etmooc: Rhizomatic learning in philosophy courses

I recently watched Dave CormiersIntro to rhizomatic learning” presentation as part of my participation in etmooc. Here, I’ll explain what rhizomatic learning is as briefly as I can, discuss what it might look like in a university level philosophy course, and ask a few questions.

In the next post I explore a possible critique that I’ve been mulling over. I’m not just assuming here that rhizomatic learning is a good thing (though obviously I find it interesting enough to write about), but rather just at this point examining the idea to help me better work to evaluate it.

What is “rhizomatic learning”? (according to Cormier)

I expect there are numerous views on what rhizomatic learning (or rhizomatic education) are, so I’ll just stick to Cormier’s view here for the sake of clarity. The following is just a brief summary of some parts of his view. If you would like more details, you can watch Cormier’s presentation for etmooc on YouTube, or read his paper on the topic, published in 2008 and posted on his blog, called “Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum.”

In his etmooc presentation, Cormier started off by suggesting that the “best learning” has to do with helping people deal with uncertainty, to figure out how to make decisions and choose the paths they should take when faced with situations in which the outcomes are uncertain. Education is tricky because we don’t know exactly what sorts of knowledge will be needed in the future, the changes different fields will undergo, the changes new technologies will bring, etc. So encouraging good decision-making and creative problem-solving skills, as well as the ability to continually guide one’s own learning to gain new knowledge as needed, are critical.

Cormier then introduced the idea of the rhizome, and rhizomatic learning, as “a model for learning for uncertainty.” I didn’t remember what “rhizomes” were, as it’s been quite some time since I took a botany course, and I’m not much of a gardener. Here’s what I found: some plants (such as ginger, hops, asparagus, and bamboo) have rhizomes, which are stems that are usually underground, and that have nodes from which the plant can move upwards to create above-ground stems, leaves, etc. So, if you have some asparagus in your garden, for example, you won’t just get one clump of it; the rhizomes underground will move horizontally and you will get above-ground asparagus stems popping up in numerous places.

by Rhian vK

“Iris Rhizomes,” by Rhian vK, from Flickr (links below)


A rhizomatic plant has no center and no defined boundary; rather, it is made up of a number of semi-independent nodes, each of which is capable of growing and spreading on its own, bounded only by the limits of its habitat. (Cormier (2008), “Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum”)

Rhizomes are very resilient as well; such plants are very difficult to get rid of, in part because new shoots can arise even if you break up the rhizome. As Cormier put it in his etmooc presentation: you can take any part of a rhizome and drop it somewhere else, and the plant will start to grow again. This idea of propagating laterally, rather than horizontally, is important in Cormier’s view of rhizomatic learning–this sort of learning takes place through connections made amongst groups of people, forming a network, rather than through knowledge or information-transmittal through experts (top-down) such as instructors or researchers publishing in peer-reviewed journals. Since in many fields “[i]nformation is coming too fast for our traditional methods of expert verification to adapt,” it makes sense to develop environments where “collaborative learning construction” can take place (Cormier (2008), “Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum”). Such environments include wikis, collaborative documents, as well as environments such as the “personal learning networks” made possible by sharing tools such as Twitter, blogs, social bookmarking and social curation sites, and more. In these collaborative spaces individuals come together in various groups to learn and to create knowledge. Each individual may be a member of multiple groups, and these groups form, change, disband, reform continually.

Cormier also gets some of his ideas for rhizomatic learning from Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. I haven’t read the book, but found these brief notes on Deleuze & Guattari’s notion of rhizomes useful (I got think link from a google doc linked to a post on Dave Cormier’s blog).

My sense of rhizomatic learning at this point, then, is that it is the sort of thing that is happening in etmooc, as well as informally by many, many people around the globe working with the kinds of social tools noted above, but also working in face to face situations with others. It’s probably the kind of learning most of us do in lives outside of educational institutions.

