In an era of knowledge abundance – The End No 2

5370376951_55fbe97076_qAfter quite some time of thinking, this is a summing up and an elaboration on some of the issues that have been under scrutiny in my explorations in this series of blog posts. It represents a recursive process, or maybe a matter of bricolage, as it reveals itself in four parts that can be read as one fairly short piece and three quite long pieces with pauses in between, or as a genuinely long read tuning in on 1) pedagogies in an era of knowledge abundance, 2) learning modes and a posthuman perspective, 3) the state of participatory culture and digital literacies, and 4) knowledge management and learning for and from the future.

The Learning Mode Grid

I am once again facing Steve Wheeler’s Learning Mode Grid – to be seen in The End No 1 – and my question about which pedagogies are suited for connecting knowledge while education is developing from Learning 2.0 to Learning 3.0 (Wheeler 2015:33-45). And yet, I have been building equally on Learning 2.0 and Learning 3.0 in my comments on pedagogies and teaching and learning up till now in this series, so let me elaborate a little bit on the relationship between the developments of the internet and the web and the pedagogies and learning principles that are suited for integrating both emerging social and cultural practices, new media and new smart devices into contemporary education: what is meant by Learning 1.0, Learning 2.0 and Learning 3.0?

In her paper “The Futures of Learning 3: What Kind of Pedagogies for the 21st Century?” (2015) Cynthia Luna Scott introduces Learning 1.0 and Learning 2.0. Learning 1.0 is defined this way:

“The standard learning model, Learning 1.0, evolved in the early part of the twentieth century and incorporates the aspects of schooling generally considered ‘normal and proper: students divided by grades, lessons by subjects, tests to the end of the year, and high school units collected until graduation’ (Kerchner, 2011). In this model, schooling and most other forms of formal learning are built on the principle of acquisition and storage of information with a view to analysing and eventually using it (p.1). ‘Pedagogy becomes the means to transfer knowledge through known and authoritative channels’ (p.2). Traditional roles prevail – in other words, the teachers teach and students learn.” (Scott 2015:8)

Playing on the internet being originally a network of computers building on databases and acquisition and storage of information and knowledge, the definition of Learning 1.0 matches the traditional lecture and textbook models of education Weller and Haythorntwaithe also reflect on in their models of education. And as a parallel to their emerging models of education, Scott abandons Learning 1.0 and advocates for Learning 2.0 instead:

“This model has outgrown its usefulness. Kerchner (2011) argues that Learning 2.0 is a very different proposition, consisting of a more flexible, personalized and experiential form of learning. He attributes the inspiration for this model in part to the internet, but mainly to recent changes in how people think about learning (p.3).” (Scott 2015:8)

Learning 2.0 is linked to the business model of Web 2.0, the principles behind it and the rise of social media (Wheeler 2015:169), which have basically been the backdrop of my writings on this blog so far. But just to be sure, here is a condensed definition of Web 2.0:

“In addition to the openness of Web 2.0, there is an “architecture of participation” (Barsky & Purdon, 2006; O’Reilly, 2005), which entails sharing of digital artifacts by groups, teams, and individuals, ensuring that the Web is responsive to users. It thrives on the concept of collective intelligence, or “wisdom of the crowds” (Surowiecki, 2004), which acknowledges that when working cooperatively and sharing ideas, communities can be significantly more productive than individuals working in isolation.” (McLoughlin and Lee 2008:10)

Learning 2.0

More than Kerchner, Scott is influenced by Catherine McLoughlin and Mark J. W. Lee who in their article “The Three P’s of Pedagogy for the Networked Society: Personalization, Participation, and Productivity” (2008) couple up pedagogy with what they call Pedagogy 2.0 and “social software that enables participation, communication, personalization and productivity (e.g. content creation), as these are elements of what it means to be educated in a networked age (Bryant 2006).” (McLoughlin and Lee 2008:12). So they elaborate on what rethinking pedagogy in the context of Web 2.0 means for teaching and learning:

“The “new” pedagogy is therefore not a matter of simply offering learners the technologies they are likely to use in the knowledge economy – these, like the knowledge itself, are subject to rapid change. According to Beetham and Sharpe (2007), it involves engaging learners in apprenticeship for different kinds of knowledge practice, new processes of inquiry, dialogue, and connectivity. Practices underpinning effective, innovative pedagogy will differ depending on the subject area or professional discipline in which learners seek to become proficient but are likely to include some or all of the following:

  • digital competencies that focus on creativity and performance;
  • strategies for meta-learning, including learner-designed learning;
  • inductive and creative modes of reasoning and problem-solving;
  • learner-driven content creation and collaborative knowledge building;
  • horizontal (peer-to-peer) learning and contribution to communities of learning (e.g. through social tagging, collaborative editing, and peer review.” (McLoughlin and Lee 2008:12)

By placing apprenticeship for knowledge practices and processuality at the center of teaching and learning, the focus is moved away from mainly transmitting content towards “helping students to understand each discipline (or subject) as a system of thought (with its own codes, methods, strengths and limits)”, as Scott mentions (Scott 2015:14), and this involves the four types of skills and capabilities advocated for by Tony Bates and listed in The End No 1: the combination of conceptual, practical, personal and social skills to be practiced in highly complex situations.

The ‘new’ purpose of learning is exactly reflected in the interplay of digital affordances and the changing view on learning according to McLoughlin and Lee:

“Calls for change and innovation in pedagogy are representative of an emerging view of learning as knowledge creation (Paavola & Hakkarainen, 2005) and mirror the societal shift towards a knowledge age, in which creativity and originality are highly values. Applying social software tools to teaching and learning compels us to reconsider how the affordances and interconnectedness offered by Web 2.0 impacts on pedagogy and opens up the debate on how we conceptualize the dynamics of student learning.” (McLoughlin and Lee 2008:13).

To grasp this emerging view of learning as knowledge creation and different kinds of knowledge practice McLoughlin and Lee introduce knowledge creation as a new metaphor of learning to add to the metaphors of learning as acquisition and learning as participation:

“Sfard (1998) distinguishes between two metaphors of learning: the acquisition metaphor and the participation metaphor. The former represents a passive receptive view according to which learning is mainly a process of acquiring chunks of information, while the latter perceives learning as a process of participating in various cultural practices and shared learning activities. In the participation metaphor, the focus is on the process (i.e., on learning to learn) and not so much on the outcomes or products. According to this view, knowledge does not exist in individual minds but is a product of participation in cultural practices, and learning is embedded in multiple networks of distributed individuals engaging in a variety of social processes, including dialogue, modeling, and “legitimate peripheral participation” (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Learning occurs through sustained interaction and conversation with practitioners.” (McLoughlin and Lee 2008:13-14)

“To keep pace with the content creation processes enabled by Web 2.0 and social software tools, it appears to be necessary to go a step further and venture beyond the acquisition and participation dichotomy. Paavola and Hakkarainen (2005) propose the knowledge creation metaphor of learning, which builds on common elements of Carl Bereiter’s (2002) theory of knowledge building, Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi’s (1995) model of knowledge creation, and Yrjö Engeström’s (1987,1999) theory of expansive learning. From the perspective of the knowledge creation metaphor, learning means becoming part of a community through participation, exchange of ideas, sharing, contribution of ideas, and knowledge generation. Students are both producers and consumers (“prosumers”) of knowledge, ideas and artifacts. .. The knowledge construction paradigm can be appropriately applied to learning environments where digital affordances and tools enable engagement in self-directed activities, and learners exercise agency in moving beyond mere participation in communities of inquiry to become active creators of ideas, resources, and knowledge artifacts.” (McLoughlin and Lee 2008:14)

To conceptualize the dýnamics of student learning as a motive force in a Web 2.0 context, McLoughlin and Lee coin the term ‘Pedagogy 2.0’ and highlights the three p’spersonalization, participation, productivity – as pedagogical principles and clusters of practice in Pedagogy 2.0. But besides that, Pedagogy 2.0 can also be seen as a framework for revising pedagogies while emphasizing the power of social software tools and social media, networks and communities, including communities of practice. Pedagogy 2.0 involves Learning 2.0, so to speak, so the three p’s function both as guidelines for designing learning activities and as strategies for meta-learning through co-creation of learning and knowledge construction. Learning to learn is at stake here:

1. Participation opens up to both horizontal peer-to-peer learning due to communities of practice, communities and networks and to personalization when following one’s own interests and choices in dialogue and collaboration with others:

“ A defining feature of Pedagogy 2.0 is that alongside the increased socialization of learning and teaching, there is a focus on a less prescriptive curriculum and a greater emphasis on teacher- to- student partnerships in learning, with teachers as co-learners…”

“…not only is this element of Pedagogy 2.0 reflective of the “participation model of learning” (Sfard, 1998), as opposed to the “acquisition” model, but it also adds a further dimension to participative learning by increasing the level of socialization and collaboration with experts, community, and peer groups, and by fostering connections that are often global in reach. Jenkins (2007, p. 51) aptly summarizes the process as follows:

Learning in a networked society involves understanding how networks work and how to deploy them for one’s own ends. It involves understanding the social and cultural contexts within which different information emerges…and how to use networks to get one’s own work out into the world and in front of a relevant and, with hope, appreciative public.” (McLoughlin and Lee 2008-16-17)

2. Personalization is about engaging in personally meaningful learning by giving learners control over the whole learning process through facilitation and modeling and eventually fostering self-directed learning. The quest for learning and being part of self-directed, or learner-centered and self- regulated learning as it has also been named, is not new according to McLoughlin and Lee:

“The learning experiences that are made possible by social software tools are active, process based, anchored in and driven by learner’s interests, and therefore have the potential to cultivate self regulated, independent learning. Self regulated learning…refers to the ability of a learner to prepare for his/her own learning, take the necessary steps to learn, manage and evaluate the learning and provide self feedback and judgement, while simultaneously maintaining a high level of motivation. A self regulated learner is able to execute learning activities that lead to knowledge creation, comprehension and higher order learning…by using processes such as monitoring, reflection, testing, questioning and self evaluation.”   (McLoughlin and Lee 2010:29)

Nevertheless, four areas go into the development of personalization through digital technologies, and pedagogy must:

  • ensure that learners are capable of making informed educational decisions;
  • diversify and recognize different forms of skills and knowledge
  • create diverse learning environments; and
  • include learner focused forms of feedback and assessment. (McLoughin and Lee 2010:33)

One version of personalized learning is peer-to-peer self-organized learning that draws on groups, on egocentric networks/personal learning networks (PLNs) as well as on communities or communities of practice, while another version is following a more individual agenda where learners occasionally collaborate with others when needed. In either case there needs to be room for choice: choice of problems, questions, ideas and issues to work with; choice of cases, activities and tasks to engage in; choice of resources, networks and tools to use; choice of how to engage in knowledge creation, networks and communities; and choice of how to reflect on response and feedback. It might open up not only to motivation but might also cause in-depth engagement in a discipline or a subject matter and end up developing generic skills, competences and transferable knowledge.

3. Productivity is part of both the process of learning and a result of learning when it takes the form of ideas, resources, concepts, work in progress or knowledge artefacts. User-generated content is being placed in the context of education and might be supplemented by e-portfolios tracing and incorporating the pathways of learning, by asynchronous and synchronous dialogue and discussion, by reflective writing or multi modal production as blogs, summaries, reviews by individuals, groups or in a community, and by sharing resources, ideas, people and experts found in networks and communities (McLoughlin and Lee 2008:18). Demonstrating learning through production and performance of ideas, resources, concepts, work in progress and knowledge artefacts is closely connected to the idea of knowledge creation as a metaphor of learning introduced earlier:

“Students are capable of creating and generating ideas, concepts, and knowledge, and it is arguable that the ultimate goal of learning in the knowledge age is to enable this form of creativity and productivity.” (McLoughlin and Lee 2008:17)

Engaging learners in apprenticeship for different kinds of knowledge practice will include not only a re-definition of the role of learners but also a re-definition of the role of educators and teachers. Besides becoming co-learners, Scott suggests that teachers also need to become ‘learning coaches’ – or facilitators, as I would put it:

“Teachers as learning coaches will encourage students to interact with knowledge – to understand, critique, manipulate, design, create and transform it. Teachers will need to reinforce learner’s intellectual curiosity, problem identification and problem solving skills, and their capacity to construct new knowledge with others (Bull and Gilbert, 2012)…A key part of their role will be to model confidence, openness, persistence and commitment for learners in the face of uncertainty (Bull and Gilbert, 2012)” (Scott 2015:14)

So the three p’s, participation, personalization and productivity, are overlapping and complementary pedagogical principles and practices that are interacting with the emerging view of learning as knowledge creation also paid attention to by Martin Weller, Caroline Haythornthwaite and Tony Bates. To use Haythornthwaite’s words, the questions of “…how to plan for complexity, be prepared for emergent factors, and continue to evolve and use a knowledge base” (Haythornthwaite 2015:302)  /link/  summarize not only the main concerns of Learning 2.0 but might also serve as a bridge to Learning 3.0.

Learning 3.0

Learning 3.0 has not yet been explored, standardized and conceptualized fully the same way as Learning 1.0 and Learning 2.0, although several people have taken on framing what is meant by Learning 3.0. Learning 3.0 is characterized by interconnectivity and is based on user- and machine-generated content and data. Content is contextually reinvented through the connections it becomes part of while existing data are being re-connected for other smarter uses (Wheeler 2012). So the notion of knowledge creation as a metaphor of learning already present in Learning 2.0 is being highlighted and transferred to Learning 3.0. At the same time, the issues of learning change their focus towards working with emerging knowledge.

Learning 3.0 is linked to the semantic web and is conditioned by connecting people, ideas, questions, devices, data, information, communication and knowledge, so that the processes of learning are based on the confrontation of multiple perspectives through learners engaging with resources, ideas, people, experts and serendipity in ego-centric networks/personal learning networks (PLNs), other kinds of networks and communities, including communities of practice – like the learning processes of rhizomatic learning and networked learning, I compared in Part 5 of this series . But I would like to introduce a broader understanding of the semantic web which includes the Internet of Things (IoT) because it is the intersection of ‘things’ and the networks that connect them and the data, the information, the communication and the knowledge they generate that is the concern with IoT (Weber and Wong 2017) and the basis of interpretations, meaning-making and decisions:

“The internet started by connecting computers; in its second major phase it connected people and organizations. A third major phase of connectivity now emerging is about connections between ‘things’. While there is no precise and agreed definition of IoT, what exists is a proliferation of descriptive phrases which imply that something resembling a difference in kind (not just a difference of degree) is happening or is about to happen at the intersection of these things and the networks that connect them (Bassi and Horn, 2008). Importantly, the ’things’ that IoT will connect subsume and go beyond devices with computational capabilities, to include any and potentially all devices that have some ability to sense their environment or generate data about their interactions with other devices and/or people.” (Weber and Wong 2017)

So Beetham and Shape’s point of view is still counting in Learning 3.0: 21st century pedagogy will involve “engaging learners in apprenticeships for different kinds of knowledge practice, new processes of inquiry, dialogue and connectivity” (McLoughlin and Lee 2008:12), but the conditions for and the consequences of working with data in a world of complexity and uncertainty become a new issue with Learning 3.0, I would say. Also, when knowledge creation as a metaphor of learning has an increased focus on sensing and working with emerging knowledge in order to produce new knowledge, it means that knowledge creation very easily becomes equated with innovation. But it might be a too narrow view on knowledge creation. The creation of new knowledge not only includes understanding a domain, a discipline or a subject matter as a system of thought with its own codes, methods, strengths and limits, as I quoted Scott earlier, but it also includes working with creativity and imagination, serendipity and bricolage in a context of contingency and complexity, so that the processes of producing new ideas, new concepts and new knowledge show ways of evolving and using a knowledge base, in Haythornthwaite’s sense, that possibly involves data. It is a process of creating knowledge that is in interaction with the semantic web, but it is also challenged by it and by artificial intelligence. I have already discussed knowledge production in relation to rhizomatic learning in such a way in Part 5 of this series, that rhizomatic learning clearly qualifies as a pedagogy that agrees with Learning 3.0, and I just want to add that I still see the rest of the pedagogies on my list as suitable for Learning 3.0, too. The list is to be found in The End No 1.

A cluster of definitions and perspectives around Learning 3.0

As an example of the somewhat diverse conceptualizations connected to Learning 3.0, I would like to present a cluster of definitions and perspectives around concepts like Education 3.0, Society 3.0, e-learning 3.0, and the knowmad society, that might all merge into an understanding of what Learning 3.0 might become. In her blog post “Education 3.0 and the Pedagogy (Andragogy, Heutagogy) of Mobile learning” (2013), Jackie Gerstein confirms that the connection between self-directed learning, participatory culture and knowledge creation are important in Learning 3.0. In favor of connectivism she states that “Education 3.0 is a connectivist, heutagogical approach to teaching and learning”, building on self-determined learning, or self-directed learning, that involves non-linear learning, connectivity and learner choice. In her blog post Gerstein presents an e-learning grid where the characterization of e-learning 3.0 can be seen as an attempt to defining Learning 3.0 and trying to meet the affordances of the semantic web, but Gerstein also introduces the concept Education 3.0 that goes well together with Learning 3.0. Here Gerstein builds on John Moravec who coins the concepts Society 3.0 and Education 3.0 in his presentation “Towards Society 3.0: A New Paradigm for 21st Century Education” (2008):

According to Morvec, Society 3.0 is an innovation society characterized by conveying technology and social change, expressed by using the notion of ‘the singularity’, and accordingly schools and education need to focus on sharing, remixing and capitalizing on new ideas, on producing new knowledge and on embracing accelerating change rather than fighting it. So knowledge creation as a metaphor of learning is part of John Moravec’s thinking, but here the idea of knowledge creation is closely connected to innovation, and in his talk “Rise of Knowmads” (2013) Moravec states what this focus on innovation means for schools (and education in general, I would add): they need to provide education for learners who are used to learn, unlearn and adapt to new ideas. In his equally sociological and pedagogical analysis and its future-facing aspirations and expectations Moravec is expressing ideas involving theories of the knowledge society and eventually also predicts the rise of the precariate:

 

In other words, Learning 3.0 must provide spaces and opportunities for teaching and learning that allow for blended and online learning working with emerging knowledge and knowledge creation as ways of evolving and using a knowledge base. And this version of Learning 3.0 involves innovation and the new world of data as part of teaching and learning in a domain, a discipline or a subject matter.

But what should actually decide the top issues for education in the postmodern, or the late modern: an economic, technological and growth perspective according to the ideas of the knowledge society , or the idea of the public good, preparing for life and a common interest in co-creating education and society as part of imagining the future? Steve Wheeler gave a presentation some years ago that pins down his view on Learning 3.0 in the context of technological change, social change and possible futures:

Not surprisingly, IoT, the Internet of Things, turns up in Wheeler’s presentation, but I think that in an educational context the new data, IoT will generate, and the ways of working with data as knowledge practices, that evolve with IoT, are as important as the devices, the computers and other ‘things’, although computers and ‘things’ can provide and mediate learning activities and spaces for learning. Having briefly defined the Internet of Things in their article “The new world of data: Four provocations on the Internet of Things”, Steven Weber and Richmond Y. Wong introduce more fully a pragmatic definition of IoT that foregrounds two components:

“Component 1 is about how data flows. Older distinctions (like Machine-to-Machine or Business-to-Consumer, M2M or B2C) are becoming obsolete in the IoT, where data moves in a more truly networked fashion that disregards most of these boundaries. Component 2 is about the granularity of these data flows./…The Internet of Things combines these two definitional components. As data flows move toward becoming continuous, 24/7, and correlated through networked connectivity with many other data flows of similar granularity, we have something that is more likely to demonstrate a difference of kind and thus be called IoT./…Our definition foregrounds the ‘sensing’ side of the IoT not the ‘acting’ side; it puts sensors rather than actuators at the center of the discussion.” (Weber and Wong 2017).

