and Learning Association)

Volume one of the anthology series, Contemporary Teaching and Learning Poetry Series, Patrick Blessinger, series editor.

Submissions should be submitted electronically to: 

Volume One Overview

The poems in this collection will deal with the real life-worlds of professors, instructors, and others working in education and it will cover contemporary teaching experiences in education. The poems will be written mainly by college and university professors, instructors, lecturers, and others in the field of education, and will cover the many roles teachers play, including instructing, lecturing, mentoring, facilitating, coaching, guiding, and leading. This volume will cover the manifold life experiences and perspectives of being and working as a teacher in education and the epiphanies (experiences of deep realization) experienced in that role.

This volume seeks to give creative voice to the full range of experiences by teachers, students, and others. It seeks to empower readers with personal agency as they evolve as self-creating, self-determining authors of their own lives, personally and professionally. In short, it seeks to expand our consciousness of what it means to be a teacher in contemporary life and within diverse learning environments and cultures. The poems will be based on teachers’ meaningful experiences in and out of the classroom and will provide artistic inspiration and creative insight to other teachers who work as teachers.

Submission Requirements

You may submit up to two poems or creative works per person. Any poetic form is accepted, but each poem should be limited to 300 words, unless the poem of longer length is exceptional in quality and highly unique in insight or style and appropriate to the poetic form used. Thus, poems and creative works expressed in a pure economy of words and that are able to distill the human experience down to its bare essence are highly valued as are creative use of voice, passion, imagery and the interplay of intellect and emotions.

The poem “Lecture” by Tami Haaland and the poem “Student” by Ted Kooser are a few examples of the type of work this volume seeks.


We invite submissions of high quality poems and creative works for Volume One entitled, Teaching as a Human Experience: An Anthology of Contemporary Poems. We are interested in poems by teachers (e.g., professors, instructors, lecturers, faculty) as well as other practitioners in the field of teaching and learning.

Submission Deadline: June 20, 2014

Submissions should be submitted electronically to: 

Thursday, 13 February 2014

#rhizo14 W4: Is books making us stupid?

What’s taken me so long to post this week? Partly – I came over all pithy and just wrote: The trouble with books in HE could be exactly that weight – that sense of reified knowledge – that implacability – and ... the Reading Lists. I have seen students on just one module (of four) expected to read 8-12 books per week before each new seminar. Of course the lecturer probably means ‘dip into’ rather than read in depth – but the task is impossible and makes the students feel like failures every week. It also leaves them in no doubt as to their role: shut up – read this – you have nothing to say here… So – we have this juxtaposed with the more fluid, potential space of the oral – and of the quasi-oral which is the web. It feels more participative, engaging and engaged. Unique among media it invites transmission rather than just consumption. We evoke the camp fire and the tribal elders telling their tales of a shared collective history. An ever-present. Cool. But who gets to tell the tales – and who gets to hear them? These societies also ‘other’ the inconvenient and rebellious…

Just a small point about the task itself: wasn’t Dave in his paraphrasing of the ‘Is Google making us stupid?’ question, not really posing an either/or question – but challenging the peremptory nature of such questions? And wasn’t he also challenging the arrogance of the book-bound with their dismissiveness of all things web? I cannot imagine how many right-wing politicians must have nodded their heads in self-congratulation when they saw the Google = stupid proposition. Nothing seems to terrify them as much as a free and risky web. No, no they say – we need to make it safe – wrap it all up – tame this thing. The only point of ICT are the skills needed by business. Books embody the safe and controllable for them – whilst we know they also ‘light a fire in the mind’… We aren’t the ones who burnt the books but we might be the ones to sail the web as Digital Vikings as Amy Burvall suggests… 
So Karen sang:
And Jenny Mackness said:

And so many replied… The rest is silence ;-)

Saturday, 1 February 2014

#rhizo14: W3: Embracing Uncertainty

I’m really setting my own curriculum this week - too busy yet to engage with much of the course - except reading a few blogposts - and wrestling with my own version of uncertainty. So we co-developed and hosted ALDinHE’s Look-Make-Learn Visual Transformations in Learning, Teaching and Assessment Conference - and that was us embracing uncertainty. 

I couldn’t quite believe how nervous I was at co-running an event that was supposed to be *fun*… but perhaps that was the point. In these target-driven, league-table-orientated times; the notion of running an event designed to be enjoyable and inspirational – with spaces for participants to set their own goals, define their own learning, take away their own messages…suddenly seemed not only uncertain but quite literally foolhardy. Oh good grief – are we ready for that!!

So on Tuesday 28th January we transformed our teaching room: tables were covered with sugar paper, there was plasticene, fat colourful felt tips, multi-coloured paper, collage materials – and beautiful golden toffees… The space was joyous, the people willing… the activities engaging (and – dare to say it – jolly good fun) … The day was joyful.

Prof Digby Warren opened the event making a pithy case for the value of the creative arts across the disciplines; to encourage deep inquiry and alternative modes of thinking and being. Pauline Ridley had us drawing on the table – and inspired me all over again with her arguments for visual practices. I especially love the account of the Community Arts Project where the overalls were the embodied Learning Logs – instantaneous and alive – and when mounted on mannequins a bizarre but beautiful exhibition of the learning that had taken place.

Debbie Holley and Phillip Howlett from Anglia Ruskin’s Education Dept. demonstrated a project they ran with trainees science teachers – where they made stop-frame animations of scientific topics… and had us making our own stop-frame animations to boot. I have never before seen so many adults having such meaningful fun with plasticene!

Tom Burns and I (Sandra Sinfield, that’s me) celebrated the cool MOOC learning (you know who you are #edcmooc, #artmooc, #artinquiry, #ds106 – and, yes, #rhizo14) that we’ve embedded in the deleuzian module (oh yes!) Becoming an Educationalist. Fun was hopefully had exploring the role of Collage, Cabinets of curiosities, Memory envelopes, Installations and Digital art - for teaching, learning and as creative research methods – especially when everybody got cutting, sticking, making, doing, looking and learning.

Chris O’Reilly introduced some of his reflective animations before prompting everybody to produce their group animation of the day – and Visual Scribe Raquel Duran in a coup de theatre recorded the whole event on the wall!

But as I’ve said before - those are just words! Check out Chris’s website of the day: It’s chock full of the animations, the wall art, the voices, resources, PowerPoints and PDFs… and links to a host of pictures that just burst with the energy that was there – and no – that wasn’t a kids’ party – that was what happens when academics do it with colour!

I started the day literally shaking with uncertainty: would there be confusion – revulsion – revolt – hostility? Worse – would there be laughter – derision – shame? I don’t know – may be somewhere there was – but you know what – it looked like a great day – it sounded like a great day – and I experienced an uncertain joy!