But Cormier seems to be arguing for it also to be part of more “formal” education. Instead of instructors creating a curriculum in advance that is the same for every student in the course, the community of learners constructs the curriculum.

In the rhizomatic model of learning, curriculum is not driven by predefined inputs from experts; it is constructed and negotiated in real time by the contributions of those engaged in the learning process. This community acts as the curriculum, spontaneously shaping, constructing, and reconstructing itself and the subject of its learning in the same way that the rhizome responds to changing environmental conditions. (Cormier (2008), “Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum”)

Note that in this quote Cormier says the community not only creates the curriculum, it is the curriculum, an idea he reiterated in his etmooc presentation. I am not entirely sure what he means by this, but perhaps the thought here is that as the community changes (and it is always changing–if not in terms of people coming and going, then in terms of what people say and do in it, what they share and discuss, never remaining static), so does the curriculum. “A curriculum for a course is something that can be created in time, while a course is happening,” Cormier says in a blog post called Rhizomatic Learning: Why we Teach”.

What is the role of the instructor in rhizomatic learning environments? Here’s what Cormier says:

The role of the instructor in all of this is to provide an introduction to an existing professional community in which students may participate—to offer not just a window, but an entry point into an existing learning community. (Cormier (2008), “Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum”)

In rhizomatic learning environments, then, what is learned and how is shaped by a community of learners, and this changes constantly. I imagine that for a formal educational environment, one could have students set out what they’d like to investigate, help them with the tools they can use to investigate it and to form a community of people to help (a “personal learning network,” e.g.). I also imagine using a grading contract; that’s exactly what Cormier did with one of his courses last year.

When is rhizomatic learning appropriate?

Is Cormier suggesting that all learning should take place through the rhizomatic model? Definitely not. He said in his etmooc presentation that for learning situations in which specific kinds of knowledge must be gained, rhizomatic learning is the wrong way to go. In addition, if a body of knowledge that needs to be learned is stable, then rhizomatic learning may not be appropriate and information transfer more so. Also, as Phil Macoun noted in a blog post, if there are certain basic principles and foundational information needed in a field before learners can really benefit from discussions within a wider network of other learners, researchers and practitioners, then more “traditional” learning approaches would seem to be best for those earlier steps.


 Cormier explained this point in his etmooc presentation by using the Cynefin decision-making framework from Dave Snowden. Explaining this framework would take an entire blog post in itself, but thankfully Cormier has a post that does so. Rhizomatic learning is appropriate for situations that fall into the “complex” part of the framework, where, as Cormier puts it, there are no clear “right answers.” There is no obvious “best practice,” and we can’t just turn to experts to find out what to think, what is right to do, or what counts as true knowledge. Snowden says in the video linked above that in the complex domain, outcomes are uncertain and unpredictable; cause and effect relationships can’t be known in advance, only in hindsight. One can only engage in experiments and see what happens to determine the best course. This is the domain where novel practices and knowledges are tested and may be adopted, instead of seeking to find already-established solutions from experts. The Cynefin framework is much more complicated than this, but I won’t go into its other parts here.

This is enough to suggest that rhizomatic learning is not so great, perhaps, for basic mathematical skills or some aspects of science education, but it might, on the other hand, be useful for philosophy. We deal in questions that are still open in many ways (though there are some recognized procedures and accepted truths, there is much that is still negotiated and a good deal of room for novel approaches and arguments).

Rhizomatic learning in philosophy

What would rhizomatic learning look like in a postsecondary philosophy course?

For an introduction to philosophy course, e.g., one might allow students to identify what philosophical questions they are interested in, and then provide them with the tools to find out what others have said about those questions and to formulate their own response. The common instruction in the class could be on things like: what common philosophical questions are and a chance to develop your own if you don’t want to pursue one of those; what arguments are, how to evaluate them, and how to construct your own; how to write philosophy essays, etc. Then students could spend part of the class time and part of their own time doing research to work on their questions.