“Why then, if the Internet has always been an Internet of things, and ubiquitous computing research and deployments have occurred for decades, has the phrase IoT burst onto the scene in the last few years?/…However, we think there is something simpler and more profound in play that marks IoT as something different. Five developments have come together in time to make today’s IoT (and tomorrow’s) something different, possibly in the same way that the development of the World Wide Web was transformative and more than simply an application running on the Internet./ The first ingredient is the rapid decline in cost and size of sensors. The second is nearly ubiquitous and inexpensive wireless connectivity. The third is distributed ‘super’-computing, conveniently masquerading as mobile phones. The fourth is the recent development and widespread deployment of software tools for managing and working with very large data sets. Fifth is the development of an ecosystem of knowledge, techniques, institutions, and capital that purport to make valuable use out of large quantities of data./ Putting those five ingredients together creates a network that has a distinctively higher level of interdependencies and potential classes of applications, and thus deserves a new label like IoT (Zelenkauskaite, et al.,2012).” (Weber and Wong 2017)

We may not anticipate the social and cultural changes that the interconnected, interdependent and boundary-crossing nature of the Internet of Things might lead to, but they will most likely affect our assumptions about what teaching and learning ought to be like. But I would also like to touch on the other side of the Internet of Things: robotics and artificial intelligence. It worries Weber and Wong:

“We have emphasized for the purpose of this paper the sensing (and by implication the data) side of IoT based on a view of comparative developments in computation and robotics. That distinction may very well collapse over time, in which case critical choices about autonomous decision making and where humans do and do not belong ‘in the loop’ will rise to the fore and could re-cast many of the issues we’ve raised. In the longer term the relationship between human and machine autonomy may be the most important choice that IoT presents to individuals and societies;” (Weber and Wong 2017)

Robotics and artificial intelligence are not only threats of the future, it is already a dimension to consider in education today, although many educators and institutions from K-12 to university are still working on reimagining and recasting pedagogies for a digital age and implementing Learning 2.0 in their teaching and learning while considering to what degree they want to cave in. Or they have moved on to Learning 3.0 but are all the same still evaluating how Learning 2.0 and Learning 3.0 might benefit their domain, discipline, subject matter or institution. Nevertheless, I think it is important to be aware of what has already arrived by the back door and is present without us noticing, what is in the melting pot, what are buzz words to critically examine and discuss, and what might influence Learning 3.0, so here is Roy Clariana’s presentation on artificial intelligence in e-learning:

In his presentation Clariana refers to the report “Intelligence Unleashed. An argument for AI in Education” (2016) by Rose Luckin, Wayne Holmes, Mark Griffiths and Laurie B. Forcier. The report introduces artificial intelligence and definitions and issues that are relevant for discussing the implications of artificial intelligence in education, no matter if you are positive, more hesitating or reluctant or purely negative towards the idea. Luckin et al distinguish domain specific artificial intelligence that focuses on one thing (like playing Go or driving a car) from general artificial intelligence which is able to perform any intellectual task a human being can perform, and as they say – which might comfort Weber and Wong a little: “And right now, general AI does not exist.” (Luckin, Holmes, Griffiths and Forcier 2016:15).

One idea connects the report on AI in education and the presentations by John Moravec, Steve Wheeler and Roy Clariana: the notion of ‘the singularity’ shows up as an explicit or implicit point of reference in all of them. The term ‘technological singularity’ by Vernon Vinge coins the idea of a tipping point “…at which an AI-powered computer or robot becomes capable of redesigning and improving itself or of designing AI more advanced than itself. Inevitably, it is argued, this will lead to AI that far exceeds human intelligence, understanding, and control, and to what Vinge describes as the end of the human era…” (Luckin, Holmes, Griffiths and Forcier 2016:15). As an imagination of the future ‘the singularity’ signifies both fears and possibilities that might influence not only the educational thinkers and researchers introduced here but also will affect more generally debates on what education is for and what education is about. And although ‘the singularity’ and general artificial intelligence still belong to the future, this opens up to a posthuman perspective on the intermediating dynamics between the human, the digital computer, computation and things and to the thinking of N. Katherine Hayles.

Learning 3.0 and a posthuman perspective

In an interview  a few years ago Hayles – who is intensely concerned about the relations between science, literature and technology – explains her idea of posthumanism:

“Posthumanism as I define it in my book How we became Posthuman (1999) was in part about the deconstruction of the liberal humanist subject and the attributes normally associated with it such as autonomy, free will, self determination and so forth. What I saw happening in the 1980s and 1990s was the rise of thinking about human beings that was in flat contradictions to all these attributes; that was what I called posthumanism. One of its manifestations was the idea that if you capture the informational patterns of the human brain, you could then upload it to a computer and achieve effective immortality. To me this seemed absolutely wrong, even pernicious, because it plays on mere fantasies of cognition and of what constitutes human life. I was, at this point, very concerned to insert embodiment back into the equation.” (Pötzsch & Hayles 2014:95-96).

In an earlier article, Hayles commented on the project of her book in terms a little closer to the cybernetics perspective that is also a part of the book:

“…I argued that a shift was under way from the human to the posthuman. I regard the posthuman, like the ‘human’, as a historically specific and contingent term, rather than a stable ontology. Whereas the ‘human’ has since the Enlightenment been associated with rationality, free will, autonomy and a celebration of consciousness as the seat of identity, the posthuman in its more nefarious forms is construed as an informational pattern that happens to be instantiated in a biological substrate. There are, however, more benign forms of the posthuman that can serve as effective counterbalances to the liberal humanist subject, transforming untrammeled free will into a recognition that agency is always relational and distributed, and correcting an over-emphasis on consciousness to a more accurate view of cognition as embodied through human flesh and extended into the social and technological environment.” (Hayles 2006:160-161).

By the time of the article Hayles had added a fourth stage to the mapping of cybernetics in her book, a stage she calls the regime of computation:

“The characteristic dynamic of this formation is the penetration of computational processes not only into every aspect of biological, social, economic and political realms but also into the construction of reality itself…In highly developed and networked societies such as the US, human awareness comprises the tip of a huge pyramid of data flows, most of which occur between machines. Emphasizing the dynamic and interactive nature of these exchanges, Thomas Whalen (2000) has called this global phenomenon the cognisphere. Expanded to include not only the Internet but also networked and programmable systems that feed into it, including wired and wireless data flows across the electro-magnetic spectrum, the cognisphere gives a name and shape to the globally interconnected cognitive systems in which humans are increasingly embedded. As the name implies, humans are not the only actors within this system; machine cognizers are crucial players as well. If our machines are ‘lively’…they are also more intensely cognitive than ever before in human history.” (Hayles 2006:161)

This is a stage where the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence have become parts of the systems, as far as I can see (but eventually check out Hayles (2009)). It makes it worth considering if the computational metaphor Hayles introduces here can also be seen as a metaphor of learning, eventually being added to the line of metaphors of learning introduced earlier: learning as acquisition, learning as participation and learning as knowledge creation. It would place learning as computation as a metaphor of learning belonging to Learning 3.0. And this brings me back to the interview with Hayles, where she is being asked if we can still account for creativity and change – two aspects most relevant to my narrative of education, teaching and learning in a digital age – if the liberal humanist subject is deconstructed. She replied:

“Why would this deconstruction impede change, creativity, or as others have claimed progress? Can we assume 1) that human beings actually can be isolated from their technological or other contexts, and 2) that humans are the only agents capable of complex cognitive operations? I do not think we can. On the other hand, posthumanist thinking might help us to take a new look at the boundaries between what counts as human, animal, machine, or object. A redrawing of this boundary certainly entails highly political questions that can point either toward an inclusive and progressive, or an exclusory, direction.” (Pötzsch & Hayles 2014:97).

Agency and the posthuman perspective

So while Hayles’ project is focused on deconstructing the liberal humanist subject, she is at the same time reconsidering aspects of Enlightenment thinking through discussing, criticizing and contextualizing the values of liberal humanism which are: “a coherent, rational self; the right of that self to autonomy and freedom; and a sense of agency linked with a belief in enlightened self-interest.” (Hayles 1999:85-86). These are the values Hayles draws on in her comments above, and in the interview the question of agency is being followed up by asking how posthumanism does change received ideas of agency. Hayles says:

“In the version of the human articulated within the liberal-humanist tradition, agency is seen to reside primarily in the individual subject. Individuals can be incorporated into large structures, but it is ultimately the individual that possesses agency. As we move deeper into a highly technological regime and as the technological infrastructure surrounding us becomes more and more complex, it becomes increasingly obvious that human agency cannot ever be seen in isolation from the systems with which humans are in constant and constitutive interaction. In fact the ideas that human agency is paramount appears to be an illusion; as Bruno Latour and others have pointed out, it is a good corrective to see agency as distributed among both human and non-human entities. This is a primary focus of the emerging field of new materialism that looks into how technological, and also biological and social, processes predispose and channel human action.” (Pötzsch & Hayles 2014:97)

This posthuman perspective challenges the values of liberal humanism, the notion of Bildung and the Humboldtian ideals of education I emphasized as  important dimensions of a pedagogy for the digital age when I was exploring and discussing rhizomatic learning in previous parts of this series of blog posts. Agency, autonomy, choice and self-directed learning are capabilities closely connected to Bildung and liberal humanist ideals of education, and they are also embedded in the pedagogical principles and strategies of personalization, participation, collaboration and knowledge creation I have framed as characteristic for Learning 2.0. But agency is also questioned by the networked, distributed and heterogeneous aspects of the pedagogies suited for Learning 2.0 and Learning 3.0: the ideas of independence and interdependencies are enmeshed in Learning 2.0 and 3.0 and exceed the idea of individual agency, too.

With seeing agency as distributed among both human and non-human entities, a posthuman perspective rethinks agency more explicitly and conceptualizes agency as distributed and networked. This understanding of agency agrees with seeing subjectivity as networked and distributed, too, and works with the construction of subjectivity in relation to computers and artificial intelligence, for example. The possibility of subjective agency is not ruled out in a posthuman perspective, instead agency is to be seen as the both/and of complexity, so that both human subjectivity and the possibility of agency are transformed through interactions with technology (Flanagan 2014:20-21).

Learning 3.0 and cognitive assemblage

In a recent article N. Katherine Hayles widens her understanding of agency and introduces the concept ‘cognitive assemblage’ as a multi-perspective, multi-layered, multi-dimensional network that involves technical agency as well as human interactions:

“I want to define cognition as a process of interpreting information in contexts that connect it with meaning. This view foregrounds interpretation, choice, and decision and highlights the special properties that cognition bestows, expanding the traditional view of cognition as human thought to processes occurring at multiple levels and sites within biological life forms and technical systems. Cognitive assemblage emphasizes cognition as the common element among parts and as the functionality by which parts connect.” (Hayles 2016:32)

The definition connects knowledge networks with meaning-making and transforms the understanding of networks into a complex of agency and interactions of interpretations, conditions, contexts and meaning-making at multiple levels of data flows and relations between human, machine, animate, thing :

“My reason for choosing assemblage over network (the obvious alternative) is to allow for arrangements that scale up. Starting with cognitive processes occurring at a low threshold – using information to make choises within contexts – cognitive assemblages can progress to higher levels of cognition and consequently decisions affecting larger areas of concern. Other advantages include the notion of an arrangement not so tightly bound that it cannot lose or add parts, yet not so loosely connected that the relations between parts cease to matter; indeed, they matter a great deal. A cognitive assemblage operates through contextual relations at multiple levels and sites, with boundaries fluctuating as conditions and contexts change. Further comparisons emerge through considering the kinds of materialities involved in networks versus those in assemblages. Networks consist of edges and nodes and are analyzed trough graph theory, conveying a sense of a spare, clean materiality. Assemblage, by contrast, allow for contiguity in a fleshy sense – touching, incorporating, repelling, mutating. When analyzed as dynamic systems, networks are sites of exchange, transformation, and dissemination, but they lack the sense of these interactions occurring across complex three-dimensional surfaces, whereas assemblages include information transactions occurring across membranes, involuted and convoluted surfaces, and multiple volumetric entities interacting with many conspecifics simultaneously.” (Hayles 2016:32-33).

With her definition of assemblages as interpretation of information, decisions and meaning-making, Hayles’ shift from network to assemblage reflects the increased focus on contingency, complexity and emergent knowledge, that subsequently has shown itself as an interest in assemblages in education and pedagogy. Hayles’ definition makes room for including the semantic web, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence, while she weighs the assemblage of Deleuze and Guattari against the assemblage of Bruno Latour. She seems to choose Latour’s understanding of assemblage affected by transformative technologies and the relations that emerge through the processes involving human and non-human actors:

“As a whole, a cognitive assemblage performs the functions identified with cognition – flexibly attending to new situations, incorporating this knowledge into adaptive strategies, and evolving through experience to create new strategies and kind of responses…” (Hayles 2016:33)

And to stress that cognitive assemblages do not belong to her imagination of the future but are already existing as emblems of the digital age and the computational regime, Hayles states: “The most transformative technologies of the later twentieth century have been cognitive assemblages; the internet is a prime example.” (Hayles 2016:34)

If computation is a metaphor of learning in Learning 3.0, then the cognitive assemblage must be considered as part of rethinking pedagogy for Learning 3.0, if we take on Hayles’ thinking. Whether you prefer Deleuze and Guattari’s assemblage, Bruno Latour’s actor-networks, Hayles’ cognitive assemblage or others as the framework for understanding assemblages, the communities, the networks and the ego-centric networks/personal learning networks (PLNs) of Learning 2.0 and Learning 3.0 need to have a place as part of the assemblages of Learning 3.0. As I wrote earlier, the pedagogies on my list can be recast to provide for Learning 3.0, including participation, knowledge creation, innovation and working with data in networked and distributed contexts, and I am aware of that there are both epistemological and ontological questions and issues to consider in relation to rethinking any of the pedagogies on my list. My discussion of rhizomatic learning in Part 5 in this series hopefully shows this while it exemplifies one version of combining pedagogy and the concepts and ideas of rhizome, chaos and order, lines of flight and assemblage adapted from Deleuze and Guattari.

Hayles’ posthuman perspective might provoke, and it does challenge the Enlightenment foundations of education from K-12 to higher education and university when she deconstructs the liberal humanist subject and shakes the traditional preconditions for both legitimacy structures, knowledge practices and Bildung. But it doesn’t end it, “rather ‘human’ and ‘posthuman’ coexist in shifting configurations”, as she puts it (Hayles 1999:6), so reimagining, rethinking and recasting pedagogy for Learning 3.0 still means discussing what education is for and what education is about. Weber and Wong and Hayles help pinning down some of the technological changes that have made and make the semantic web, the Internet of Things and domain specific artificial intelligence transformative, and furthermore Hayles’ project of deconstructing the liberal humanist subject is not only involving the development of cybernetics and issues related to scientific and technological progress but also focuses on the social and cultural changes equally important to uncovering and questioning the ethical and cultural implications of cybernetic technologies (Hayles 1999:21). And here, literature and narrative as fictional representations of the past, the present and the future play an important part in Hayles’ book and help her discussing the social, cultural and ethical implications of scientific and technological transformations while demonstrating that “culture circulates through science no less than science circulates through culture.” (Hayles 1999:21).

I’ll leave the narrative and literary history aspects of Hayles’ project for now and bring this section to an end by implicating that embedded in her thinking there is not only an aesthetic and anthropological role but also a societal role for literature to play (Flanagan 2014:5-6), indicating that science, literature and technology are more intertwined than we are used to think:

“Literary texts are not, of course, merely passive conduits. They actively shape what the technologies mean and what the scientific theories signify in cultural contexts.” (Hayles 1999:21).

In other words, literature and narrative belong as part of cognitive assemblages with the double agenda of reinscribing traditional ideas and assumptions but also articulating something new (Hayles 1999:6), and this way assemblages are making historically processes visible, embodied and interpreted as emerging knowledge and as a melting pot of knowledge creation.

Learning for an unknown and unexplored future

In his essay “Education: under, for and in spite of postmodernity” (2001), Zygmunt Bauman gives his view on what education is for and what education is about today:

“’Preparing for life’ – that perennial, invariable task of all education – must mean first and foremost cultivating the ability to live daily and at peace with uncertainty and ambivalence, with a variety of standpoints and the absence of unerring and trustworthy authorities: must mean instilling tolerance of difference and the will to respect the right to be different, must mean fortifying critical and self-critical faculties and the courage needed to assure responsibility for one’s choices and their consequences; must mean training the capacity for ‘changing the frames’ and for resisting the temptation to escape from freedom, with the anxiety of indecision it brings alongside the joys of the new and the unexplored.” (Bauman 2001:138)

“The point is, though, that such qualities can hardly be developed in full through that aspect of the educational process which lends itself to the designing and controlling powers of the theorists and professional practitioners of education: through the verbally explicit contents of curricula and vested in what Bateson called ‘proto-learning’. One could attach more hope to the ‘deutero-learning’ aspect of education, which, however, is notoriously less amenable to planning and to comprehensive all-out control. The qualities in question can be expected to emerge, though, primarily out of the ‘tertiary learning’ aspect of educational processes, related not only to one particular curriculum and to the setting of one particular educational event, but precisely to the variety of criss-crossing and competing curricula and events.” (Bauman 2001:138)

So to realize learning for a present of complexity and for an uncertain future, where knowledge is abundant and dynamic, continuously changing and emergent, Bauman identifies three forms of learning – following Gregory Bateson’s theory of learning: primary learning, secondary learning and tertiary learning. Bateson’s three forms of learning condense an ecological perspective on the relations and mutual influences of individuals and culture on human meaning-making and knowledge and the way learning is structured. Bauman’s and Hayles’ agendas are criss-crossing here, as Bateson was also participating in the foundational debates on cybernetics, uncovered and disussed by Hayles in “How we became posthuman”.

Bateson’s three forms of learning express an expectation of how to think of the processes of learning and how to organize for learning, and Bauman claims that they all belong and need to be practiced in education today, although Bateson regarded tertiary learning as abnormality when he first introduced his theory.

Primary learning – or proto-learning – is the content, curriculum and the learning of something already known to the educator and the domain, discipline or subject matter and with learning being planned and designed for a certain outcome. Primary learning is ‘to learn’.

Secondary learning – or deutero-learning – is learning how to expect and handle sets of alternatives in specific contexts despite the contingencies one encounters. Secondary learning is ‘learning how to learn’ and the understanding of ‘learning to learn’.

Tertiary learning is learning “when the subject of education acquires the skills to modify the set of alternatives which they have learned to expect and handle in the course of deutero-learning” (Bauman 2001:124). It is the need “to reassemble an established conceptual network” to make it able “to capture novel phenomena in a new cognitive frame” that constitutes tertiary learning (Bauman and Mazzeo 2016:82). Tertiary learning is ‘re-learning’, that is learning something unpredictable and unknown to both learners and educators (Bauman 2001:123-126; Dahlbeck 2011:78). And this re-learning is synonymous with emerging knowledge, the new and the unexplored that Bauman mentions in the quote above.

Eventually, Bateson also operates with a fourth degree of learning where the social context and ‘the store of learning’, the collective stock of experience and knowledge, and how it is shared and used, is seen as decisive for the process of teaching, learning and ‘re-learning’ (Bauman 2001:121). This fourth degree of learning is culture and thus contains the predictions of the social contexts that cultivate and direct emerging knowledge.  It is both the backdrop and the result of the first three forms of learning, but Zygmunt Bauman only touches shortly on this degree of learning in his essay.

