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.
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…