I can imagine this happening in groups within the class, so students interested in the same areas could work together, and thereby build a small network. Then the groups could create wikis, videos, slideshows, or use other means to share what they have found with the rest of the class; individuals could share what they have developed as their own views on the questions separately, perhaps.

The professor could also suggest web resources for certain kinds of questions, and any social networks related to people interested in philosophical issues, as well as social bookmarking sites that might have good links.

This could work for an intro to philosophy course in which the students involved don’t need to gain knowledge of the history of philosophy so much as get a taste of what philosophers do. For courses that are required for majors, and in order for students to take more upper-level courses that rely in part on knowledge of certain aspects of the history of philosophy, then a more focused approach is required to ensure that students are exposed to the necessary authors and texts.

Questions and concerns:

— I can think of a few websites with philosophy information that would be good for introductory-level students, but not many. Of course, they could work to find others that I don’t know about. It would help if there were more open educational resources available in philosophy.

— I’m not sure how I would introduce students into a wider social network of people that could help them with their questions. I guess I could try to include more philosophy teachers in my own PLN (so far it’s mostly people talking about education generally), and connect students that way. Ideally, I would help them connect with other students investigating similar issues (outside the course), so they could learn and generate knowledge together…but I honestly don’t have a clue how I might go about doing that.

— Why only point them to other websites and other people to connect with? Am I not a good connection to have, and shouldn’t I share my own knowledge as part of this community creation of knowledge? Perhaps the idea is to work more one-on-one with individuals or groups on their own projects, and be part of their network that way? That would be fantastic, if only it were possible in intro-level philosophy courses in a large university (ours are about 150 students or so). They can work together as teams on specific questions, but I don’t have time to offer directed help to each team.

— How is this different from students getting together in groups to do research projects and then presenting them to the rest of the class? Is it that one should be helping them develop a larger network to discuss their projects in, rather than just doing research and discussing within the small group?

— If the previous point is the case, then I see this being difficult to do in a short (13-15 week) course. Building that kind of network takes a long time, and then discussing things within it takes awhile too…I doubt there would be time to do it in a single semester/term.

Your comments

 I’m wondering if I’ve misconstrued anything about rhizomatic learning here, or if there are other ways it might be used in a course like philosophy. Or any thoughts about my questions, above?


“Iris Rhizomes,” by Rhian vK, CC-BY 2.0, via Flickr

Cynefin Framework, CC-BY-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


  1. I’m not sure if this went through the first time. Sorry if this is a duplicate.

    I want to commend you, Christina, for your exploration and for sharing your thinking process with us. I’m impressed with your desire to bring rhizomatic learning into your classrooms, and I support your efforts wholeheartedly. Keep pushing forward, keep thinking, keep reflecting. As someone who has lived in the messiness of the open classroom for nearly two decades, I want to offer a few quick cautionary comments. 

    First, remember that your enthusiasm may not be their enthusiasm. If you want students to be in control of their learning, then you have to allow them that control. In other words, if you provide links and force them out into the internet, then be ready for all possible outcomes. Because where they start is often not where they will end up, and some of these places may not be conducive to what you are trying to accomplish in your specific course. More importantly, if you force them out, then they may see this as an assignment, and only do what is necessary to complete the assignment: “Will this be on the test?” “Tell me what I need to do to get an A!” This, as you know, is not rhizomatic learning.

    Second, rhizomatic learning does not have to be HUGE. It can be as small as your class. This means that you create a safe space where students can explore their ideas and share with the whole class: a transparent classroom that rewards the messiness of good thinking, even if it may not be the “correct” answer. Students have to be willing to join the conversation and pose those questions, even if they think that they’re “stupid” questions. And other students in the classroom need to be willing to engage all of those questions and give them due consideration, as much as they give the “posers.” Good, even great, rhizomatic learning does not have to be external to begin with.