No doubt that Bauman supports cultivating tertiary learning in a liquid, rapidly changing world of complexity as quoted earlier, but it is a formative process we don’t have traditions for in education, he says, and a way of learning that can’t be planned or organized for as we traditionally do when designing learning. Whether we like it or not, tertiary learning is necessary in a world of constant change. So the three forms of learning active in Bauman’s analysis of education are as much to be considered at an institutional level as at the level of the individual educator, learner and student:

“These times of ours excel in dismantling frames and liquidizing patterns – all frames and all patterns are random and without advance warning. Under such circumstances ‘tertiary learning’ – learning how to break the regularity, how to get free from habits and prevent habitualization, how to rearrange fragmentary experiences into heretofore unfamiliar patterns while treating all patterns as acceptable solely ‘until further notice’ – far from being a distortion from its true purpose, acquires a supreme adaptational value and fast becomes central to what is indispensable ‘equipment for life’.” (Bauman 2001:125)

So, as I mentioned a little while ago, what for Bateson could be viewed as abnormality is now normal, Bauman states, and this tertiary approach to learning has become common. It is an approach that is echoed in John Moravec’s claim that schools need to provide education for learners who are used to learn, unlearn and adapt to new ideas.

As such, Bateson’s three forms of learning are not identical with Learning 1.0, Learning 2.0 and Learning 3.0, but in some ways they seem to merge in the present historical context of the postmodern, or the late modern. It is three of the metaphors of learning, learning as participation, learning as knowledge creation and learning as computation, that act as specific historical metaphors because they draw on present technological, social and cultural changes. They connect the ideas, the knowledge practices and the concepts of the dynamic changing learning modes in Learning 1.0, Learning 2.0 and Learning 3.0 with the stable forms of learning in Bateson’s theory of learning. And as Bauman has emphasized already, Bateson’s three forms of learning all belong and need to be practiced in education today.

Learning 2.0 has not become obsolete or outdated by the progressing of Learning 3.0 – they are existing as parallel modes of learning that are relevant to different degrees and in different combinations depending on the domain, the discipline or the subject matter. Secondary learning can make learners creative and provide them with agency both in the liberal humanist sense, based on self-cultivation adn Bildung, that Bauman supports, and in Hayles’ posthuman sense. In many ways secondary learning, as framed by Bateson and Bauman, is embedded in Learning 2.0 and the understanding of how pedagogies might look like to align with Martin Weller’s and Caroline Haythornthwaite’s new models of education. But tertiary learning, which challenges ‘old’ frameworks, conceptualizations and understandings of education and learning might also become synonymous with reimagining and rethinking pedagogies and practices for Learning 3.0 – marked by complexity and uncertainty and for a future of the unknown.  The pedagogies on my list in The End No 1 involve secondary learning and all have the potential to initiate, integrate and stage tertiary learning as they focus on personalized, participatory and social learning but also on learning something unpredictable and unexplored.

And as mentioned rhizomatic learning is an example of rethinking pedagogy for Learning 3.0 that through its practices opens up to tertiary learning. The way rhizomatic learning promotes non-linearity, heterogeneity, unpredictability and complexity, it places itself as a pedagogy and learning approach that challenges traditional primary learning and implies secondary learning and knowing how to learn while it ideally also initiates tertiary learning in a postmodern context of uncertainty, multiplicity and rapid change. At least that is what Dave Cormier intends with rhizomatic learning as a vision of learning and innovation when he is coupling it with Dave Snowden’s knowledge management model “The Cynefin Framework”. The tertiary learning aspect of educational processes are not related “to one particular curriculum and the setting of one particular educational event” as I quoted Bauman earlier, and this is also what Dave Cormier strongly advocates for in his article “Rhizomatic Education: Community as curriculum” (2008).

The aspects of tertiary learning are not something you teach but it might be the result of a design for learning that gives learners the opportunity to experience, experiment and explore a way of learning and re-learning that is necessary in a world of uncertainty and rapid changes: it is a way of learning that focuses on the variety of criss-crossing and competing curricula and educational events that you might meet in communities, networks and assemblages. But it also aims at developing new knowledge and thus pedagogies must be able to design for learning that challenges the capacity for ‘changing the frames’, works with emerging knowledge and strives to stay open-ended. And eventually they might be inspired by N. Katherine Hayles’ cognitive assemblage as a concept of the computational regime as well as the embodiment of technological, social and cultural practices in a digital age.

Further reading:

Bates, Tony (2015): Teaching in a Digital age

Bauman, Zygmunt (2001): Education: under, for and in spite of postmodernity, The Individualized Society, Cambridge, UK: Polity

Dahlbeck, Per (2011): En krigsmaskin på Malmö högskola – Ett hot eller en möjlighet, Per Dahlbeck, Magnus Persson (red.): Deltagarkultur – i teori och praktik, Malmö högskola    –

Cormier, Dave (2008): Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum, Dave’s Educational Blog

Flanagan, Victoria (2014): Technology and Identity in Young Adult Fiction. London: Palgrave Macmillan

Gerstein, Jackie (2013): Education 3.0 and the Pedagogy (Andragogy, Heutagogy) of Mobile learning , User Generated Education

Hayles, N. Katherine (1999): How we became posthuman: virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature and informatics, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press

Hayles, N. Katherine (2006): Unfinished Work. From Cyborg to Cognisphere , Theory, Culture & Society, Vol. 23(7-8): 159-166

Hayles, N. Katherine (2009): RFID: Human Agency and Meaning in Information-Intensive Environments, Theory, Culture & Society, Vol. 26(2-3): 47-72

Hayles, N. Katherine (2016): Cognitive Assemblages: Technical Agency and Human Interaction, Critical Inquiry 43, Autumn 2016

Haythornthwaithe, Caroline (2015): Rethinking learning spaces: networks, structures, and possibilities for learning in the twenty-first century, Communication Research and Practice, 1:4, 292-306, DOI:10.1080/22041451.2015.1105773

McLoughlin, Catherine and Lee, Mark J.W (2008): The Three P’s of Pedagogy for the Networked Society: Personalization, Participation, and Productivity , International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, Volume 20, Number 1, 10-27

Luckin, R., Holmes, W., Griffiths, M., Forcier, L.B. (2016): Intelligence Unleashed. An argument for AI in Education, London: Pearson

Pötzsch, Holger and Hayles, N. Katherine (2014): FCJ-172 Posthumanism, Technogenesis, and Digital Technologies: A Conversation with N. Katherine Hayles , The Fibreculture Journal, Issue 23: General Issue

Scott, Cynthia Luna (2015): The Futures of Learning 3: What Kind of Pedagogies for the 21st Century? , UNESCO Education Research and Foresight, Paris. ERF Working Papers Series, No. 15

Weber, Steven and Wong, Richmond Y. (2017): The new world of data: Four provocations on the Internet of Things, First Monday, Volume 22, Number 2-6 February 2017. Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v22i2.6936

Wheeler, Steve (2015): Learning with ‘e’s. Educational theory and practice in the digital age, Carmarthen: Crown House Publishing

Wheeler, Steve (2012): Learning 3.0 and the Smart eXtended Web 

Photo by Alexandra Cavoulacos on Flickr – CC BY-ND 2.0

Elna Mortensen

 

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In an era of knowledge abundance – The End No 2

In an era of knowledge abundance – The End No 1

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After quite some time of thinking, this is a summing up and an elaboration on some of the issues that have been under scrutiny in my explorations in this series of blog posts. It represents a recursive process, or maybe a matter of bricolage, as it reveals itself in four parts that can be read as one fairly short piece and three quite long pieces with pauses in between, or as a genuinely long read tuning in on 1) pedagogies in an era of knowledge abundance, 2) learning modes and a posthuman perspective, 3) the state of participatory culture and digital literacies, and 4) knowledge management and learning for and from the future.

Change

Change has become the motive and a persistent concept in present discussions about the function and role of education and its relationship to society in a digital age. Developments in technology and media have led to not only rapidly changing knowledge but also to increasing sources of knowledge, and as a result change has pervaded the ideas of education, pedagogies and necessary skills and competences in an era of knowledge abundance and complexity. Some theorists are framing these changes as the result of the postmodern, some prefer to call it the late modern and others have named it the risk society, the knowledge society and the network society. Whether they are leaning on and propagating the ideas and the thinking of Castells, Bauman, Beck, Luhmann, Deleuze and Guattari, Latour or others, they are all concerned in teaching and learning in an era of knowledge abundance, considering what education is for and what education is about. And they wonder which pedagogies are suited for connecting knowledge while education is developing from Learning 2.0 to Learning 3.0 and seeing Learning 4.0 in the horizon. Just see Steve Wheeler’s Learning Modes Grid below – also introduced in Part 1 of this series on pedagogies in an era of knowledge abundance – to get a grip of the connections between developments in technology, media and pedagogies.

Learning Modes GridSteve Wheeler: Learning Mode Grid

I’ll add new characteristics to this model during this summing up while following some of the thinkers and researchers introduced in this series and drawing on others, too. These researchers and thinkers come together in their responses to the changes, the challenges and the possibilities in education, teaching and learning in a digital age, when they urge educators to rethink, reexamine, reimagine, recast, evaluate, update and redo the existing pedagogies and our models of learning and teaching to suit a world of knowledge abundance embracing digital media and new social and cultural practices. ‘Re-‘ as an approach to change in education implies that core conceptualizations and practices of relevant pedagogies are retained , but also that they are being realized in new forms due to the ongoing discussions about what education is about and what education is for.

But the question is not just what education is for and what education is about in a digital age and a time of knowledge abundance and complexity. It is also a question of what knowledge is and what counts as knowledge in a phase of change when the function and role of education, including the focus of knowledge production, is moving from one state to another, from knowledge production and knowledge dissemination in the industrial society, or the modern, to a focus on development, circulation and use of new ideas and new knowledge in the postmodern, the late modern, the risk society, the knowledge society, the network society or the actor-networks, depending on which theory and conceptual framework one prefers. This is a main issue in the discussions of the relations between Mode 1 and Mode 2 knowledge production which I introduced in my comparison of rhizomatic learning with networked learning as possible pedagogies of abundance in Part 5 of this series. In the pieces summing up on this series I will extend this focus to modes of learning, modes of knowledge production and conceptions of knowledge and look into how they are incorporated into the idea of knowledge management and how they are influencing forms of learning and visions of teaching and learning for an unpredictable future.  This has an impact on how pedagogies might be reimagined and recast for a digital age and a time marked by rapid changes. And so they must be uncovered as part of the challenges put forward by Martin Weller that started off this series on pedagogies in an era of knowledge abundance:

“The issue for educators is twofold I would suggest: firstly how can they best take advantage of abundance in their own teaching practice, and secondly how do they best equip learners to make use of it? It is the second challenge that is perhaps the most significant. Exploring pedagogies of abundance will be essential for educators to meet the challenge and equip their learners with the skills they need in an age of digital abundance.” (Weller 2011:232-233)

In line with Weller’s point of view Tony Bates has stated in his e-book “Teaching in a Digital Age” (2015) that the development of skills should be given the same attention as content acquisition so that learners have both the knowledge and the skills needed to handle and succeed in a digital age characterized by for instance knowledge abundance. Bates emphasizes that knowledge management is perhaps the most important and overarching skill needed in the 21st century (Bates 2015:19). I quoted this statement in Part 5 of this series where I also introduced The Cynefin Framework by Dave Snowden which is the knowledge management model that Dave Cormier has chosen to embody his vision of learning when he talks about rhizomatic learning in his video talks. But how does it all fit together, and what about participatory culture, digital literacies and the model of 21st century learning that I have brought into my attempts to pin down what pedagogies of abundance might look like? They are certainly aspects that go into the answers offered to Weller’s challenge, but what goes into seeing them as broader perspectives on pedagogies, teaching and learning practices, too? I will try to gather the bits and ends while summing up on this series on pedagogies, knowledge and knowledge management in a digital age.

A new model of education

Due to the effect the abundance of learning content and resources has on how we approach teaching, learning and education, Martin Weller suggested a shift in education from ‘a pedagogy of scarcity’ to ‘a pedagogy of abundance’ in his article “A pedagogy of abundance” (2011) As a consequence he also suggested a new model of education to replace the traditional model of education that has dominated higher education but also has influenced K-12 teaching and learning and its basic understandings of education.

A traditional model of education is based on that:

  • Expertise is scarce.
  • Learners come to the place where the experts are located.
  • The lecture is the place for students’ physical interaction with the expert.
  • Content – books and journals – are manufactured according to demand.
  • Access to content is scarce and only accessible through libraries. (Weller 2011:226)

and hence a pedagogy of scarcity has developed promoting:

  • A one-to-many model to make the best use of the scarce resource – that is the expert.
  • The lecture.
  • An instructivist pedagogy as a direct consequence of the demands for scarcity. (Weller 2011:226)

Now a new model of education emerges that builds on new developments in technology and media and on new forms of cultural competence which education needs to address:

  • Expertise is still rare, but access to content associated with it is now much easier – e.g. resources, critical analysis, dialogue, discussion and reflection are abundant.
  • The traditional model of supply-push needs to be replaced with one of demand-pull due to the growing demand for education and lifelong learning.
  • A shift to active participation will characterize students’ interaction with content and expertise.
  • A change to a more participatory, socially constructed view of knowledge is needed to suit a demand-pull model of education.
  • New technologies are the basis in realizing this new conception of knowledge as networked and socially constructed. (Weller 2011:226-228)

As mentioned this new model of education emerges as a necessity for education to adapt to developments in technology and media in order to be relevant in a digital society. But it is also necessary to notice that technological changes are often merely part of much broader societal and historical developments causing societal change (Buckingham 2008:10). Caroline Haythornthwaite stresses this in her view on the impact of social and technical changes on emergent models of knowledge and educational practice, and this way Haythornthwaite is complementary to Weller’s new model of education when explaining what this shift from ‘a pedagogy of scarcity’ to ‘a pedagogy of abundance’ means to pedagogy and educational practices:

 “The dynamic and emergent nature of our media and learning spaces reformulates questions away from what is the best structure, system, or set of facts to address a problem to how to plan for complexity, be prepared for emergent factors, and continue to evolve and use a knowledge base. This changes the orientation from: closed systems and communities to open systems and crowds; information retrieval to contribution; individual – to – social learning; individual – to – community knowledge-building (Scardamalia and Bereiter, 2006); authority-defined knowledge and practice – to – peer knowledge and practice; following a class syllabus and being in a class to defining the content of the class and what it means to be in  a class (Paulin & Haythorn-thwaite, in press)./This is not a call for a clean sweep of past questions and practices. These have worked well for many years and continue to be important ways of learning and knowledge building. But, like the complexity brought about by the interplay of contemporary new media trends, learning practices also have become more complex.” (Haythornthwaite 2015:302)

Weller and Haythornthwaite both agree on identifying significant changes in structures and authority within education, and they see the closely connected changes in cultural practices and in spaces for student’s agency as determining factors for changing and developing teaching, learning practices and pedagogies within education. But they promote a continuum from ‘old’ to ‘new’ when it comes to revisiting pedagogies and exploring existing and new theories and learning practices in order to reexamine, reimagine, recast, evaluate, update and redo pedagogies and approaches to teaching and learning that are suited for a digital age.

Through their models both Weller and Haythornthwaite answer to what Zygmunt Bauman has called ‘the present educational crisis’ in his essay “Education: under, for and in spite of postmodernity” (2001). Here Bauman points to how the postmodern crisis is haunting educational institutions at all levels, although he focuses especially on the situation of universities. In a comment on the role and the legitimacy structures of the modern university he puts the discussion of what education is for and what education is about at the very center of educational change:

“The institutional centrality of knowledge and its practitioners was anchored, on the one side, in a state-national reliance on legitimation (Max Weber), a ruling formula (Gaetano Mosca), or a central cluster of values (Talcott Parsons) for the translation of domination into authority and discipline; on the other, in the practice of culture (education, Bildung) which was meant to shape individual members of society into social beings fit to perform, and willing to abide by, the socially assigned roles. Both anchors were serviced by the universities – the crucial sites where the values instrumental in social integration were generated, and the training ground where the educators meant to disseminate them and translate them into social skills were trained. Both anchors, though, are today afloat…After all, both the autonomy and the centrality of the universities and the scholarship as such are today in question. “ (Bauman 2001:128-129)

Exactly the two anchors of the modern university also affected education at all other levels, due to the authority, I would say, and although discussions about the role of education, about teaching and learning practices, and about students’ agency might take different roads depending on educational level, I think Weller’s and Haythornthwaite’s models can work as emerging models of education in both K-12 schools and higher education in most respects. Weller and Haythornthwaite are in both their own ways responding to social, technological and cultural changes and to the present educational crisis, which is still going on:

“The present educational crisis is first and foremost a crisis of inherited institutions and inherited philosophies. Meant for a different kind of reality, they find it increasingly difficult to absorb, accommodate and hold the changes without a thorough revision of the conceptual frames they deploy, and such a revision, as we know from Thomas Kuhn, is the most overpowering and deadly of all the challenges thought may encounter. Short of designing different frames, philosophical orthodoxy can only set aside and dismiss the rising pile of new phenomena as so many anomalies and deviations.” (Bauman 2001:128)

When it comes to universities and higher education, it is the discussions about the function and role of the university and its exclusive relationship to society during the modern era that has also caused the discussions about legitimacy structures and practices, and as a consequence the evaluation of what counts as knowledge has resulted in the differentiation of knowledge production into Mode 1 and Mode 2 as introduced in Part 5 of this series. Mode 1 knowledge production belongs to the closed systems of the autonomous university in the industrial society, while Mode 2 knowledge production is a child of the knowledge society according to Gibbons, Limoges, Nowotny et al who have introduced this distinction between Mode 1 and Mode 2 knowledge. With Mode 2 knowledge production the changes that occur are among others that the connection between university and society becomes closer and stronger, that the hierarchy between core functions – like research – and functions regarded more peripheral – like teaching and public engagement – is flattened, and that not only traditional research led by scholars counts as knowledge production but also existing knowledge can be systematized and combined in new ways through inter-disciplinary work involving a web of co-producers coming from different disciplines, domains and contexts inside and outside of universities and higher education:

“Gibbons et al write (1994:vii): “A new mode of knowledge production affects not only what knowledge is produced but also how it is produced; the context in which it is produced, the way it is organized, the reward systems it utilizes and the mechanisms that control the quality of that which is produced.” (Darsø 2001:127)

And in fact, the starting point of Martin Weller’s challenge is resting on the changes that Gibbons, Limoges, Nowotny et al have captured, as he introduces Boyer’s work on scholarship as a backdrop for his own challenge to educators : to place all scholarly activity on an equal footing:

“ What we urgently need today is a more inclusive view of what it means to be a scholar – a recognition that knowledge is acquired through research, through synthesis, through practice, and through teaching ” (Boyer, 1990,24)” (Weller 2011:223)

So both on an institutional level and at the level of the individual educator ‘the present educational crisis’, as Bauman called it, challenges ‘old’ frameworks, conceptualizations and understandings of education at universities and in higher education. And I would say that a lot of the fears, the challenges and the changes implied by Bauman are being discussed under the umbrella term of ‘openness’, seeing open education, open scholarship and the open educator (aka the networked educator) as revisions, renewals or unbundling of well-known conceptual frameworks of education being promoted in the light of technological possibilities and global perspectives and under influence of social and cultural changes. Debates about the advantages and disadvantages of campus based courses seen against blended learning and online courses, recommendations of schools working with their community and education working with real-world problems and in real-world contexts (which come from Mode 2 knowledge production), as well as discussions of badges and block chain for learning are all part of this discussion.  It has caused more complex teaching and learning practices which has hopefully been demonstrated throughout this series. Martin Weller’s and Caroline Haythornthwaite’s new models of education take part in and are results of these discussions.

