Phipps Files

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Weeds are taking over October 25, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — sjphipps @ 11:01 PM
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Rented rototiller by jpmiller, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  jpmiller 

Tonight, we had the privilege of listening to and discussing with Dave Cormier on Rhizomatic education. He began by asking us why we educate students. My answers were: we educate for the future, for our benefit and the children’s, to develop creative thinking & problem solving, to open new doors and new possibilities. Cormier stated that all these ideas of teaching a prescribed curriculum means that someone needs to decide on the outcomes of learning. So, who gets to decide on the outcomes and how do we decide? Personally, in my teaching the outcomes are decided upon by the Ministry of Education. I work with outcomes every day. In fact, we are so focused on learner outcomes that we are now working with the backwards planning model, which emphasizes picking the outcome first and basing teaching and learning on the outcome.  To me this implies that the outcome is completely out of the learner’s proverbial hands! Therefore, I really don’t think this is what Cormier is encouraging us to do in education. More on this in a moment.

Cormier stated there are 3 types of people or learners: the workers, the soldiers and the nomad. Workers by nature understand and obey the system. Soldiers defend the status quo and try to replicate the system we have while Nomads are the creative thinkers. These are the people able to do the investigating, divergent thinking and hopefully change the world. These are the learners who challenge the answers! These people are purposed and mindful discoverers. Immediately, I knew this wasn’t me! How sad. I am totally a worker. I like to know what to do, how to do it etc etc. Cormier stated that we (society, teachers etc) slowly start to eliminate creativity in our children and in students. Again how sad to think that I am part of the stifling of creative, imaginative young minds. For me, it comes back to creating a safe, respectful environment where the students (and I) are comfortable to explore, create, and make mistakes. This means that as a teacher, it is important for me to be the mentor and not the knowledge keeper. I also try to remember this when working with my intern this year. It is definitely a fine balance giving enough feedback as a mentor and learner myself and pulling away to let the lessons be learned themselves. I caught myself thinking about this today in Social Studies as I tried to explain the role of an Elder in educating the youth. There are lessons and stories shared that have been part of oral tradition and history for hundreds of years, but at times, the young ones must be allowed and encouraged to learn a lesson for themselves.

I do believe in education, at least in my division, we are moving away from the memorization model of school where the “best” or “smartest” students were those who could retain and regurgitate facts. We no longer look for a student able to repeat facts, but rather students who can apply their knowledge in an applicable way to become someone different. When thinking about old vs. new ways that we try to teach, I always think back to my math education. I could subtract multiple digit numbers like nothing. However, I never really understood why I was doing it. The concept of place value when dealing with ones and tens never clicked. It is sad to say that I really didn’t have anyone communicate this concept to me well enough to grasp it until I was in my teens! I would like to believe that had I had the opportunity to explore subtraction, I may have actually understood what I was doing.

A rhizome is a plant that will basically take over the whole garden. He says they are aggressive, chaotic and resilient. They are difficult to contain and they follow their own paths. This is how our learners  should be. They should be allowed and encouraged to make noise, try new things and follow their own learning journeys. I have tried to take on this attitude towards learning, especially in science. I gave the topic of the water cycle and directed the students to start learning. They have found definitions, led discussions on the various states of matter and are building a 3D model of the water cycle. It is most definitely chaotic and loud but there is no doubt that learning- their own learning- is taking place. Now if only I could actually envision how this works in all subject areas.I really appreciated when Cormier stated the community becomes the course. The learning that takes place and how it takes place should be based on the students. At a basic level, I am not going to teach the kids how to add 2 digit numbers if they have mastered this skill. I really want to know what they want/need to learn and teach to them. That being said, I have realized that this (me teaching, them learning) is not very rhizomatic. It should be more so me mentoring and allowing them to find their own path. Hmmm… still thinking on the balance of this one. It does however bring me back to that Canadian Heritage Moment when I was a kid of the medium is the message. See if you see the similarities here.

Ironically enough the first line is talking about technology sucking the brain right out of the skull.

Lastly, it really resonated with me when Cormier stated that moments of knowing- really knowing and having learned something- change the person. Learning should be a process of becoming or of coming to understand. Since we are all different, and to our learning we bring different baggage, our knowledge must not be considered outside of us, but rather must become part of us. In my head, I am anticipating all the resistance. Not because I do not believe in this, but rather I know so many people will be the soldiers discussed earlier. In the end, Cormier says that there will be resistance but that new ways and new responsibilities are not easy. This is learning!

I am going now to rototill everything I know and try to find a nomad roaming some rhizome…

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3 Responses to “Weeds are taking over”

  1. […] November 1, during our live weekly session, Sarah chatted, “How can we convince others to adopt technology”  and motivated me to respond […]

  2. Thanks for this thorough summary – I really do think that you picked up on many of the most important points, and I happy that you gained something from the talk.

    This is a McLuhan clip that is etched in my brain – his work has become a huge part of who I am as an educator and as someone who consumes/creates media.

  3. Racquel Says:

    My favorite quote from the video clip is “the content must be the audience”. I think that you have hit a good point when you comment on the fact that there are so many soldiers in education. My comfort zone is somewhere in the middle I am not sure that being a complete Nomad is the way to go but neither is being a soldier. Being a soldier seems to be easier at first but perhaps that is because as a culture we are used to it. I liked how Cormier did comment that not all learning can be Nomadic. There are some componenets of learning that a person just has to memorize and be able to recite like a doctor knowing the parts of the body. For learning beyond memorization I like knowing what the general outcomes will be but that I can do my own sense making and way finding along the way.


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