    Finally, I’ll end with a bit of an image. You want to think long and hard about how you send them out to explore. Forcing immersion (or what we might call rhizomatic thinking) is like throwing the class in the deep end of the pool. A few will start swimming and love it. Those are the ones who probably would have come to the rhizome naturally. Some will flounder around, figure a few things out, and get out of the pool. Many will figure out how to get out of the pool, but they’ll be so traumatized that they’ll never get back in the pool again. And the rest will drown, slowly thinking to the bottom, never really engaging with the water.

    I hope I’ve given you a few more things to consider. If you want to talk more, I’d be happy to continue this conversation.

    1. Hi Ed: Great suggestions–very helpful! I’m still not sure, actually, what I think of rhizomatic learning–I was just exploring what it might look like in a philosophy class to help me decide what I think. But having experienced this sort of model in etmooc, I certainly see the value!

      I especially appreciate your point that the network in which one learns need not be large, but could be as small as the community within one’s classroom. Then I suppose it would mean having a place where students could share easily, discuss easily, work together easily. For students who don’t want to share more broadly, this could be done within a closed system of some kind, that only the class can access. Most course Learning Management Systems I’ve experienced so far are not good for this sort of communication, but I think they’re getting better. It’s just that the course discussion board is clunky, and not the best way to communicate. Wikis can be useful for presenting what one has learned, but often they’re public. I have gotten a LOT out of Twitter, but maybe not if it were limited to just a small group, so perhaps something like Twitter (if it could be “locked”) is not so necessary for a class of students to try to use. There are options for synchronous chats that can be within the one course alone. I guess one could set up a Google+ group, but the privacy laws in BC, Canada are such that, I believe, we can’t require students to post personal information that is public, or stored outside Canada. Perhaps they could use pseudonyms, but then it’s hard for everyone to know who is saying what! I’m just thinking out loud here for how to increase the “networking” aspect of a regular course so that students learn more from each other than from me. And maybe it’s more about what you do in class time than what sort of tools you’re using outside of class. What sort of things are useful for getting students to help their learning along through connections with each other, in your experience? That is, beyond the usual class discussions, group work, etc.

      Good points about this sort of learning being difficult, and some students potentially struggling or drowning. We can certainly see that with our own experience in etmooc, as some of us flounder for awhile, then support each other and get back in. Hopefully not too many have drowned and dropped out! But I can certainly empathize with the feeling of struggling with this sort of scattered, seemingly chaotic learning. Still, if one can make it past that, I’m learning how very much I can learn just from conversations with others around the world. Like with you–thanks so much for your thoughts here!

  2. The internet ate my post, so here’s a badly remembered version…
    Thanks for the thoughtful post.

    Philosophy of science lecturers in Phil depts are often resource poor for actual science support in liberal arts faculkties. Connecting up with them, and their students (skypeing into class, tweetchats, hangouts on Google…) offer good starting points – though lots of setup work at the instructor end.

    Invite a phil grad/lecturer with an interest in online communiies to do a collab seminar, host a tweetchat based on phil, and networking.

    Set project work with explicit networking goals and a phil project as part of it. Mandate that students find off campus resources which they curate and present to class (either online, on a collab blog, or in class), reward students with facetime on their blog – good posts and comments get lecturer feedback,.

    Ideally they will harvest your PLN, but also, if it goes right, you will happily plunder theirs.30 newbies combing twitter for resources will find things one expert will miss. Your PLN can be the base, but if they are confined to that, or not finding mateiral you want to plunder, it’s probably going badly for them.

    Rhizomatic learfning seems a lot like Wenger’s community of practice, but minus the experts, the MKO’s you find in Vygotsky, metacognition, validation (and here I mean both grading/assessment and formative assessment), and the relative efficiencies you reap from access to sensitvely deployed expertise, all of which is a huge minus.

    And communtiies of practice are, in part, based on the ideas of apprenticeship, and well established practices of communities of colleagues. Rhizomatic learning It doesn’t seem particularly new as a phenomenon – in part it looks like unguided Social Constructivism.