The two sets of legitimacy structures and practices introduced by Bonnie Stewart illustrate the changes in the role of scholarship and education as an orientation away from ‘old’ systems of legitimacy, control and validation, that are synonymous with traditional scholarship, practice and teaching, towards peer knowledge, co-creation and participatory teaching and learning:

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Bonnie Stewart: Learning in the Open

As an intermediary between the institutional level and the level of the individual educator and their students and learners, these legitimacy structures and practices draw up the complex contexts educators engage in when they take on Weller’s challenge and start exploring pedagogies to equip their learners with the skills they need in a digital age. They are most likely to balance on the scale from ‘old’ to ‘new’, just like Weller and Haythornthwaite ask educators to work with a continuum from ‘old’ to ‘new’ when it comes to revisiting pedagogies and exploring existing and new theories and learning practices.

Pedagogies in a digital age

The pedagogies that have been explored and touched on in this series as suitable for teaching and learning in a digital world facing knowledge abundance are listed below:

Project-based Learning       Connected Learning

Problem-based Learning    Connectivism

Community of Practice       Rhizomatic Learning

Networked Learning:

-Project- and Problem-based Learning

-Community of Practice

-Community of Inquiry/Inquiry-based Learning

-Community of Learning

-Community of Knowledge

-Actor-Network Theory

More pedagogies and teaching methods suited for an age of digital abundance can be found in Tony Bates: “Teaching in a Digital Age” (2015) and in “Innovating Pedagogy 2016” and previous reports in this series of reports. See Garcia: “Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom” (2014) for an introduction to Connected Learning.  If the pedagogies don’t include didactic strategies and guidelines for learning design, Gilly Salmon: “The Five Stage Model” works for designing and evaluating online learning. The model is learner-centered and based on a socio-cultural approach.

The pedagogies on my list focus on collaboration, networked and distributed learning, and as I noticed in Part 5 of this series, they are social and situated pedagogies and theories of learning that foster and build on self-directed learning and participatory culture, too. They are either ‘born’ as pedagogies for a digital age or have been recast and reworked to conceptualize and practice collaboration in groups, communities and networks, to work with applying and producing knowledge and to embrace messiness and complexity. They also aim at embedding learning within real-world problems, and so as a bonus, the pedagogies mentioned in my list above also ideally add aspects of experiential learning to their practices (see Bates 2015:91-92,98).

The pedagogies on my list are in accordance with Martin Weller’s criteria for ‘a pedagogy of abundance’, and they prove that many pedagogies can be reimagined and updated through changing the implied learning processes from unambiguity, linearity, repetition and reproduction and basic applied knowledge to complexity, heterogeneity, processuality, recursivity and knowledge production (Mortensen 2002:144). So maybe it is about time to leave the term ‘pedagogies of abundance’ behind and just talk about pedagogies while implying that adequate pedagogies of the digital age can be practiced in class rooms and on campus, as blended learning and as online learning, but to be such a pedagogy involves contributing to the overall goal of education from K-12 schools to university, as it has been put into words by Tony Bates:

“…it is not sufficient just to teach academic content (applied or not). It is equally important also to enable students to develop the ability to know how to find, analyse, organise and apply information/content within their professional and personal activities, to take responsibility for their own learning, and to be flexible and adaptable in developing new knowledge and skills. All this is needed because of the explosion in the quantity of knowledge in any professional field that makes it impossible to memorise or even be aware of all the developments that are happening in the field, and the need to keep up-to-date within the field after gradua-ting.” (Bates 2015:63).

Not all of the pedagogies on my list above might seem equally suited for all educational levels, but in fact most of the pedagogies on the list can work across the entire educational system after a few adjustments. In the case of rhizomatic learning, I introduced how a pedagogy and learning approach mainly aimed at higher education and postgraduate studies actually has been adapted for K-12 schools, too. The case can be found in Part 3 of this series. But nevertheless, the questions of disciplinary didactics still need to be asked: the questions of who, what, how, why, where, when are always at stake when a pedagogy is going to be the basis of teaching and learning in a specific discipline or subject matter, no matter what educational level we are at. The context of the domain, the discipline or the subject matter may change, but the questions remain. And any pedagogy up for choice would have to be evaluated against both this particular context and against the types of skills that students and learners need in the 21st century. In a roundup Tony Bates points out that this evaluation is vital:

“…First we can identify a number of different types of skills needed:

  • conceptual skills, such as knowledge management, critical thinking, analysis, synthesis, problem–solving, creativity/innovation, experimental design;
  • developmental or personal skills, such as independent learning, communications skills, ethics, networking, responsibility and teamwork;
  • digital skills, embedded within and related to a particular subject or professional domain;
  • manual and practical skills, such as machine and equipment operation, safety procedures, observation and recognition of data, patterns, and spatial factors.

…It is the combination of conceptual, practical, personal and social skills in highly complex situations that are needed. This again means combining a variety of teaching methods.” (Bates 2015:104-106)

These four types of skills correspond with pedagogies and approaches to teaching and learning that focus on collaborative, networked and distributed learning and are dealing with community, networks and complexity, just as the ones on my list.

Further reading:

Bates, Tony (2015): Teaching in a Digital Age

Bauman, Zygmunt (2001): Education: under, for and in spite of postmodernity, In The Individualized Society, Cambridge, UK: Polity

Bauman, Zygmunt and Mazzeo, Riccardo (2016): In Praise of Literature, Cambridge, UK and Malden, MA: Polity

Buckingham, David (2008): Introducing Identity, In Buckingham, David (Ed.): Youth, Identity, and Digital Media, Cambridge, MA and London, UK: The MIT Press

Darsø, Lotte (2001): Innovation in the Making, København: Samfundslitteratur (in English)

Garcia, Antero (Ed.)(2014): Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom, Irvine, CA: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub

Haythornthwaithe, Caroline (2015): Rethinking learning spaces: networks, structures, and possibilities for learning in the twenty-first century, Communication Research and Practice, 1:4, 292-306, DOI:10.1080/22041451.2015.1105773

Mortensen, Elna (2002): At gribe kompleksiteten. Æstetiske læreprocesser og IKT, In Gramkow, K., Lindhardt, L., og Lund, B. (Red.): Innovation, læring og undervisning, Aarhus: Systime

Salmon, Gilly: The Five Stage Model

Sharples, M., de Roock, R., Ferguson, R., Gaved, M., Herodotou, C., Koh, E., Kukulska-Hulme, A., Looi, C-K., McAndrew, P., Rienties, B., Weller, M., Wong, L.H. (2016): Innovating Pedagogy 2016: Open University Innovation Report 5, Milton Keynes: The Open University

Stewart, Bonnie (2013): Learning in The Open

Weller, Martin (2011): A pedagogy of abundance, revista española de pedagogia año LXIX, no 249, mayo-agosto, 223-236

Wheeler, Steve: Next Generation Learning

Photo by Petit-Louis on Flickr – CC By 2.0

Elna Mortensen

In an era of knowledge abundance – The End No 1

In an era of knowledge abundance – Part 5

complexityWhat if? Could it be that…? It is impossible, but still: why not try to…? These have been some of my starting questions throughout the exploratory processes of this series concerned with what a pedagogy of abundance might look like. While suggesting that rhizomatic learning could be such a pedagogy of abundance, I have taken on the challenge put forward by Martin Weller in his article “A pedagogy of abundance” (2011):

The issue for educators is twofold I would suggest: firstly how can they best take advantage of abundance in their own teaching practice, and secondly how do they best equip learners to make use of it? It is the second challenge that is perhaps the most significant. Exploring pedagogies of abundance will be essential for educators to meet the challenge and equip their learners with the skills they need in an age of digital abundance. (Weller 2011:232-233)

My exploration has intendedly been processes of experimentation and of developing knowledge about rhizomatic learning as a pedagogy, whereas I have not been that interested in discussing the way Dave Cormier has adopted, adapted and rewritten the theories of Deleuze and Guattari in his vision of rhizomatic learning. Others have done that. But the exploratory processes and the ongoing questioning also mean that I have been presenting views, assumptions and perspectives on rhizomatic learning as a pedagogy of abundance – views, assumptions and perspectives that are up for evaluation throughout this series.

It might be provoking that my voice hasn’t been a firm, authoritative academic voice, present at once, when it comes to rhizomatic learning in this series. That is what we are used to, and maybe implicitly expect in blogposts, too, even though the blog as genre is a genre that foregrounds processuality and ongoing reflection – a space of construction, experimentation and improvement. But I have rephrased views earlier on in this series, I have tried out how far similarities between networked learning and rhizomatic learning might vouch for rhizomatic learning being a variation of networked learning, and I have focused on communities of practice, serendipity and bricolage as important aspects of ‘community’ and ‘networking’ in rhizomatic learning. I’m going to evaluate and rephrase these aspects that I have attributed to rhizomatic learning once more, while stating that rhizomatic learning is not a version of networked learning.

Exploration is exploring an area over time for new possibilities, experimenting while building up a knowledge base, and sometimes acquiring new knowledge through serendipity or through searching for interesting problems, (Darsø 2001:76). My exploratory approach in this series has been about asking curious questions, trying out hypotheses and making mistakes, then starting out somewhere else and eventually having to reconsider my previous analysis and viewpoints and assumptions once again. Much along the same line that Michelle Knobel and Judy Kalman point out teachers need to go:

Creativity and change require an ability to brave the unknown and a willingness to try, rethink and redo…While it is widely recognized that failure is an integral part of learning, it is often not welcome or ignored in professional development context or classrooms. Teachers have to be at ease with mistakes and taking risks when trying to learn something new; they’re also well served by appreciating what making mistakes and trying to correct them means for their students. Placing teachers in the learners’ seat is as much a part of their professional development as is theorizing education, critiquing policy, or analyzing practices. (Knobel and Kalman 2016:15)

Knobel and Kalman write about teachers’ professional development but to me this is also very much becoming the practical precondition for taking on Weller’s claim and exploring pedagogies of abundance. And when it comes to discussing pedagogies and necessary skills in an era of knowledge abundance, this is also what the researchers introduced in this series all recommend: rethink, reexamine, reimagine, recast, evaluate, update, redo the existing pedagogies and our models of learning and teaching to suit a world of knowledge abundance embracing digital media and new social and cultural practices.

Two pedagogies dealing with community, networks, complexity

The pedagogies and learning theories that are up for consideration as pedagogies and learning approaches of abundance all focus on collaborative, networked and distributed learning, and as social and situated pedagogies and learning theories they foster and build on self-directed learning and participatory culture. That counts for rhizomatic learning and networked learning, too. So there are a great many similarities between rhizomatic learning and networked learning, and in this series I wanted to challenge my understanding of what rhizomatic learning is as a pedagogy by comparing it to networked learning, taking off from a broader conception of open networked learning as it is presented by Kop, Fournier and Mak (2011)(see Part 1 of this series).

This broader and descriptive conception unfolds a perspective that includes connectivism as networked learning and shows an understanding of networked learning that is not compatible with the dominating understanding of networked learning as a theory, pedagogy and practices according to Ryberg, Buus and Georgsen who distinguish between connectivism and networked learning (Ryberg, Buus and Georgsen 2012:44-45). I introduced this dominating understanding of networked learning in Part 4 of this series, and it places rhizomatic learning – where each learner brings his/her context and has his/her own needs as a starting point – as a parallel to connectivism as a pedagogy and approach to learning that is not included in networked learning, and so rhizomatic learning is not a variation of (open) networked learning, although I claimed that in Part 1 and Part 4 of this series.

Despite the fact that rhizomatic learning and networked learning are having keywords, concepts and educational values in common, they are not the same and must be seen as two distinct theories with pedagogies and practices that in many ways respond similarly to societal developments and changes in education, teaching and learning. In his video “Embracing Uncertainty – Rhizomatic Learning” (2012) Dave Cormier in fact comments on many people’s assumptions that rhizomatic learning is networked learning and agrees to some degree that they look the same, but he also maintains that they are not. And I agree with him, but my comparison with networked learning – starting with my asking “What if?”, “Could it be that…?” – has made visible where some of the challenges might occur when choosing rhizomatic learning as a pedagogy of abundance in a campus-based course integrating online-learning. The theory, pedagogy and practice of rhizomatic learning certainly resisted being forced into the pedagogical framework of networked learning. This calls for a few precisions, definitions and comments in order to see rhizomatic learning and networked learning as two distinct theories, pedagogies and practices that in each their way are responding to an emerging new model of education (see Part 1 of this series) and a shift to an era of knowledge abundance.

Networks and community are equally important to rhizomatic learning and networked learning, and in my presentation of Dave Cormier’s campus-based course integrating online-learning drawing on his e-book “Making the community the curriculum” (2016) in Part 2, I saw a community of practice as the framework that can give direction to the learning processes initiated by the rhizome as a metaphor for the learning process. I listened to Dave Cormier presenting his idea of the rhizome, and in the embedded video “A talk on Rhizomatic Learning for ETMOOC” (2013) I heard him point to a community of practice as the kind of community he works with. I listened many times and I quoted what I heard. But I must have been wrong. Frances Bell and Jenny Mackness have kindly told me that Dave Cormier is not promoting a community of practice in his theory or pedagogy but just a community, and it is true that Cormier usually doesn’t define what he means by community in his writings or in his talks on video (Bell, Mackness & Funes 2016). So I have to admit that most places where I have written ‘communities of practice’ in relation to rhizomatic learning in this series it should have said ‘community’ in order to be true to Cormier’s way of conceiving rhizomatic learning. Nevertheless, the descriptions of the campus-based course integrating online-learning and the way the community is integrated into the learning processes introduced in the e-book still look very much like the practices of a community of practice to me.

A statement that definitely differentiates rhizomatic learning from networked learning is the comment I quoted in Part 2 of this series: “First rule of community learning is to give up control…” (A talk on Rhizomatic Learning for ETMOOC (2013) – embedded in Making the community the curriculum (2016)). It is a comment that in many ways is provokingly in opposition to the pedagogical values of networked learning as they are introduced in Part 4 of this series. The resistance to conformity that is inherent in rhizomatic learning as a learning approach became visible when I tried to fit the four cornerstones of rhizomatic learning into the design and processuality of a facilitated learning process much more consistent with networked learning (see Part 2 of this series). When dealing with education the rhizomatic way, students have to develop an understanding of the learning process they are going through while they are going through it, Dave Cormier says:

  • Students have to understand what they are looking for when joining the course.
  • Students have to take it upon themselves to engage and to continue to grow.
  • Students have to choose and to make a syllabus for themselves through connecting, responding and collaborating.
  • Students have to understand what it is to learn and what it is to know in a subject matter or a discipline and to be able to make decisions about how to create their own learning within that process.

So when I asked for a learning process that is facilitating, modelling and scaffolding students to get to know and understand what it is to learn, what it is to know and negotiate meaning, and what counts as knowledge in a discipline or a subject matter, I was in accordance with networked learning, whereas Dave Cormier clearly promotes self-directed learning right from the beginning of the learning process.

Networks play an equally important part of the understanding of learning in rhizomatic learning and networked learning, but as social and distributed theories they differ in their understanding of what a network is. The rhizome is a special kind of network that is non-linear, multi-perspective, heterogeneous and growing in any direction. But in part 1 I already added two concepts, serendipity and bricolage, to my description of the rhizome, knowing that none of them are part of Deleuze and Guattari’s writing. I did it to emphasize the chances of discovering new people, unknown resources, innovating ideas and knowledge through networking and thus describe the rhizome as a network that spreads via experimentation in a context, as Dave Cormier has put it in his talk “Embracing Uncertainty – Rhizomatic learning” (2012). This way the rhizome as a network combines the processes of networking with connecting knowledge in ever changing constellations, in assemblages with no entry point and no exit point. This exploratory aspect of networking is crucial to understanding the rhizome as the motor in rhizomatic learning when it comes to creating new, accurate and up-to-date knowledge. Apparently it is a self-perpetuating process once it has started but a process that may at the same time underexpose and overexpose the node in the processes of connecting ideas, people, resources and knowledge. It might almost seem more important to connect than what and who you connect with or where, when, how and why you connect.

When I called for a kind of balance between networks and community in Part 4 of this series, it turned out to be one of the aspects where rhizomatic learning resists my comparison with networked learning:

“But there needs to be some kind of balance to see rhizomatic learning as a variation of networked learning: a balance between the messy and sometime chaotic self-directed learning processes where individuals form and determine their own routes and learning through connecting to people and resources, and the open and mutual engagement in a learning community based on participatory culture and knowledge construction.“

After all, the balance between networks and community I advocate here is more a balance of networked learning – assuming that the community is existing prior to the learning process – than that of rhizomatic learning, as rhizomatic learning leaves room for smaller groups or individuals to break away. The community is not necessarily a stable group but an emergent grouping formed on the basis of interest and a result of ongoing networking in rhizomatic learning.

Networked learning makes room for several types of network theories within the framework of the theory, but social network analysis (SNA) might be at the centre as with Maarten de Laat when he defines “learning as a social network relationship” in Part 4 of this series (De Laat 2012:27; Haythornthwaite & De Laat 2010). With its focus on strong and weak ties social network analysis is integrated in De Laat’s definition of networked learning as a perspective: “…that aims to understand social learning processes by asking how people develop and maintain a ‘web’ of social relations used for learning and development…” (De Laat 2012:26). In Part 4 I also focused on personal learning networks as a road to collaboration and participation in networked learning, but I think it is important to add the distinctions Haythornthwaite and De Laat make when  individual’s personal learning networks are integrated in a learning network as it is intended seen from a networked learning perspective. They add the two social network terms ‘ego-centric networks’ and ‘whole networks’. The ego-centric network is a personal network seen from the individual’s point of view and has the learner at the centre of the network as presented in part 4, and the term was also used by Rajagopal, Brinke, Van Bruggen and Sloep as a synonym for the personal learning network in their article presented in Part 4:

Considering the network from the learner’s perspective provides a view of who they learn from (beyond peers), but also where conflicts in understanding may come from (e.g., unvetted online resources). It also reveals the conflicting – or complementary – demands on individuals… (Haythornthwaite and De Laat 2010:189)

On the other hand, the whole network view opens up to insights into how information and learning is occurring across a set of people, and this view is what we usually associate with social network analysis (SNA):

A whole network perspective provides a view of the entire structure, and thus of the ‘character’ of the network to which an individual belongs. Is the network collaborative: e.g., do most or all people freely share information, engage in discussion, or help search for information? Is the network divided into cliques, and if so on what basis (information hoarding? different interests? separate tasks?). Perhaps the most important contribution to SNA is this whole network view that takes the results of pair-wise connections to describe what holds the network together. As we begin to use SNA to examine and reveal learning networks, we are just at the beginning of understanding how and what makes for the kind of network outcomes we desire. (Haythornthwaite & De Laat 2010:189)

Social network analysis is not only a matter for educators but also for students to become aware of, and so both the skills, the competencies and the understanding of how to build and maintain ego-centric networks (personal learning networks) and how to use the social network analysis perspective must be part of what students know about networks and networking seen from a networked learning perspective. So here networked learning is much more specific than rhizomatic learning about what networks, networking literacies and learning literacies are and what must be integrated in a pedagogy of abundance. The way networks are applied in practice in rhizomatic learning and networked learning differ due to the differences in the conception of networks in the two learning theories. And still, I would like serendipity, bricolage and a bit of messiness to become part of social networking in networked learning in order to accentuate the necessity for diversity, inquiry and exploration if learning is going to happen and new knowledge to evolve.

I have tried to keep my own exploration open and running for as long as possible. My comparison between rhizomatic learning and networked learning has tended to join the two learning theories and pedagogies together to an extend that has more or less merged the two into one and the same in Part 4 of this series, until my exploration collapsed. It happened when I made the impossible attempt to merge in the design principles of rhizomatic learning with the principles and goals of networked learning. It is a paragraph of absurd prose.

And although I’m now ripping the bonds apart, there is yet another keyword that rhizomatic learning and networked learning have in common: complexity. Dealing with change, uncertainty and complexity are equally concerns and backdrops for the two learning theories. In this post-modern or late modern context complexity can be seen as a trend in education that is closely connected to seeing fluidity, contingency and emergence as characteristics of the post-modern or late modern which also changes the understanding of what counts as knowledge: knowledge is dynamic, continuously changing and emergent. This understanding of knowledge is based on complexity theory that stresses non-linearity, unpredictability and disorder as normal conditions, and as a consequence knowledge can be characterized as 1) indeterminate, 2) emergent and self-organizing, 3) both-and, 4) dominated by uncertainty, 5) emphasizing potentiality, and 6) working in a participatory universe (Darsø 2001:91).

I presented Maarten de Laat’s call for ‘New learning’ in Part 4:

maarten-de-laat-networked-learning-in-open-practices-slide1Maarten de Laat: Networked Learning in Open Practices (2015)

and in her talk “New Metaphors for Networked Learning”  (2016) Caroline Haythornthwaite also advocates for opening up to complexity at many levels of education, stating that “Structure giving way to complexity”. She sees complexity as one of a number of trends that are at work simultaneously and have effects on learning, information dissemination and knowledge production (Haythormthwaite 2015:294).

Both De Laat and Haythornthwaithe respond to the challenges in Martin Weller’s educational model of abundance from a networked learning perspective and embrace change and complexity in both learning and education to meet these challenges. In many ways Caroline Haythornthwaite is complementary to Martin Weller’s model when she puts forward her view on the impact of social and technical changes on emergent models of knowledge and practice:

The dynamic and emergent nature of our media and learning spaces reformulates questions away from what is the best structure, system, or set of facts to address a problem to how to plan for complexity, be prepared for emergent factors, and continue to evolve and use a knowledge base. This changes the orientation from: closed systems and communities to open systems and crowds; information retrieval to contribution; individual – to – social learning; individual – to – community knowledge-building (Scardamalia and Bereiter, 2006); authority-defined knowledge and practice – to – peer knowledge and practice; following a class syllabus and being in a class to defining the content of the class and what it means to be in a class (Paulin & Haythornthwaite, in press)./This is not a call for a clean sweep of past questions and practices. These have worked well for many years and continue to be important ways of learning and knowledge building. But, like the complexity brought about by the interplay of contemporary new media trends, learning practices also have become more complex. (Haythornthwaite 2015:302)

Likewise Dave Cormier has sharpened his perspective on complexity in his recent talk “The rhizomatic lense – seeing learning from the perspective of abundance” (2015). When discussing how and why rhizomatic learning is supporting complexity in a world of abundance Cormier positions rhizomatic learning as an ‘answer’ to my inquiry about what a pedagogy of abundance might look like:

And still, despite the resemblances and the parallels in keywords, concepts and educational values, the question of what counts as knowledge is exactly where it becomes evident to me, that rhizomatic learning is not a variation of networked learning. So it is time to break off the experiment of comparison and introduce a change of perspective in my exploration while asking: how is rhizomatic learning working on reinstalling the complex domain in disciplines and subject matters and how is complexity linked to the aim of being a pedagogy that promotes and fosters new, accurate and up-to-date knowledge and innovation in a world of abundance. This is also a matter of what counts as knowledge in rhizomatic learning.

Knowledge and knowledge management in an era of knowledge abundance

In an era of knowledge abundance and knowledge being connected through digital media, knowledge management becomes an important aspect of learning and education. How to find, handle, interpret, validate, negotiate, create, improve, apply and share information and knowledge through connecting , communication and collaboration with online resources, experts, peers, networks, communities and communities of practice is essential in the processes of knowledge creation, I wrote in Part 1 of this series. And in his e-book “Teaching in a Digital Age” (2015) Tony Bates adds that knowledge management is perhaps the most overarching skill needed in the 21st century, as “Knowledge is not only rapidly changing with new research, new developments, and rapid dissemination of ideas and practices over the Internet, but the sources of information are increasing, with a great deal of variability in the reliability or validity of information.” (Bates 2015:19). And this is a double challenge to any pedagogy of abundance, I would say.  But there are different views of what constitutes knowledge, how knowledge is acquired, and how knowledge is validated depending on the domain, the discipline or the subject matter in question. So Bates agrees with the view on knowledge as dynamic, expanding and constantly changing which has been introduced by Maarten De Laat, Caroline Haythornthwaite and Dave Cormier. But Bates resists the idea advocated by among others Dave Cormier that the nature of knowledge has undergone radical changes (Bates 2015:62).

As a backdrop for understanding what constitutes knowledge, how knowledge is acquired, and how knowledge is validated in rhizomatic learning, I’ll dwell on Tony Bates’ arguments about knowledge and academic knowledge in a digital age. While discussing academic versus applied knowledge in his book, Bates comments: “The difficulty I have with the broad generalisations about the changing nature of knowledge is that there have always been different kinds of knowledge…Thus while beliefs about what constitutes ‘important’ knowledge may be changing, this does not mean that the nature of academic knowledge is changing.” (Bates 2015:62). And Bates develops his arguments:

I agree that academic knowledge is different from everyday knowledge, but I challenge the view that academic knowledge is ‘pure’, not applied. It is too narrow a definition, because it thus excludes all the professional schools and disciplines, such as engineering, medicine, law, business, education that ‘apply’ academic knowledge. These are just as accepted and ‘valued’ parts of universities and colleges as the ‘pure’ disciplines of humanities and science…(Bates 2015:62-63)

These arguments are also met within the views on new production of knowledge by Gibbons, Limoges, Nowotny et al as they promote two modes of knowledge production: Mode 1 and Mode 2. Mode 1 is focused within a particular discipline, produces knowledge in the absence of interested parties (autonomy), is an individual matter with criteria of one particular discipline (peer reviewed publications, peers and experts as gatekeepers in relation to relevant problems, ideas and research techniques in the discipline, making quality and control two sides of the same coin while establishing an understanding of what good or ‘correct’ research is inside that particular discipline). Mode 1 is associated with ‘traditional’ research in universities and higher education, but it is also an ideal of knowledge production that is already taught in K-12 schools.

Mode 2 is focused on application in practice. Mode 2 knowledge production is set in a web of co-producers coming from different disciplines, domains and contexts, and Mode 2 is centered on the usefulness for the involved parties and for the society in general, so heterogenous groups of professionals, practitioners and experts collaborate on problems defined in a specific but complex context of application and people. This makes Mode 2 a collective phenomenon with a wider set of criteria that is not grounded in a normative understanding of what good or ‘correct’ research is, but has to be evaluated from several parameters of quality due to the heterogenous group of people involved and their different norms of quality. So Mode 2 is transdisciplinary and heterogenous. Mode 2 knowledge production is taking place not only at universities and colleges but also in contexts like professions, businesses, research centres, libraries, museums, trades and ministries (Darsø 2001:126-127; Hobel, Nielsen, Thomsen and Zeuner 2015:14-16).

As in Tony Bates’ discussion of academic versus applied knowledge, Mode 1 and Mode 2 are to be seen as modes of knowledge production supplementing each other. Mode 1 has not become obsolete, and it is still needed and has its role to play in knowledge production in an era of knowledge abundance. Mode 2 knowledge is to be considered just as valid as Mode 1 knowledge. And the two of them are interdependent on many occasions. The production of Mode 1 knowledge is obviously associated with academic knowledge which is a specific kind of knowledge according to Tony Bates:

“In summary, academic knowledge is a second order form of knowledge that seeks abstractions and generalization based on reasoning and evidence.

Fundamental components of academic knowledge are:

  • transparency
  • codification
  • reproduction, and
  • communicability.

Transparency means that the source can be traced and verified. Codification means that the knowledge can be consistently represented in some form (words, symbols, videos) that enables interpretation by someone other than the originator. Knowledge can be reproduced or have multiple copies. Lastly knowledge must be in a form such that it can be communicated and challenged by others.” (Bates 2015:61)

When it comes to academic knowledge, Bates argues that although some aspects of knowledge do change in a digital age where knowledge is dynamic, expanding and ever changing as quoted earlier, academic knowledge does not and should not change a lot with regards to its values and goals. But Bates has his eyes on the necessity for the students of today to learn not only content but also how it can be applied and used and to develop the skills that are needed to go on learning (Bates 2015:61). Knowledge involves, Bates says, “…two strongly inter-linked but different components: content and skills. Content includes facts, ideas, principles, evidence and descriptions of processes and procedures.” (Bates 2015:18), while skills are consisting of the skills that are required in a knowledge-based society – also known as 21st century skills and presented in the model of 21st century learning in Part 3 of this series.  To Bates the point is that the development of skills should be given the same attention as content acquisition so that learners have both the knowledge and the skills to handle and succeed in an era of knowledge abundance (Bates 2015:19). And as mentioned earlier: knowledge management is the most important skill of them all.

So Bates wants to develop the conception of academic knowledge, but he doesn’t see it as redundant or as a kind of knowledge that can be replaced by self-directed learning and networking (Bates 2015:66). Here Bates’ view almost echoes the view on past and emergent models of knowledge and practice presented by Caroline Haythornthwaithe earlier. Mode 1 knowledge has to go hand in hand with Mode 2 knowledge, and likewise learning has to be a combination of content, skills and competencies, and attitudes. At least this is how I read Tony Bates, and that is the reason why “…it is not sufficient just to teach academic content (applied or not). It is equally important also to enable students to develop the ability to know how to find, analyse, organise and apply information/content within their professional and personal activities, to take responsibility for their own learning, and to be flexible and adaptable in developing new knowledge and skills. All this is needed because of the explosion in the quantity of knowledge in any professional field that makes it impossible to memorise or even be aware of all the developments that are happening in the field, and the need to keep up-to-date within the field after graduating.” (Bates 2015:63).

What counts as knowledge in rhizomatic learning?

What counts as knowledge in rhizomatic learning? How is rhizomatic learning working on reinstalling the complex domain in disciplines and subject matters, and does it make innovation happen? Looking at rhizomatic learning as a model for knowledge production suited for an era of ever changing knowledge, knowledge management becomes a core theme closely connected to the question of how we know what we know. And while Tony Bates equally emphasizes Mode 1 and Mode 2 knowledge as important forms of knowledge in an era of knowledge abundance, supplementing each other, Dave Cormier focuses on Mode 2 knowledge and knowledge production as a collective phenomenon while he is in alignment with the view of knowledge introduced in Martin Weller’s educational model of abundance (see Part 1 of this series):

  • A change to a more participatory, socially constructed view of knowledge is needed to suit a demand-pull model of education.
  • New technologies are the basis in realizing this new conception of knowledge as networked and socially constructed. (Weller 2011:228)

In his much cited article “Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum” (2008) Dave Cormier supports this view due to its promotion of new technology, web 2.0 and participatory culture:

The existing educational model with its expert-centered pedagogical planning and publishing cycle is too static and prescribed to accommodate the kind of fluid, transitory conception of knowledge that is necessary to understand the simplest of Web-based concepts. The ephemeral nature of the Web and the rate at which cutting-edge knowledge about it and on it becomes obsolete disrupts the painstaking process by which knowledge has traditionally been codified. Traditional curricular domains are based on long accepted knowledge, and the “experts” in those domains are easily identified by comparing their assertions with the canon of accepted thought (Banks 1993);…In less-traditional curricular domains then, knowledge creators are not accurately epitomized as traditional, formal, verified experts; rather, knowledge in these areas is created by a broad collection of knowers sharing in the construction and ongoing evolution of a given field. Knowledge becomes a negotiation (Farrell 2001). (Cormier 2008)

Tony Bates discussion of academic knowledge, Mode 1 and Mode 2 knowledge echoes in Cormier’s writing, and while supporting Weller’s claim for a changing view on knowledge, Cormier especially opposes the rules of transparency, codification and communicability as aspects of reliability and validity of information and knowledge in traditional academic knowledge management:

New communication technologies and the speeds at which they allow the dissemination of information and the conversion of information to knowledge have forced us to reexamine what constitutes knowledge; moreover, it has encouraged us to take a critical look at where it can be found and how it can be validated. The explosion of freely available sources of information has helped drive rapid expansion in the accessibility of the canon and in the range of knowledge available to learners. (Cormier 2008)

Thus the foundations upon which we are working are changing as well as the speed at which new information must be integrated into those foundations. The traditional method of expert translation of information to knowledge requires time: time for expertise to be brought to bear on new information, time for peer review and validation. In the current climate, however, the delay could make the knowledge itself outdated by the time it is verified (Evans and Hayes 2005; Meile 2005)…Information is coming too fast for our traditional methods of expert verification to adapt. (Cormier 2008)

In favour of Mode 2 knowledge production Dave Cormier also goes along with a change to a more participatory and socially constructed view of knowledge: “In particular, social learning practices are allowing for a more discursive rhizomatic approach to knowledge discovery. Social learning is the practice of working in groups, not only to explore an established canon but also to negotiate what qualifies as knowledge.” (Cormier 2008). Here Cormier proposes his view of knowledge: knowledge is dynamic, emergent and ever changing – a view that is grounded in the rhizome as a more flexible conception of knowledge for the digital age. So in the theoretical arguments framing rhizomatic learning as a pedagogy of abundance, the rhizome is both 1) a conception of knowledge (what knowledge is), 2) a specific kind of network (what it means to know), and 3) a metaphor for learning in a specific context (what it means to learn). And so, as a multi-perspective metaphor, the rhizome cristallizes as a metaphor for “coping with the loss of a canon against which to compare, judge, and value knowledge.” (Cormier 2008). Cormiers answer to this condition of uncertainty is to focus on complex problems and collaborative problem-solving that match the complexity and uncertainty of rapidly changing knowledge and the abundance of ideas, resources, people and practices online.

Through the solving of complex problems that call for networking and collaborative interaction while experimenting, developing and co-creating new, accurate and up-to-date knowledge, Cormier challenges authoritarian and hierarchical ways of thinking and claims to replace the canon and the curriculum of a discipline or subject matter with interpretations, negotiations, peer-defined knowledge and practice, and with diverse and changing perspectives on complex problems set in a complex situation and context. The idea of the tree as knowledge is substituted for the idea of weed as knowledge as Cormier expresses it in his talk “The rhizomatic lense – seeing learning from the perspective of abundance” (2015). Stressing the processuality of rhizomatic learning this way, Cormier emphasizes that knowledge is not a thing but a result of negotiation and a way of knowing. And so Dave Cormier tries to save knowing from becoming a fixed canon of ‘pure’ content. It is this dichotomy between ‘pure’ and applied knowledge Tony Bates offers resistance to in “Teaching in a Digital Age” (2015), and in a sense Cormier tries to overcome the dichotomy when he adopts Dave Snowden’s The Cynefin Framework as the complexity model he connects to and combines with his own conception of knowledge in order to establish a vision of learning: rhizomatic learning works in the complex domain of The Cynefin Framework.

As a complexity model The Cynefin Framework presents four “domains of knowledge all of which have validity within different contexts” (Snowden 2002:11), and in an early article Snowden announces that “It is about creating focused dynamic interactions between traditional and unexpected sources of knowledge to enable the emergence of new meaning and insight.” (Snowden 2002:3). Knowledge is not just to be considered a thing but also to be managed as flow, “…as an ephemeral, active process of relating.” (Snowden 2002:5-6). So as a complexity model The Cynefin Framework works with both-and, with paradox:

Philosophers have long seen paradox as a means of creating new knowledge and understanding. Physicists breaking out of the Newtonian era have had to accept that electrons are paradoxically both waves and particles – if you look for waves, you see waves, if you look for particles, you see particles. Properly understood knowledge is paradoxically both a thing and a flow…we look for both in different ways and embrace the consequent paradox. (Snowden 2002:7)

This sounds familiar to me, there is alignment with the ideas of rhizomatic learning, and in fact there is also a paradox entangled in the rhizomatic learning process: students following their own paths like rhizomes while getting accustomed to lines of flight and flow. As I wrote in Part 3 of this series an important aspect of rhizomatic learning as a pedagogy is that in many ways it turns the ‘end goals’ of a traditional learning process into its starting point: as a student you need to know what you have come in to learn when you enter the rhizomatic learning process, but to know what you have come in to learn implies critical thinking, reflection and independence, and that is paradoxically also what and why you have come in to learn. By introducing non-linearity in the form of the rhizome as a metaphor for learning in an experimenting, multi-nodal, multi-directional, multi-perspective and participatory way, learning itself becomes a complex system that is a network of many interdependent parts which interact according to the context.

A parallel can be found in Dave Snowden’s article where he describes the processes of the complex domain this way:

By increasing information flow, variety and connective-ness either singly or in combination, we can break down existing patterns and create the conditions under which new patterns will emerge, although the nature of emergence is not predictable. (Snowden 2002:16).

It is these processes of grasping relationships and recognizing changes in culture, Dave Cormier tries to initiate by describing the phases of the students’ self-directed learning processes as 1) orient, 2) declare, 3) network, 4) cluster, and 5) focus (Cormier 2015). The unpredictability of the non-linear dynamic exploration and connection of knowledge, people, resources and ideas is kept in a kind of balance by a sense of insight and temporary order through working in informal communities (cluster) and focusing on the complex problems and challenges chosen in order to co-create new, accurate and up-to-date knowledge. But there are also traces of the domain of chaos in rhizomatic learning as a pedagogy: it is the uncharted domain focusing on new and innovative knowledge and working through temporary communities (Snowden 2002:10-13).

The complex domain is a domain of informal learning according to Snowden: “…we create ecologies in which the informal communities of the complex domain can self-organise and self-manage their knowledge to transfer to the formal, knowable [complicated] domain on a just in time basis.” (Snowden 2002:19). And ‘just in time’ requires openness to networks. But when Snowden in his article insists on keeping a connection between complex and complicated, informal and formal, and between learning and teaching when it comes to an educational context, Cormier focuses wholeheartedly on the complex domain and students following their own pathways in his introductions to rhizomatic learning in the video talks embedded in this series.

That is, Dave Snowden is intensely concerned about the exchange and flow of knowledge between the four domains in his complexity model, while – although he recognizes the dialogue between the complex and the complicated domains – Dave Cormier seems to see the complex domain as an alternative to the ‘traditional’ knowledge production in the complicated domain as he writes in his article:

If a given bit of information is recognized as useful to the community or proves itself able to do something, it can be counted as knowledge. The community, then, has the power to create knowledge within a given context and leave that knowledge as a new node connected to the rest of the network. (Cormier 2008)

Informal learning is connected to the complex domain in Dave Snowden’s complexity model, and his vision of the community is associated with clustering – communities being based on mutual interest – and with swarming like in swarming bees as an alternative that “is used where no naturally occurring cluster can be found, either to create a cluster or to make one visible.” (Snowden 2002:21). Snowden’s conceptualizations match Cormier’s emphasis on initiating informal learning through introduction to an existing professional community where students can participate, and the processes of clustering and swarming, forming temporary communities, look very similar to the learning approach of rhizomatic learning that the student has to adapt and perform in order to learn what he/she has come in to learn: 1) orient, 2) declare, 3) network, 4) cluster, and 5) focus. I think the answer to why community is not to be understood as a community of practice in rhizomatic learning can be found here: the metaphor of swarming, the idea of clustering and the heterogeneity and temporary existence of them both goes against the idea of what a community of practice is in The Cynefyn Framework: a community based on known membership and known objectives and belonging to the complicated domain, not the complex. So social learning has a special meaning in rhizomatic learning as it connects students following their own pathways into clusters for a while where the processes of knowledge production and negotiation of meaning causes learning based on a social constructivist view of learning.