    Then again, I could be completely wrong.

    I’m not a huge fan of it. Strikes me as inefficient, not data or evidence driven, going to run into problems with validation (and here I mean learners being able to trust aspects of the network. Are assertions evidence driven. Is data reliable, collated and assessed according to good methodology) and it’s scope seems very limited. I can’t think of many areas where there isn’t an idea of best practice, or a canon of knowledge, or procedures and ideas that have to be learnt, or a clear idea of truth, or at least validity, or probable truth. From history to physics, sociology to chemistry, maths to medicine and psychology and pedagogy…there’s not too many disciplines that don’t have identifiable expertise and procedures…

    1. Sorry you lost your first version of the comment–hope my site isn’t doing something weird!

      I like your suggestion, Keith, about having a kind of collaboration with another lecturer/instructor, setting up tweetchats, hangouts, etc. Of course, as I responded to Ed, the privacy laws in BC make some of those things difficult or impossible to require of students (though I haven’t looked into this with 100% certainty…I have a meeting next week (through Skype) with some people from my university who should know the answer, and I’ll take that opportunity to ask about the privacy laws. Opening up the class conversations to another set of students would help expand the network, while still being sure to find other people who are talking about similar things.

      See, the problem is–it’s fairly easy to find people on twitter, Google+, etc., talking about educational technology, or moocs, or open access (just some of the things I’m interested in, that I’ve found lots of others interested in too), but finding people talking about what philosophers have said about the best roads to happiness (e.g.), or the varieties and benefits/drawbacks of different sorts of consequentialism as a moral theory, well, I think that’s harder. At least harder to find people talking about it at a level for novices to philosophy. But other philosophy students is a perfect community, so your suggestion seems right on.

      I’m still undecided about rhizomatic learning as part of formal courses. And I appreciate your point about rhizomatic learning seeming to be like communities of practice minus the experts (haven’t read Wenger in awhile…should go back and do so!). Still, couldn’t experts be part of the community in a rhizomatic model? It’s just that one would learn from one’s connections and discussions with them, rather than *only* from a few experts. But I think experts could be in the community.

      I thought for awhile about your point about validation–initially, I completely see what you mean, that when you’re learning from a network of connections, you’re going to get all kinds of information and views, and how can you decide what’s most valid? But if the idea is to use this only for situations that are complex, where you *can’t* rely on experts because outcomes are uncertain and it’s not clear what would count as the best information, then I suppose this issue wouldn’t be as problematic.

      It’s a good question, whether or not there are many situations in which rhizomatic learning is appropriate, because they are “complex.” Cormier’s paper focuses on areas where information and knowledge are changing too quickly for the usual expert validation systems to work (by the time experiments are done, data is analyzed, papers are peer reviewed and published, what was studied may be becoming irrelevant to the current situation. I think of things like educational technology, for instance, which changes year by year.

      You’re right, though, that most disciplines have a canon of knowledge, basic principles to be learned, etc.; this is also true of philosophy. Those who are going to publish in philosophy, or engage in discussions with professional philosophers, have a canon of texts and authors they should be exposed to (and this canon is going to differ depending on geography and culture), a vocabulary they need to master, methods for writing, protocols for oral argumentation, and more. But there is another aspect to philosophy courses, rather than only teaching those things to students who aim to be or talk to professional philosophers: learning the tools of critical thinking and argumentation in order to reflect on and evaluate their own beliefs, values and activities (as well as those of others). This, of course, is a skill that can be used by anyone, any time. And exploring certain sorts of questions (like moral questions, questions about how to best organize social and political structures, for example) are things that lots of people do, even without formal philosophical training. I was thinking that introductory level students could learn the critical skills, and explore philosophical questions through a network, since there aren’t fully established answers (though there are some that have been agreed to be wrong!). That network, though, can and should include some experts (including the course instructor, I think), but non-experts can also have very insightful things to say about them. So that’s why I wondered if this area of philosophy, the one where you don’t have to learn the vocabulary or the canon of texts, might be relevant for rhizomatic learning.