Aiming at bringing the knowledge flow of complexity at work in a pedagogical and educational context, rhizomatic learning has an affinity with Dave Snowden’s thinking – and not with networked learning – as it becomes very visible with Snowden’s characterization of The Cynefin Framework:

…an idealised model of knowledge flow involving three key boundary transitions – the disruption of entrained thinking, the creation and stimulation of informal communities and the just in time transfer of knowledge from informal to formal.(Snowden 2002:18)

But in his visions for learning Dave Cormier at the same time sketches what he sees as a key issue for a pedagogy and a practice that incapsulates the conditions of complexity in a digital age: “…a weird historical process has happened: as we have got more abundant access to knowledge, we have reduced the complexity of the teaching.” (Cormier 2015). In Cormier’s world abundance is synonymous with fact checking and how to-videos online, with foundational knowledge and surveys a few clicks away, as he presents it in his talk “The rhizomatic lense –seeing learning from the perspective of abundance” (2015). Abundance understood as the explosion in the quantity of knowledge – stressing heterogeneity and a diversity of knowledge, ideas, resources and people being available – is what is associated with complexity in Cormier’s world, and that is what qualifies rhizomatic learning to be seen as a pedagogy of abundance according to Martin Weller’s educational model of education (see Part 1).

This focus on knowledge production, on the other hand, calls for a pedagogical attention to teaching students how to be sure they enter and stay in the complex domain, and this has all to do with acquiring skills, competencies and meta knowledge about knowledge management, I think. In the complex domain both problems and solutions are ambiguous, so you’ll have to ask not just good questions but complex questions that deal with relevant and critical just in time problems, and there are no correct answers but possibilities coming from connecting knowledge, people, ideas and resources while crossing the borders of disciplines, subject matters and institutions. Complex problem-solving is about asking new and open questions, about recycling and combining the information and knowledge already available while coping with paradoxes, about finding new methods, and about trying to rethink and reimagine preconditions, understandings, norms and values. This is where networking and interdisciplinarity play a crucial role along with negotiating meaning, where the possibilities of networks and serendipity are tried out, and problem-solving and heterogeneity meet and stimulate each other. Understanding dynamic processes and complex contexts are the hearth of the matter here. As Mode 2 knowledge production, knowledge production in rhizomatic learning is focused on application in practice of actual, relevant problem-solving and set in a web of co-producers coming from different disciplines, domains and contexts as described earlier. But introducing students to a full description of what, how, why, where and when to do to enter and stay in the complex domain is not a part of Dave Cormier’s pedagogical considerations.

Innovation is an asset of the pedagogy of rhizomatic learning and implicitly connected to the practice of rhizomatic learning where the processes of qualifying new knowledge might produce innovation (Darsø 2001:29) – and when comparing with Cormier’s thinking about what counts as knowledge, it seems that it is rather radical innovation than incremental innovation that is the purpose. Innovation is about producing something new, that has to be useful and have value and it has to be usable and applicable in practice. And value has to be understood in the broadest possible sense, not just in the economical sense. The new – whether it is knowledge, procedures, methods, programming or artefacts – is not an innovation until it has been proven usable and valuable in practice and accepted by its users. And this is exactly what the complex domain – and especially the domain of chaos – is about in Dave Snowden’s thinking: an emergent practice focused on producing the new, the different, the unique (Snowden 2010). So students will have to master not only entering and staying in the complex domain but also to try to work actively with producing innovative knowledge in order to accomplish the rhizomatic quest, but I don’t think they will get there by navigating the complexity only.

Students will need to know how to work with the uncharted and with ‘unknowledge’, that is asking questions about the knowledge you don’t know you don’t know, and asking questions about areas you didn’t know existed, by asking “What if?”, “Could it be that…?, “It is impossible, but still: why not try to…?”. That would also be a start working deliberately, creatively, critically and reflective not only with uncertainty and complexity, understanding dynamic processes and changing perspectives, but also with producing new knowledge and innovation. As it is, there is no guarantee that rhizomatic learning as a pedagogy and a practice produces anything but knowledge that is new to the students but well known to the experts, the discipline, the subject matter or the social practice. Students still need to learn and be taught how to. But by saying that, I have left the informal space of rhizomatic learning.

A conclusion and almost the end of my exploration

The question of what counts as knowledge is what distinguishes rhizomatic learning from networked learning. Rhizomatic learning is concerned with producing innovative Mode 2 knowledge and based on a social constructivist view on learning, as far as I can see, as the starting point of the rhizomatic learning process is the individual learner or student. Networked learning, on the other hand, is engaged in working with foundational knowledge and Mode 1 knowledge as well as Mode 2 knowledge production, as I see it. Networked learning strives to keep a connection between teaching and learning, formal and informal education, and deals with both the simple, the complicated and the complex domains in Dave Snowden’s complexity model, so to say, whereas rhizomatic learning has its specific focus on self-directed learning and preferably in informal spaces in the complex domain. Networked learning is based on a socio-cultural perspective on learning and teaching (Hodgson, McConnell and Dirckinck-Holmfeld 2012:292-293; Ryberg, Buus and Georgsen 2012:51). This is the reason why networked learning values more strongly tied groups and communities of practice/learning/inquiry/knowledge – contrary to rhizomatic learning – while building on collaborative interdependences between learners and on relational dialogue, critical reflexivity and shared experiences during the learning processes:

“Rather, learning and knowledge construction is located in the connections and interactions between learners, teacher and resources, and seen as emerging from critical dialogues and enquiries. As such, networked learning theory seems to encompass an understanding of learning as a social, relational phenomenon, and a view of knowledge and identity as constructed through interaction and dialogue.” (Ryberg, Buus and Georgsen 2012:45)

“…there is a shift from seeing knowledge as an object to seeing knowing and indeed learning as a situated activity and something people “do” together, collectively and socially.” (Hodgson, De Laat, McConnell and Ryberg 2014:22)

I won’t blame you, if you still find it hard to see and understand the differences and distinctions between rhizomatic learning and networked learning. It can still be difficult to grasp that the definition of networked learning, quoted at the beginning of Part 4 in this series, doesn’t cover rhizomatic learning, too. You need to dig deep down into these two pedagogies to find out that they are not the same. And it shows that it might not be that easy to take on Martin Weller’s challenge and start exploring and experimenting with possible pedagogies of abundance. But it is also necessary to remember that these two pedagogies and practices of abundance might not be fully developed, described, conceptualized or theorized, even though networked learning has a quite long history by now. They might still be considered pedagogies in the making, so to speak.

I have come to an end with my exploration and I will conclude firstly that rhizomatic learning is a pedagogy of abundance not only in Dave Cormier’s view but also in the sense of Martin Weller. There is agreement between Weller’s educational model of abundance and the principal lines in Cormier’s thinking. Secondly I’ll repeat that rhizomatic learning is not a version of (open) networked learning as this blogpost hopefully has proved.  And thirdly it is equally important to stress that networked learning is not a generic term for several pedagogies of abundance but a specific pedagogy with a range of specific practices and a possible pedagogical choise for an era of knowledge abundance side by side with among others problem based learning, communities of practice, connectivism, rhizomatic learning and connected learning.

Is there anything left to say then? Well, after all I think there is still a little summing up to be done on pedagogies of abundance in general. It is not quite the end yet.

Further reading:

Bates, Tony (2015): Teaching in a Digital Age

Bell, Frances, Mackness, Jenny and Funes, Mariana (2016): Participant Association and Emergent Curriculum in a MOOC: Can the Community be the Curriculum?, Research in Learning Technology 2016, 24: 29927 – http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/rlt.v24.29927

Cormier, Dave (2016): Making the community the curriculum

Cormier, Dave (2015): The rhizomatic lense – seeing learning from the perspective of abundance. IATED talks

Cormier, Dave (2012): Embracing Uncertainty – Rhizomatic learning

Cormier, Dave (2008): Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum, Dave’s Educational Blog

Darsø, Lotte (2001): Innovation in the Making, Samfundslitteratur København

Haythornthwaithe, Caroline (2015): Rethinking learning spaces: networks, structures, and possibilities for learning in the twenty-first century, Communication Research and Practice, 1:4, 292-306, DOI:10.1080/22041451.2015.1105773

Haythornthwaite, Caroline and De Laat, Maarten (2010): Social Networks and Learning Networks: Using social network perspectives to understand social learning, Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Networked Learning 2010, Edited by: Dirckinck-Holmfeld, L, Hodgson, V, Jones, C, de Laat M, McConnell, D & Ryberg, T

Hobel, Peter, Nielsen, Helle Lykke, Thomsen, Pia og Zeuner, Lilli (red.)(2015): Interkulturel pædagogik – Kulturmøder i teori og praksis, U Press København

Hodgson, Vivien, De Laat, Maarten, McConnell, David, and Ryberg, Thomas (2014): Researching Design, Experience and Practice of Networked Learning: An Overview. In V. Hodgson et al. (eds.), The Design, Experience and Practice of Networked Learning, pp. 1-26, Springer New York

Hodgson, Vivien, McConnell, David, and Dirckinck-Holmfeld, Lone (2012): The Theory, Practice and Pedagogy of Networked Learning. In L. Dirckinck-Holmfeld et al. (eds.), Exploring the Theory, Pedagogy and Practice of Networked Learning, pp. 291-305, Springer New York

Knobel, Michele and Kalman, Judith (eds.)(2016): New Literacies and Teacher Learning. Professional Development and the Digital Turn, Peter Lang Publishing New York

Kop, Rita, Fournier, Helene and Mak, John Sui Fai (2011): A Pedagogy of Abundance or a Pedagogy to Support Human Beings? Participant Support on Massive Online Courses, The International Review of research In Open and Distributed Learning Vol. 12. No 7

Mackness, J., Bell, F., & Funes, M. (2016): The rhizome: A problematic metaphor for teaching and learning in a MOOC,  Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 32 (1), 78-91

McConnell, David, Hodgson, Vivien, and Dirckinck-Holmfeld, Lone (2012): Networked Learning: A Brief History and New Trends. In L. Dirckinck-Holmfeld et al. (eds.), Exploring the Theory, Pedagogy and Practice of Networked Learning, pp. 3-24, Springer New York

Rajagopal, Kamakshi, Brinke, Desirée Joosten-ten, Van Bruggen, Jan, and Sloep, Peter B. (2012): Understanding personal learning networks: Their structure, content and networking skills needed to optimally use them, First Monday, Volume 17, Number 1-2 January 2012

Ryberg, Thomas, Buus, Lillian, and Georgsen, Marianne (2012): Differences in Understandings of Networked Learning Theory: Connectivity or Collaboration? In L. Dirckinck-Holmfeld et al. (eds.), Exploring the Theory, Pedagogy and Practice of Networked Learning, pp. 43-58, Springer New York

Snowden, Dave (2010): The Cynefin Framework

Snowden, Dave (2002): Complex acts of knowing – paradox and descriptive self-awareness, IBM Global Series

Weller, Martin (2011): A pedagogy of abundance, revista española de pedagogia año LXIX, no 249, mayo-agosto, 223-236

Photo by photo fiddler on Flickr CC-BY-SA – Some rights reserved

Elna Mortensen

 

 

In an era of knowledge abundance – Part 5

In an era of knowledge abundance – Part 4

536068094_69f72b259f_mRhizomatic learning is a variation of ‘open networked learning’, I stated in part one of this series of blog posts while looking into what a pedagogy of abundance might look like. At first sight this might not seem the most likely conclusion to make, but to me the design for learning laid out in Dave Cormier’s conception of rhizomatic learning is in alignment with the definition of networked learning:

Networked learning is learning in which information and communications (ICT) is used to promote connections: between one learner and other learners, between learners and tutors, between a learning community and its lear-ning resources. (Goodyear et al 2004, p.2) (Ryberg, Buus and Georgsen 2012:45)

In their focus on communities, networks, participation and participatory culture, collaboration and negotiation of meaning the four examples of rhizomatic learning and networking across the educational system, presented in part two and part three of this series, show that the educational and pedagogical values in rhizomatic learning as a pedagogical approach overlap the educational and pedagogical values in networked learning as a theory and a pedagogy:

…networked learning can be seen to be derived from critical and humanistic traditions (e.g. those of Dewey, 1916; Freire, 1970; Mead, 1934) and that learning is social, takes place in communities and networks, is a shared practice, involves negotiation and requires colla-borative dialogue (Hodgson, McConnell and Dirckinck-Holmfeld, 2012). (Hodgson, De Laat, McConnell and Ryberg 2014:2)

So while seeing the world, including learning and teaching, from a socio-cultural standpoint, networked learning “offers the theory and practice for a pedagogy that is appropriate or suited to live in a digitally and networked world where sharing and collaborative ways of working are the norm rather than the exception”, as it is defined by Vivien Hodgson, David McConnell, and Lone Dirckinck-Holmfeld (Hodgson, McConnell and Dirckinck-Holmfeld 2012:292). Hence, my comment on rhizomatic learning as ‘open networked learning’ seems to be an unnecessary doubling, as openness is to be seen as an inherent and implicit characteristic of networked learning today:

Over the years, interest has widened to include the social aspects of networked learning, with a focus on building and cultivating social networks and seeing technology as a part of the phenomenon rather than as an end in itself. Networked learning focuses therefore on the diversity of social relationships that people develop, the strategies that they use to maintain them and the value that the relationships creates for learning. (De Laat 2012:27)

So let me rephrase my statement: rhizomatic learning is a variation of networked learning, as I see it.

The landscape of networked learning

The landscape of networked learning is formed by shared pedagogical values, although the shared values can lead to a variety of learning designs. Nevertheless, Hodgson, McConnell and Dirckinck-Holmfeld estimate that most networked learning practitioners agree in valuing these aspects of networked learning:

  • Cooperation and collaboration in the learning process.
  • Working in groups and in communities.
  • Discussion and dialogue.
  • Self-determination in the learning process.
  • Difference and its place in a central learning process.
  • Trust and relationships: weak and strong ties.
  • Reflexivity and investment of self in the networked learning processes.
  • The role technology plays in connecting and mediating. (Hodgson, McConnell and Dirckinck-Holmfeld 2012:295)

And they suggest that the practice of networked learning should be seen from a holistic perspective, where each aspect of networked learning has to be present and integrated in the practice and has to contribute to the educational values underpinning networked learning (Hodgson, McDonnell and Dirckinck-Holmfeld 2012:295)

Originating as an approach and a theory interested in understanding the developments in technology to support learning and engrossed in exploring socio-cultural designs of learning, networked learning is linked to the traditions of open education and to radical emancipatory and humanistic educational ideas and approaches such as critical pedagogy and democratic and experiental learning, as referred to in the quote earlier. These educational values of dialogue, independence and interdependence become visible in the six areas of pedagogy that David McConnell has emphasized as areas that need to be addressed when designing for networked learning. And of course, the shared pedagogical values mentioned earlier must be contained in these six areas of pedagogy, too:

1 Openness in the educational process.

Openness leads to meaningful learning and can be facilitated by the development of a learning community, where one works for oneself and for others and where development occurs.

2 Self-determined learning.

Self-determined learners take primarily responsibility for identifying their own learning needs, and help others in determining theirs. In these processes, learners become aware of how they learn, and develop deep approaches to learning.

3 A real purpose in the cooperative process.

Much higher education learning is abstract and often unrelated to real situations, and many students struggle to see the purpose of it. If learners have a real purpose in learning, they engage with the learning process in a qualitatively different way.

4 A supportive learning environment.

A supportive learning environment is one where learners encourage and facilitate each other’s efforts. Being supportive does not, however, mean a lack of intellectual challenge.

5 Collaborative assessment of learning.

Collaborative self-peer-tutor-assessment processes are central to networked learning: they are a corollary of cooperative learning and support the cooperative process.

6 Assessment and evaluation of the ongoing learning process.

Assessing and evaluating the networked learning course is also a cooperative tutor-learner process. Learners must feel that there is a real opportunity to change the design of the course; this can be achieved by the tutor and learners working together in regular group processing. (McConnell 2006)”(McConnell, Hodgson and Dirckinck-Holmfeld 2012:8-9)

Accordingly, in order to sum up, collaborative and cooperative learning, learning through dialogue and group work together with online resources and collaborative knowledge construction is the hearth of the matter in networked learning (McConnell, Hodgson and Dirckinck-Holmfeld 2012:10). With Web 2.0 the participatory aspect of networked learning gives possibilities for focusing on the learner as a node in a network while designing for “the relational interdependencies and connections between learners in their mutual meaning construction.” (Hodgson, McConnell and Dirckinck-Holmfeld 2012:300). This way learning and knowledge construction happens in a dynamic, ongoing process of connecting knowledge and negotiating meaning:

However, the ideas of relations and connections suggest that learning is not confined to the individual mind or the individual learner. Rather, learning and knowledge con-struction is located in the connections and interactions between learners, teachers and resources, and seen as emerging from  critical dialogues and enquiries. As such, networked learning theory seems to encompass an understanding of learning as a social, relational pheno-menon, and a view of knowledge and identity as con-structed through interactions and dialogue. (Ryberg, Buus and Georgsen 2012:45)

This is what Maarten de Laat terms ‘learning as a social network relationship’ (De Laat 2012:27). And rather, this intersection of networks and community leaves space for rhizomatic learning to fit in: the focus on independence and interdependence underlines my view, I think. But there needs to be some kind of balance to see rhizomatic learning as a variation of networked learning: a balance between the messy and sometime chaotic self-directed learning processes where individuals form and determine their own routes and learning through connecting to people and resources, and the open and mutual engagement in a learning community based on participatory culture and knowledge construction. And in Dave Cormier’s case the motto “The community becomes the curriculum” is the expression of this. With Cormier the community is a community of practice (Wenger 1998), as introduced in part two of this series of blog posts, but networked learning does not privilege a particular pedagogical model, so the kind of community that can be applied in networked learning might just as well be:

  • A learning community with a focus on learning together, sharing and developing relationships.
  • Communities of inquiry with a focus on inquiring about issues of common interest.
  • Knowledge communities with a focus on developing knowledge.(Hodgson, McConnell and Dirckinck-Holmfeld 2012:297)

So needless to say, but still, designing for rhizomatic learning must 1) take the structures, principles and attitudes of networks and a community of practice into account, 2) while implementing the six areas of pedagogy in networked learning and creating learning activities that support them, 3) and seeing to that the shared values of networked learning end up being a part of the basis of the rhizomatic learning processes. It almost seems like an act of bricolage itself that must also activate and embody the rhizomatic vision in order to make rhizomatic learning happen:

In the rhizomatic view knowledge can only be negotiated, and the contextual, collaborative learning experience shared by Constructivist and Connectivist pedagogies is a social as well as a personal knowledge-creation process with mutable goals and constantly negotiated premises. (Cormier 2008)

Networking

As a model for the construction of knowledge, rhizomatic processes are based on the interconnectedness of ideas, on the boundless exploration across many domains with many different starting points (Innovating Pedagogy 2012:33) and on serendipity and bricolage. While accepting complexity as a condition, the focus on connectivity and networks is making the rhizomatic learning process multi-nodal, multi-directional and multi-perspective: the rhizome is navigating the complexity as Dave Cormier expresses it in his talk in the video “The rhizomatic lense – seeing learning from the perspective of abundance” (2015). Here Dave Cormier challenges the problem of abundance and points out that:

“…a weird historical process has happened: as we have got a more abundant access to knowledge, we have reduced the complexity of the teaching.” (Cormier 2015)

Rhizomatic learning is working on reinstalling the complex domain in disciplines and subject matters and on being an innovating pedagogy in an era of knowledge abundance. Maarten de Laat has characterized this as “New Learning” in his talk on “Networked Learning in Open Practices” (2015):

maarten-de-laat-networked-learning-in-open-practices-slide1

In the talk De Laat presents the results of research on teachers’ professional deve-lopment that was introduced in his address “Enabling professional development networks: How connected are you?” (2012). The research has been based on a networked learning perspective, and although it focuses on teachers’ professional development, I think quite a few of the insights from the research are relevant and useful to teaching and learning in schools and higher education as well – and especially relevant to understanding rhizomatic learning as a variation of networked learning. De Laat defines networked learning as a perspecitive:

…that aims to understand social learning processes by asking how people develop and maintain a ‘web’ of social relations used for their learning and development (Good-year, Banks, Hodgson & McConnell, 2004; Haythorn-thwaite &  De Laat, 2011; Sleeples & Jones, 2002). (De Laat 2012:26)

De Laat suggests to combine formal and informal learning, and with an emphasis on participation, construction and becoming as metaphors for learning (De Laat 2012:26) he identifies these aspects as important for learning in an informal-formal environment – much in alignment with rhizomatic learning and with Martin Weller’s educational model of abundance introduced in part one of this series on knowledge abundance:

maarten-de-laat-networked-learning-in-open-practices-Slide2.jpg

Maarten de Laat: Networked Learning in Open Practices

Networking and communities are inevitable here, and in an interview with Steve Whee-ler after the talk, Maarten de Laat emphasizes the importance of learning networks to education and learning today:

As De Laat puts it:

“Networks are everything. I don’t think you can do anything on your own anymore, so for me networked learning is about creating a social web around you, if you like, so you have access to people who you can talk to, who you can share issues with, who you can do things together with….In terms of educational future I think it is very important to learn and teach those learning and thinking skills in order to participate in the debate and being able to contribute. So for me networking or communities or any social circulation is a very important part of education.” (Maarten de Laat – Interview with Steve Wheeler EDEN Conference 2015)

Apart from being networked, the skills we need to equip learners with in an age of digital abundance are the skills and the competences that are necessary for learning in the 21st century. De Laat refers to the framework of Partnership for 21st Century Skills which is one of the 15 frameworks analysed when establishing the model of the 21st century learning, I presented in the last blog post. And although social networking and technology are not identical, Web 2.0 and Learning 3.0 has placed social networking online as a part of networked learning. And likewise, De Laat explains in his address:

By social networking we mean the configurations of con-nectivity that exist when people interact with each other by communicating, sharing resources, and working, learning or playing together, supported through face-to-face interaction as well as through the use of information and communication technology (Hay-thornthwaite & De Laat, 2011). Each interaction defines a connection between people, known as a social network tie. These ties vary in strength from weak to strong according to the range and types of activities that people engage in. In other words, networked relationships – ties – connect the dots between otherwise isolated people. (De Laat 2012:23)

Here Maarten de Laat refers to Mark Granovetter’s theory of the strength of weak ties (1973/1983):

“In a favorite article on the strength of weak ties, Granovetter (1973) demonstrated that weak ties are important for gaining access to new knowledge, perspectives and alternative conversations. Strong ties with those who are close to you, on the other hand, are needed to deepen and embed knowledge closely related to day-to-day shared practice, as well as commitment to joint activities.” (De Laat 2012:27)

Communities of practice are often based on strong ties as the process of moving towards full participation usually builds on strong relationships, as I mentioned in part two of this series, but as Maarten de Laat defines it in the interview and Wenger–Trayner has said it: “Rather than contrasting a community here and a network there…it is more useful to think of community and network as two types of structuring processes. Community emphasizes identity and network emphasizes connectivity.” (Wenger 2010:10)

This way networking can be seen as both an important aspect of self-directed learning and of developing communities or communities of practice as places/spaces for practicing self-directed learning: the relationships and resources in a personal learning network (PLN) can be put forward as challenging or confirmatory perspectives in the negotiations of meaning with peers and facilitators/educators in a domain and in the community or the community of practice.

Personal learning networks – on the road to collaboration

In their article “Understanding personal learning networks: Their structure, content and the networking skills needed to optimally use them” (2012) Rajagopal, Brinke, Van Bruggen and Sloep engage in defining networks that support individuals’ learning:

In our understanding, the skills at the centre of network-ing involve an ability to identify and understand other peoples’ work in relation to one’s own, and to assess the value of the connectivity with these others for potential future work. The result of networking is a personal professional network, i.e., an egocentric, personally and intentionally created network of people set up by an individual specifically in the context of her professional activities. This network gathers a heterogeneous circle of people, distributed across different groups and places, and connected to the individual with connections of varying degrees of strengths (Granovetter, 1983; Nardi, et al., 2000). (Rajagopal, Brinke, Van Bruggen and Sloep (2012))

For personal networks, Grabher and Ibert (2008) propo-sed a three-layered approach, consisting of a communa-lity layer (strong ties), a sociality layer (weak ties) and a connectivity layer (very weak ties)…By including weak links in their personal networks, learners can create an envi-ronment for learning (Kester and Sloep, 2009). We be-lieve the intentionality of the professional is the strongest at the sociality layer, as contacts in this layer are the most mobile within someones’s personal network. Depen-ding on the intentions of the professional, these ties have the potential to become stronger connections or develop into even weaker ties. An individual can therefore create and orchestrate ties to effectively support learning needs and potentially use technology to support this network, effectively making it a personal learning network (PLN). (Rajagopal, Brinke, Van Bruggen and Sloep (2012))

And so the focus on social networking seen from an individual’s personal perspective offers bridges to collaboration and participation in communities and communities of practice:

“Both strong and weak connections contribute to the individuals’s learning: strong ties allow for active collaboration on knowledge creation, whereas weak ties are sources for new information, knowledge and ideas (Bell, 2010; Gargiulo and Benassi, 2000; Jones, 2008; Jones, et al., 2008; Ryberg and Larsen, 2008; Wenger, 1998).” (Rajagopal, Brinke, Van Bruggen and Sloep (2012))

A personal learning network requires, as mentioned, all three types of ties: strong, weak, and very weak, and while both Rajagopal, Brinke, Van Bruggen and Sloep and Maarten de Laat focus on the importance of weak and strong ties for learning, I think the very weak ties are equally important to rhizomatic learning as they might lead to serendipity and growing networks in a ‘nomadic’ fashion. And this is a real potential for new learning, too.

According to Rajagopal, Brinke, Van Bruggen and Sloep the following factors influence the choises taken in each of the three stages of building, maintaining and activating personal learning networks:

  • Communality
  • Organisation of the contact
  • Network of a contact
  • Reputation
  • Benevolence
  • Like-mindedness
  • Real potential for collaboration
  • Real potential for learning
  • Trends in work environment.

Rajagopal, Brinke, Van Bruggen and Sloep conclude, that ”…networking for networked learning is not only a skill to be developed, but also an attitude towards learning to be cultivated…networking revolves around a complex ability of (i) recognizing and identifying the other’s qualities; and, of (ii) making (valuable) associations of these qualities with the learner’s own qualities that could take place when interacting with a contact or even in the contact’s absence. Learners have different levels of proficiency in this skill, but can also differ in the actual application of the skill, due to the attitude with which they approach learning.”  (Rajagopal, Brinke, Van Bruggen and Sloep (2012))

Networking is crucial to Rajagopal, Brinke, Van Bruggen and Sloep not only as a key skill for individual learners but also as a starting point for learning to learn and for future collaboration. This is also what Maarten de Laat hints at in the interview with Steve Wheeler quoted earlier. I would add, that this is the basics learners need to know about networks and networking, so that they can understand and practice the skills, the strategies and the attitudes required “to adopt a networking style” for their learning as De Laat calls it (De Laat 2012:29), and so that they are able to participate, collaborate, reflect and construct new knowledge – eventually through serendipity, rhizomatic structures and bricolage.

In his talk De Laat mentions the close relationship between networked learning and open practices, while he presents his model of education as “New Learning”. As mentioned earlier it is a model that resembles Martin Weller’s educational models of scarcity and abundance described in part one of this series. But De Laat’s  model of “New Learning” is also a model that includes perspectives and understandings from the theory of communities of practice and maybe from rhizomatic learning, as I see it. I think learners need to know these educational models and their implications on teaching and learning as part of the basics of networks and networking, too, and Maarten de Laat has summed it all up in these slides:

maarten-de-laat-networked-learning-in-open-practices-Slide3.jpg

maarten-de-laat-networked-learning-in-open-practices-Slide4.jpg

Maarten de Laat: Networked Learning in Open Practices 

But how to get started?

Being a student entering a domain, a discipline or a subject matter, one of the first nodes in the network could be the educator opening up his/her professional network for students to connect to online. In many ways there is nothing new in educators introducing their students to resources, interesting people, stakeholders and different positions in a field, but the accessibility, the spreadability, the searchability and the ease and speed with which connections can be made is new and made possible by social media and participatory environments. Starting this way, the students get to know experts, members of communities, resources, ideas and links while they are getting a grip of networks and networking in the domain or the discipline, and they can begin exploring and networking across domains and disciplines from a diversity of starting points. As in rhizomatic learning. And as Dave Cormier exemplifies in his article “Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum” (2008). And eventually, the student turns into a learner who discovers that there are different kinds of problems and knowledge in education, and that they call for different types of networks to make collaboration emerge in a productive fashion. This must also be practiced and taught as part of digital literacies and networked literacies in the domain or discipline along with foundational knowledge, meta knowledge and humanistic knowledge due to the model of 21st learning presented in the last blog post.

And so, once again I have met the challenge of Martin Weller and have tried to look into to what extend rhizomatic learning can be regarded as a pedagogy of abundance, as Weller suggested in his article “A pedagogy of abundance” (2011):

“Exploring pedagogies of abundance will be essential for educators to meet the challenge and equip their learners with the skills they need in an age of digital abundance.” (Weller 2011:233)

But what then, when Martin Weller also mentions these two characteristics of the fundamental change in education, he is mapping in his educational model of abundance:

  • A change to a more participatory, socially constructed view of knowledge is needed to suit a demand-pull model of education.
  • New technologies are the basis in realizing this new conception of knowledge as networked and socially constructed. (Weller 2011:228)

Well, then there are still issues to return to and to explore while asking: where do different types of network fit in in a pedagogy of abundance, and – apart from what has already been said  – how does rhizomatic learning realize this new conception of knowledge as networked and socially constructed? And is rhizomatic learning really a version of networked learning, as I have been claiming until now?

This blogpost has been edited on 14. June 2016 in order to make the distinction between ‘community’ and ‘community of practice’ clearer in three passages and in order to make my exploratory approach more visible in another two passages.

Further reading:

Dave Cormier (2015): The rhizomatic lense – seeing learning from the perspective of abundance. IATED talks

Cormier, Dave (2008): Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum, Dave’s Educational Blog

De Laat, Maarten (2012): Enabling professional development networks: How connected are you?, Open Universiteit, The Netherlands

Granovetter, Mark (1983): The strength of weak ties: A network theory revisited, Sociological Theory, volume 1, pp. 201-233

Granovetter, Mark (1973): The strength of weak ties, American Journal of Sociology, pp. 1360-1380

Hodgson, Vivien, De Laat, Maarten, McConnell, David, and Ryberg, Thomas (2014): Researching Design, Experience and Practice of Networked Learning: An Overview. In V. Hodgson et al. (eds.), The Design, Experience and Practice of Networked Learning, pp. 1-26, Springer New York

Hodgson, Vivien, McConnell, David, and Dirckinck-Holmfeld, Lone (2012): The Theory, Practice and Pedagogy of Networked Learning. In L. Dirckinck-Holmfeld et al. (eds.), Exploring the Theory, Pedagogy and Practice of Networked Learning, pp. 291-305, Springer New York

McConnell, David, Hodgson, Vivien, and Dirckinck-Holmfeld, Lone (2012): Networked Learning: A Brief History and New Trends. In L. Dirckinck-Holmfeld et al. (eds.), Exploring the Theory, Pedagogy and Practice of Networked Learning, pp. 3-24, Springer New York

Networks are Everything – Maarten de Laat – Interview with Steve Wheeler #EDEN15, EDEN Conference 2015

Rajagopal, Kamakshi, Brinke, Desirée Joosten-ten, Van Bruggen, Jan, and Sloep, Peter B. (2012): Understanding personal learning networks: Their structure, content and networking skills needed to optimally use them, First Monday, Volume 17, Number 1-2 January 2012

Ryberg, Thomas, Buus, Lillian, and Georgsen, Marianne (2012): Differences in Understandings of Networked Learning Theory: Connectivity or Collaboration? In L. Dirckinck-Holmfeld et al. (eds.), Exploring the Theory, Pedagogy and Practice of Networked Learning, pp. 43-58, Springer New York

Sharples, M., McAndrew, P., Weller, M., Ferguson, R., FitzGerald, E., Hirst, T., Mor, Y., Gaved, M. and Whitelock, D. (2012): Innovating Pedagogy 2012: Open University Innovation Report 1, The Open University

Weller, Martin (2011): A pedagogy of abundance, revista española de pedagogia año LXIX, no 249, mayo-agosto, 223-236

Wenger, Etienne (2010): Communities of practice and social learning systems: the career of a concept. In Social learning systems and communities of practice, pp. 179-198, Springer London

Wenger, Etienne (1998): Communities of Practice. Learning, Meaning, and Identity, Cambridge University Press

Photo by Kris A on Flickr – CC-BY-NC-ND  Some rights reserved

Networks are Everything – Maarten de Laat Interview by Steve Wheeler #EDEN15 on YouTube – CC-BY-NC-SA

Elna Mortensen

 

In an era of knowledge abundance – Part 4

In an era of knowledge abundance – Part 3

5892092671_6b6be05e9a_m“What else could rhizomatic learning look like across the entire educational system from primary school to higher education?”, I wondered in my last blog post after having discussed a campus course by Dave Cormier founded on rhizomatic learning as a pedagogy of abundance.  Rhizomatic learning is one suggestion for a learning theory and a pedagogical approach that has been recasted and reimagined towards building learning on connections, on networks and on participation in communities of practice in order to match a more participatory and socially constructed view of know-ledge. To answer my own question I’ll introduce three examples of educational practices that to different degrees build on rhizomatic learning as a pedagogy of abundance or an approach to open pedagogy. The three examples are situated in educational institutions ranging from university to K-12 schools.

Relevant, rhizomatic and recursive learning in higher education

A few months ago Robin DeRosa and Scott Robison noticed and rejected the way educa-tion adopts new technology just because it is there in their article ”Pedagogy, Techno-logy, and The Example of Open Educational Resources” (2015). Instead they promote open educational resources (OERs) as an area to work in while discussing the motiva-tions behind adopting technology in education. They argue for pedagogies to go before tools and technology – that is, choosing a pedagogy to suit your goals and your context before choosing which tools, which media, and which digital spaces to integrate into your course – and they focus on OERs in higher education because the use of OERs makes the possibilities for pedagogical change explicit:

“New tricks and tools, shiny new apps and devices, should not motivate us to integrate technology into our courses. Instead, we should start with a vision for our courses and curricula, and then identify the technologies or strategies that can help us achieve or further develop that vision.” (DeRosa and Robison 2015)

Along with the vision of pedagogical change DeRosa and Robison advocate a view of open pedagogy that stresses learning as a learner-developed process which is relevant, rhizomatic, and recursive:

 

This view on rhizomatic learning, influenced by the definition of ‘critical digital pedagogy’ by the Freire-influenced Jesse Stommel, very much fits in with what has already been said about rhizomatic learning in the first two blog posts on an era of knowledge abundance, although Robin DeRosa doesn’t specify how she defines community when she emphasizes “community and collaboration” and “power of the community as a 21st century model” in the slide presentation above. Nevertheless, the example of working with OERs is to me a version of Dave Cormier’s motto: “Community is the curriculum”:

By replacing a static textbook — or other stable learning material — with one that is openly licensed, faculty have the opportunity to create a new relationship between learners and the information they access in the course. Instead of thinking of knowledge as something students need to download into their brains, we start thinking of knowledge as something continuously created and revised. Whether students participate in the development and revision of OER or not, this redefined relationship between students and their course “texts” is central to the philosophy of learning that the course espouses. If faculty involve their students in interacting with OER, this rela-tionship becomes even more explicit, as students are expected to critique and contribute to the body of know-ledge from which they are learning. In this sense, know-ledge is less a product that has distinct beginning and end points and is instead a process in which students can engage, ideally beyond the bounds of the course. (DeRosa and Robison 2015)

And they add while highlighting aspects of rhizomatic learning processes:

OER makes possible the shift from a primarily student-content interaction to an arrangement where the content is integral to the student-student and student-instructor interactions as well. What we once thought of as pedago-gical accompaniments to content (class discussion, stu-dents assignments, etc.) are now inextricable from the content itself, which has been set in motion as a process by the community that interacts with it. Moreover, stu-dents asked to interact with OER become part of a wider public of developers, much like an open-source commu-nity. We can capitalize on this relationship between enrolled students and a broader public by drawing in wider communities of learners and expertise to help our students find relevance in their work, situate their ideas into key contexts, and contribute to the public good. We can ask our students — and ourselves as faculty — not just to deliver excellence within a prescribed set of parameters, but to help develop those parameters by asking questions about what problems need to be solved, what ideas need to be explored, what new paths should be carved based on the diverse perspectives at the table. (DeRosa and Robison 2015)

With the gain of fostering empowerment in their students DeRosa and Robison see working with OERs as a way of evaluating the role of tools and technology in education, too:

“Essentially, this is a move from thinking about tech tools as finished products to thinking about them as dynamic components of our pedagogical processes. When we think about OER as something we do rather than something we find/adopt/acquire, we begin to tap its full potential for learning. The same lessons apply to any ed tech considered for adoption in the classroom. If we start with questions related to our vision, we can pull in the tools to help us realize it.” (DeRosa and Robison 2015)

Working with OERs this way moves students from consumers into producers and participants engaging with tools and technology in order to question, explore and create knowledge. And this is a non-linear, experimenting, multi-perspective and participatory approach to learning that is characteristic of rhizomatic learning.

But rhizomatic learning is a pedagogy that comes from higher education. If and when rhizomatic learning is a pedagogy of abundance, its role as an approach to teaching and learning in a digital society cannot just be limited to higher education where its values can be seen as well-known educational values such as independence, critical thinking, reflection, ethical awareness and coping with change. An important aspect, though, is that rhizomatic learning as a pedagogy of abundance in many ways turns the ‘end goals’ of a traditional learning process into its starting point: to know what you have come in to learn implies critical thinking, reflection, and independence, but that is paradoxically also what and why you have come in to learn. This way rhizomatic learning resembles the ideal of the Humboldtian model of higher education where students learn by being a part of the research processes integrated into the studies.  So in an educational context I think that educators will need to help providing content, resources, and experts at the beginning of the course in order to make rhizomatic learning be based on a subject matter, a theme, cases or questions of interest to investigate. After all there needs to be roots to grow from to make rhizomatic learning happen, and in his campus course Dave Cormier in fact lets his students evaluate a textbook for the course and have them connect and collaborate as a starting point for his course.

Educators will also need to learn students how to collaborate as many students are not very good at it, and collaborative competences are necessary for students to be able to move from legitimate peripheral participation to greater participation in their course as a community of practice and to get to know what it is to know inside this space, as Dave Cormier has put it. So in order to have students engaging in a rhizomatic learning process it requires that the teacher/educator turns into a facilitator who supports the students through scaffolding, modelling, facilitating, and providing feedback and feedforward as a way of getting the community of practice going while the students are broadening their understanding, are becoming learners in their domain through peer-to-peer feedback and peer-to-peer feedforward, are getting a voice and finding their way.

Although rhizomatic learning is about students taking control over their own learning process and about changing the relationship between educator and students into more of a partnership where educators and students are co-learners, the educator will still most often be the one setting up the framework for a course or a subject matter. And the educator will also still be the one that negotiates or decides aims for the course or the subject matter, negotiates or sets up the criteria for assessment, and the one who has the responsibility if there are national or institutional curriculums and learning goals to comply with. A lot can be initiated, discussed and negotiated with students and a lot will still be decided by the educator and institutional policies.