      I’m still undecided, though. I have a couple of concerns about it that I’m going to address in another blog post, if I get around to it in the next few days (before everyone in etmooc moves on to the next topic!).

      As always, I very much appreciate your comments. They are always thought-provoking, and in this case at least, encouraged me to write more or less another blog post in reply!

      1. Hi Christina,
        The problems were probably my connection – which is spotty.

        that is a thoughtful, and substantial reply. Re social media, online identities etc, some sites will allow educators to set up an account, and then assign sub accounts, with no unique identifying information themselves. So, students can set up accounts via their instructor without submitting any personal details. I can’t think of any offhand, but a search should throw up providers who have this type of access.

        I take your point about difficulties re finding someone with specialist philosophy knowledge on social media. But your journey to find these people/resources is likely to inform how you think about how your students engage, the difficulties they will have, and how you should support them in approaching it. I realise, of course, on rereading, that that constitutes zero help.

        My point about Wenger minus the experts was, maybe, a little disingenuous. But there is a degree to which it’s also true, I think. Experts could be part of the network, and indeed can be. But my experience of networked learning indicates that meaningful expert access is rarefied, often limited, and quite often deployed comparatively inefficiently, and it’s often not a quality interaction. Both parties may be authentically wanting to connect, but the connection misses, due to time, or pressure, or lack of mutual knowledge in terms of context, needs, personality and all the other ticks, clues and cues we pick up in more traditional learning environments. The connections are often – though not universally – fleeting, not particularly contextualised, and can be a lot of work to gain benefit from.

        “But if the idea is to use this only for situations that are complex, where you *can’t* rely on experts because outcomes are uncertain and it’s not clear what would count as the best information, then I suppose this issue wouldn’t be as problematic.”

        I’ve always been extremely wary of both experts, and people who claim there is no such thing as expertise /experts in their fields.

        Testing a thing to destruction is a long, hard, nuanced and involved process. That takes time. Expertise. Patience, thought and resources. Complex situations have often developed excellence in expertise, and I see few exceptions. And the costs involved in delimiting expertise, in defining it away, can be huge. Meaningful knowledge of complex areas is hard fought, and takes time. Complexity and pace are not good reasons to deny expertise.

        With regard to educational technology, I’m brought back to Diane Laurillard, and her Conversational Framework. Her argument runs something like this. We have a fair idea of what constitutes good pedagogy, and we have a fair idea that it is, in part, something that requires flexibility, and is ij part something we have to compromise on, due to limited resources. A good framework will include both on and offline contexts and work equally well with both. We’re already in a position where lots of the tools we use are primarily not designed for education, so we need to have a framework in place so that we use them well, so that we can spread ourselves further for limited resources, and so that we enhance learner engagement. We build the framework first that allows us to understand good practice, and then we use that to inform our use of it, otherwise we risk being driven by emerging contexts we don;t understand. Develop the understanding/expertise foirst, and that allows you to engage with emerging complexity. (Her model includes social learning, contructionism ala Papert, instructor based learning, peer review and feedback, learning by making, inquiry and task based learning…she’s a fairly ruthless pragmatist)

        I don;t think educational tech is an area where expertise isn’t available, or where the complexity is such that we can’t deploy, or benefit from expertise. Laurillard’s framework is simple – though it looks complex. It’s adaptable, meaning it can be used on, off line, and with new and developing technologies, and it focuses on good practice and theory which will shape your use of tools. Whatever those tools are. It means youshape your use of tools, and are not unthinkingly shaped by them.

        Fluid dynamics, mapping the genome, planet searching, and financial regulation are all areas where complexity is massive, and our response has been (occasionally belatedly) to develop expertise. Our response to the genome has been to map it. Our response to exoplanets has been to find them. To fluid dynamics is to solve the equations. To quantum theory is to build accelerators. We network for all of those, but we rely on experts, expertise, and a process of expertise engagement and integration – however free, or structured, networked or isolated that may be.

        Watters and Hargadon ‘ asked a difficult question of elearning entrepeneurs, and technologists (and to degree of MOOC designers too). What is it that makes us think that we can replace expertise with enthusiasm?

        My thinking on this isn’t particularly clear, or incisive. I may be missing things. I may be slow on the uptake, tired, and crotchety.

        But rhizomatic learning doesn’t seem to be particularly new. It doesn’t seem to be defining it’s application well. It doesn’t seem to be engaging with complexity well, or substantially, and it doesn’t seem to be making a great case.

        All that said, I am regularly dreadfully wrong about things.

        I’m sorry – this is a post with more questions and uncertainty than answers.

        1. Keith: Somehow your comments got put into the “spam” queue, which is very strange since they never have before! At any rate, I just found them and posted them, and wanted to say that’s why there was a delay. And now I don’t have time to reply but certainly will soon!

        2. Hi Keith:
          Your comment is helping me to think further about something I was wondering as I wrote this post–I honestly don’t really understand the “complex” domain that Cormier talks about (borrowing from Snowden), and what sorts of things would fall in that domain. I said in my previous comment that ed tech might do so, but of course, there are such things as experts in ed tech. Probably I’d have to go read some stuff from Snowden to figure out just what the “complex” domain might be, what kind of situations fall into that. But for now, given what I know so far, I do think that whatever they are, it’s not that there can be NO expertise in those domains; it’s rather, I think, that the particular question/situation that requires a decision or action is such that the experts can’t tell us either a single “best practice” or multiple, possible “good practices.” This is because the situation is uncertain enough that no one knows what the outcome will be of any particular decision. What I don’t have ready to hand is an example of what kind of situation that might be, though perhaps some ethical decisions might be like this (which is why I suggested maybe some aspects of learning and using philosophical thinking might be appropriate for rhizomatic learning).

          It’s an entirely different question whether Snowden’s framework works for rhizomatic learning; Snowden’s framework is about making decisions–figuring out what kind of situation you are in and then determining how to approach making a decision. That’s not quite the same as a learning situation, though perhaps they share enough similarities for Snowden’s framework to work for rhizomatic learning. But what would it mean to say there are domains in which outcomes are uncertain enough that to learn about them one needs to connect with a network, a rhizome of others to create knowledge? Perhaps *uses* of various technological tools for courses might be one, since such tools could be used in multiple ways, and perhaps the experts who know the tools and have ideas on how they could be used might not be the only people who have good ideas on their use. People who are new to them might have excellent, creative ideas on how they might be used. So then, the discussion between the experts and others might result in some very productive knowledge-generation.

          You may be very much right that rhizomatic learning isn’t new…that’s something I wonder about as well. There are similar ideas in “connectivism” (e.g., Stephen Downes, George Siemens), and I don’t know what the differences are. And certainly there are similarities with the idea of communities of practice. I also think that rhizomatic learning is an idea in flux, being generated and changed, and may end up merging somehow with these other views someday. But really, that’s just pure speculation!

          Thanks for pointing me to Diane Laurillard’s work. Never heard of her before, and will look her up!

  3. Thank you so much for this post! My head was swimming after the etmooc session, and your blog explained some things about rhizomatic learning that just weren’t making sense to me. I agree with the worry you have about students only ever exploring topics that are interesting to them, and so then never having their beliefs challenged. I believe that doing things that we don’t necessarily want to do is an important skill for students to develop, so finding a balance is key.

    1. Hi Kate: I”m so glad you found the post helpful! I had to think through the whole idea by writing about it, and my hope was that others might find my own thought process of trying to understand it useful. And yes, balance is key!

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