Both the demands for participation, knowledge generation and self-directed learning can cause frustration in students in higher education. So the question is now: how can rhizomatic learning as a pedagogical approach be filtered down to schools in primary and secondary education?

Reimagining school in K-12 schools

Some people don’t hesitate seeing rhizomatic learning as a possibility across the educational system.  Dave Cormier has himself mentioned Monika Hardy and her work with reimagining school as an example of rhizomatic learning in K-12 schools. In a series of blog posts Monika Hardy has presented and documented the project she was involved in, and in the blog post “Wanted (And Needed): ‘Radical’ Collaborations” (2011) she presents her vision of education:

To succeed in our fluid/agile world, we need to think less about defining/measuring a fixed content/curriculum, (less about worrying and playing defense), and more about creating some overarching patterns evidenced in the process of learning to learn. Not only does that make learning/life more fun, intellectual learning and affiliated capabilities are amped as the motivation is intrinsically driven by the pleasure of finding things out and by understanding wicked problems. (Hardy 2011)

One of the cornerstones in the project is “rhizomatic learning/thinking/doing”. As an entry into the rhizomatic learning process Hardy focuses – with inspiration from Dewey – on facilitating curiosities. And as far as I can see in the section “city as floorplan” in this slide presentation, the project has attached importance to games, logic and programming in pre-school–grade 5, while one of the projects in grade 6-8 has been “be you”, where students have been working on small personal networks, and “detox” has been an approach designed for grade 9-12.

Monika Hardy comments on the idea of detox this way:

Detox is a jump start of sorts to get back to our natural curiosities. It’s a means to focus/pause/reflect on things that matter, to be mindful, rather than following a well-trodden road map. It’s a means, in public education even, to facilitate the chaos of personalization, in order to awaken indispensable people. (Hardy 2011)

In the video below Monika Hardy explains the ideas and the thinking behind the project:

To me this is a catching example of future-faced education driven by a version of rhizomatic learning and with a vision of education as emancipation, another well-known educational value, not to forget.  But also a vison with a maybe different conception of community: “Community as one school”.  In many ways Mimi Ito captures the intentions of Monika Hardy’s work on reimagining school, when she talks about the quite similar perspective in her own work on connected learning in “Participatory Culture in a Networked Era” (2016):

“The core of connected learning is this understanding that it takes relationships to open up opportunity. That’s why the focus is on learning within the context of social engagement and shared purpose, where young people are learning to get things done with both peers and adults. It’s not enough to push content and skills at kids, or to say that there’s knowledge out there on the internet. If young people don’t have relationships with peers and caring adults with whom they identify, and who can build those paths to opportunity, then the content and skills don’t do anything for them.” (Jenkins, Ito, boyd 2016:86)

Social media use in K-12 schools

But what do you do, if you haven’t got the whole school district backing you up? As an example of ways of engaging with social media in a K-12 school that can be seen as a starting point for developing digital literacies and creating networking experiences relevant to rhizomatic learning, I will turn to a recent article by Michael Nantais: “Creating an empowering school environment” (2016). In the article Michael Nantais presents his research on the use of social media in a K-12 school, and the impact the use of social media has had on building a culture of trust and empowerment:

“This story is about technology and how its use can contribute to building a culture of trust and empowerment. It is a story about allowing students to embrace their hybridity, as described by Jesse Stommel. One starting point is to recognize that students are more than just students; their online lives are a part of who they are, and it cannot be ignored. They live a hybrid life; in school/out of school, online/offline. Can we honour this hybridity and give them the power to engage in all aspects of their world?” (Nantais 2016)

Nantais is interested in the “what” and “why” of social media pedagogy and in the effects the use of social media has on practice:

“The popular and academic literature is replete with both utopian and dystopian visions of using technology in schools. It seems that dichotomous views are plentiful. For some, technology will be a “disruptive” force that will transform education, and for others, it will have negative consequences. It seems rare that the shades of grey that surround technology use in education are explored. Much has been written about its “affordan-ces”, but what actually happens in the day-to-day reality of schools?” (Nantais 2016)

The teachers participating in the study perceived a positive change in the school culture after allowing an almost free use of social media:

Several media were being used by the teachers: some used Twitter, some blogging, others used Facebook. One preferred a more closed medium and used Edmodo. Regardless of the medium used, the most common response to the perceived effects on the school culture was centered on increased communication. In particular, the most interesting responses were about how social media use led to increased connections with students. These responses were contrary to much of the prevailing criticism of social media. This criticism often characte-rizes social media as isolating and that those indulging in its use often ignore those around them. When we as teachers actually stop and explore, rather than condemn, good things can happen. (Nantais 2016)

It seems that having the opportunity to use social media in school, to connect and communicate, and at the same time being given more responsibility for their own learning provides students with experiences and practices that are crucial as starting points in rhizomatic learning:

Interestingly, several of the teachers talked about “a sense of empowerment”, “more freedom”, autonomy, and “giving kids as much choice and control as you possibly can.” As a result of giving students more responsibility and more control, teachers helped them to be “more accountable” and responsible. In this way a more trusting and caring school environment seemed to grow and develop, engendered by new ways of connecting and communicating. (Nantais 2016)

With all of these ideas in mind as I reflected on this particular school’s experience, I concluded that it was not simply the act of allowing social media use, or personal devices, that led to this trusting school environment. It is more the act of changing “traditional classroom hierar-chies” by releasing some traditional authority and power, by trusting students, and enabling them to embrace their hybrid selves, that has led to increased connection, a sense of empowerment, and a positive school culture. (Nantais 2016)

Emphasizing the changing relations between teachers and students through allowing social media use as part of the learning processes, Michael Nantais’ research supports Dave Cormier’s idea of giving students control over their own learning process.  Nantais’ example might not be able to imitate in Europe due to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation prohibiting youth under the age of 16 to have a profile on social media without their parent’s consent no matter what the age limits are on the social media sites. And although member countries can lower the age limit to 13, this effort of connecting and communicating to give students networking experiences might have to be practiced in closed spaces or class spaces until almost high school in many European countries.

The model of 21st century learning

I have introduced three examples of rhizomatic learning across the educational system in this blog post. Each example blends community, networks, collaboration, participation and knowledge creation to different degrees, and even though the pedagogical practices found in Michael Nantais’ research can’t really be regarded as rhizomatic learning, a changed school culture seems to nurture the kind of pedagogical mindset that is a precondition for rhizomatic learning, and it can be practiced from grade 1. So all of the examples can be seen as answers to Martin Weller’s double challenge to educators in his article “A pedagogy of abundance” (2011):

“The issue for educators is twofold I would suggest: firstly how can they best take advantage of abundance in their own teaching practice, and secondly how do they best equip learners to make use of it? It is the second challenge that is perhaps the most significant. Exploring pedagogies of abundance will be essential for educators to meet the challenge and equip their learners with the skills they need in an age of digital abundance.” (Weller 2011:232-233)

I have already stated in an earlier blog post in this series that digital literacies and networked literacies are answers to the second challenge – and they are more than just digital skills. But there is more to it, of course. Maybe a critical review of the literature on 21st century knowledge frameworks can help identifying the skills, the competences and the knowledge that are needed to learn, to know and to understand in an era of knowledge abundance. In their article “What Knowledge Is of Most Worth: Teacher Knowledge for 21st Century Learning” (2013) Kristen Kereluik, Punya Mishra, Chris Fahnoe and Laura Terry establish a framework of frameworks that defines what 21st century learning means, and their 21st century learning framework can be seen as a broader and more general answer to Martin Weller’s challenge about how we best equip learners to make use of knowledge abundance.

Kereluik, Mishra, Fahnoe and Terry have analysed 15 key documents presenting 21st century knowledge frameworks from education and economic organizations worldwide in order to understand what 21st century learning actually means:

…because it will aid in determining what and, just as important, how we teach our students…(Kereluik, Mishra, Fahnoe and Terry 2013:128)

Technological modernization and globalization are the two main reasons for the need to rethink the types of knowledge that are required for learning in the 21st century according to the 15 knowledge frameworks analysed. The analysis and the review of the frameworks resulted in a framework of frameworks consisting of three major categories with three subcategories in them:

 

21st Century Learning Framework

Adapted from Kereluik, Mishra, Fahnoe and Terry (2013) 

Each of these major categories can be seen as what we need to know, how we act on that knowledge, and the values we bring to our knowledge and action. (Kereluik, Mishra, Fahnoe and Terry 2013:131)

The categories in the model are overlapping and are to be seen as complementary categories that support and inform one another. And as a result of the review Kereluik, Mishra, Fahnoe and Terry call attention to two important findings:

Two key contributions emerged from this review. We argue that our analysis indicates a somewhat para-doxical state of affairs when we think about 21st century knowledge. First, we argue that our synthesis of these different frameworks suggests that nothing has changed, that this tripartite division between what we know, how we act on that knowledge, and what we value has always been important. That said, though these foundational ideas have always been key to learning, in some vital ways (particularly given advances in technology and globalization), everything has changed. (Kereluik, Mishra, Fahnoe and Terry 2013:131)

The changes to foundational knowledge that Kereluik, Mishra, Fahnoe and Terry point out are:

  • Technology in the foundational realm asserts itself as something to “know”. The internet and digital media represent a new realm of interaction where new skills and knowledge are necessary to collaborate digitally and contribute to the collective knowledge base.
  • Content has been altered with the rapid advancement of technology in terms of both access to information and how information is represented: the amount of information necessitates the ability to synthesize information and derive meaning.
  • The nature of disciplinary knowledge itself and the methods for requiring it have changed significantly due to the advent of digital technologies: the methods and techniques of acquiring, representing, and manipulating knowledge have changed in almost all disciplines.
  • Most of the progress in the recent past has been in areas that cut across traditional disciplinary boundaries: people need to have deep knowledge of more than one discipline and the ability to see connections between these disciplines. (Kereluik, Mishra, Fahnoe and Terry 2013:131-132)

As changes to meta knowledge they emphasize:

  • Technology in the meta realm asserts itself as knowledge “to act” with foundational knowledge and technology. This includes the ability not only to use technology in basic, predetermined (by the designer) ways, but to reuse and repurpose technology to meet specific educational needs and teaching/learning goals.
  • Problem solving and critical thinking are transformed by technology as the unprecedented access to vast amount of information on the internet place a greater burden on individuals accessing information: they must possess the ability to distinguish between high-quality information and information of questionable quality.
  • Technology changes communication and collaboration, because ease of access has made large-scale communication and collaboration across thousands of miles commonplace: with increased globalization and affordances of new technology, individuals from diverse cultures are exposed to one another on an unprecedented level. Successful collaboration – and consequently cultural competence – is essential.
  • Communication and collaboration serve as an effective bridge between meta knowledge and humanistic knowledge, as cultural competence is necessary for successful communication and collaboration. (Kereluik, Mishra, Fahnoe and Terry 2013:132)

And this leads to the changes they see for humanistic knowledge:

  • Technology in the humanistic realm asserts itself as something “to value” both in others and in the possibilities of technology.
  • The ability to regulate one’s effort has become a multifaceted effort that necessitates organization of one’s demands in personal and professional realms of life to successful ends.
  • Ethical and moral questions arise, also in areas that have not typically been areas of doubt or discussion: individuals have to develop fine-tuned ethical and moral modes of thought and action whether considering issues of privacy and intellectual property or bio-technology and stem-cell research.
  • Ethical and emotional awareness are uniquely important when working with diverse groups of individuals in an increasingly globalized and interconnected world: it is important to develop a value system that respects differences and at the same time maintains a core of empathy and understanding. (Kereluik, Mishra, Fahnoe and Terry 2013:132)

Kereluik, Mishra, Fahnoe and Terry conclude, that “Our analysis indicates that this seeming paradox of “nothing has changed” and “everything has changed” provides us a way forward. It suggests that, though the 21st century is different from previous times, it does not mean that our core roles (to know, to act, and to value) have changed. So, in that sense, there is no disjuncture between what we have been doing as educators in the past and what we do today (and in the future). That being said, it also indicates, even as we hold onto these core ideas, that we have to continually shift and come up with newer ways of instantiating them.” (Kereluik, Mishra, Fahnoe and Terry 2013:133)

And thus, they end up with three key suggestions for teachers and teacher educators that are based on the educational goals inherent in the model of 21st century learning. They build on the pedagogical possibilities that are provided by the shift from ‘a pedagogy of scarcity’ to ‘a pedagogy of abundance’ which Martin Weller anticipated in his article “A pedagogy of abundance” (2011):

1   The need for students to develop deep disciplinary knowledge has always been important; what has chan-ged is access to disciplinary knowledge and authentic disciplinary inquiry made available through technology and subsequently experts and resources…Students and teachers must work in purposeful learning communities, engage with questions that require reflection, defend conclusions, and problem-solve like detectives while responding like investigative reporters. Therefore, the current base of disciplinary knowledge that the Common Core expresses encompasses both traditional content knowledge and concepts forwarded in modern frame-works, such as students having strong communication skills integrated across content areas, being metacog-nitive in an iterative process, engaging with complex texts and complex problem solving and developing a world focus. (Kereluik, Mishra, Fahnoe and Terry 2013:133)

2   Second, knowing the technology is important, but knowing when and why to use it is more important…digital literacy skills are essential for both students and teachers. Knowing when to use a particular technology for activities such as collaboration, or why to use a certain technology for acquiring specific disciplinary knowledge, is a vastly more important, transferable, infinitely relevant type of knowledge, one that will not quickly become antiquated with ever-changing techno-logical trends. (Kereluik, Mishra, Fahnoe and Terry 2013:133)

3   As a result of the increased opportunity for interaction across countries and around the world, teachers need to know how to foster cultural competence, emotional awareness and leadership skills to facilitate not just interactions, but meaningful interactions and relation-ships. Interestingly this specific type of knowledge is largely absent from the “standards-based” movements in education and not always seen as worthy of prolonged instructional time and effort. (Kereluik, Mishra, Fahnoe and Terry 2013:133)

So there is correspondence between Martin Weller’s list of assumptions for any pedagogy of abundance presented in part one of this series on knowledge abundance, the model of 21st century learning just presented here, and the social, situated and open networked approach to learning in rhizomatic learning – with a lot of focus on meta knowledge – as it is conceived by Dave Cormier. They have all focus on the need to rethink, reimage and recast our existing learning theories and our approaches to teaching and learning for a world of abundance. And in combination they frame the educational values, the pedagogical possibilities, and the skills, the competences, the knowledge and the cultural understanding needed in an era of digital abundance. The educational practices documented by Robin DeRosa and Scott Robison, Monika Hardy and Michael Nantais are examples of this: these practices are a way to see the world and a way to see learning in a context starting with asking why, what, how, who and where.

And yet, there is still a question left: what do students actually need to know about networks to be able to participate in rhizomatic learning?

Further reading:

DeRosa, Robin and Scott Robison (2015): Pedagogy, Technology, and The Example of Open Educational Resources,   Monday, November 9, EDUCAUSEreview

Hardy, Monika (2011):  Wanted (And Needed): ‘Radical’ Collaborations, Monday, August 01, dmlcentral.net

Jenkins, Henry, Mizuko Ito, danah boyd (2016): Participatory Culture in a Networked Era, Polity Press

Kereluik, Kristen, Punya Mishra, Chris Fahnoe and Laura Terry (2013): What Knowledge Is of Most Worth: Teacher Knowledge for 21st Century Learning, Journal of Digital learning in Teacher Education Volume 29 Number 4  

Nantais, Michael (2016): Creating an empowering school environment , Hybrid Pedagogy 02 Feb

Weller, Martin (2011): A pedagogy of abundance, revista española de pedagogia año LXIX, no 249, mayo-agosto, 223-236

Photo by Alice Lim on Flickr – CC-BY  Some rights reserved

‘Open Pedagogy for eLearning Pioneers’ by Robin DeRosa CC-BY 

Elna Mortensen

 

In an era of knowledge abundance – Part 3

In an era of knowledge abundance – Part 2

6130319471_25e42ebc0a_q“What does a pedagogy of abundance look like?”, I asked in part one of this little series of blog posts following in the footsteps of Martin Weller’s article “A pedagogy of abundance” (2011). I suggested that rhizomatic learning might be such a pedagogy of abundance, a pedagogy based on a multiplicity of theories of learning: social constructivism, connectivism, and communities of practice that are combined into a situative and social learning approach.  ‘Community’ and ‘networks’ are equally important to Dave Cormier’s conception of rhizomatic learning, and this is my continuing investigation of how rhizomatic learning can be evaluated as a pedagogy of abundance. Rhizomatic learning fits into an era of knowledge abundance: a world of complexity where knowledge is emergent, contingent and contextual, and a world where a move from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0 has its focus on connecting knowledge.

As mentioned, the idea of a community of practice plays a central part in Dave Cormier’s understanding of rhizomatic learning, and he has stated the social aspect of rhizomatic learning this way:

In the rhizomatic view knowledge can only be negotiated, and the contextual, collaborative learning experience shared by Constructivist and Connectivist pedagogies is a social as well as a personal knowledge-creation process with mutable goals and constantly negotiated premises. (Cormier 2008)

Cormier has more recently collected a series of texts on rhizomatic learning in a work-in-progress, the e-book “Making the community the curriculum” (2016). In the introduction of his book, Cormier has embedded “A talk on Rhizomatic Learning for ETMOOC” (2013), a video where he points to the important place communities of practice has in his thinking.

While a rhizomatic environment could seem to be a totally wild, self-directed and experimenting network-thing going all in for chance, heterogeneous perspectives, evolving knowledge and cultivating multi-diversity, Cormier lays bare in the video, that in fact there is a ‘framework’ to engage within while connecting, communicating, collaborating, cooperating, sharing and reflecting throughout the whole learning process.  And that framework is a community of practice. So even if rhizomatic learning isn’t normative as a learning approach but is defined as non-linear and non-hierarchial with no exact starting point or end due to the rhizome as a metaphor for the learning process, the community of practice is a form and a framework to understand rhizomatic learning as social learning within. In the video Cormier says:

The hope with rhizomatic learning is to take some of the great creative output that comes from communities of practice and apply them to a structured classroom…How do I take these things and apply? First rule of community learning is to give up control… (Cormier 2013)

And although all my sympathy toward rhizomatic learning, this is where I can’t help asking: wouldn’t a community of practice need some kind of balance between structure and chaos? And my answer would be, that understanding what a community of practice is, could help explicating how and why a community of practice gives direction to the learning processes taking place while engaging in finding, investigating, contributing, negotiating, collaborating, reflecting and producing knowledge.

Communities of practice

Etienne Wenger’s (now Wenger-Trayner) theory of communities of practice is a social learning theory. The concept of community of practice was initially coined by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger-Trayner in their work on situative learning (Lave and Wenger 1991) where they defined learning  as a process of social participation:

…learning does not rest with the individual but is a social process that is situated in a cultural and historical con-text. (Farnsworth, Kleanthous & Wenger-Trayner 2016:2)

As an approach to knowing and learning Wenger-Trayners theory of communities of practice from 1998 set off from the initial work with Jean Lave, investigating and defining how communities of practice are formed and developed:

Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. (Wenger 2013)

In other words, to constitute a community of practice it requires a shared domain of interest, a community concerned about connecting and building relationships so that participants can learn from each other, a shared repertoire of practice and someone to take leadership in shaping a social learning space and seeing  to that resources are available (Wenger 2010:12). So learning happens through participation and negotiating relevant competences and meaning in the community with a core of people initiating the process and keeping it going. And moving from legitimate peripheral participation to full participation happens while you engage in the community of practice so you can get access to the knowledge of the community and take part in negotiating which knowledge is relevant and can count as knowledge in the context of that specific community of practice. In other words: moving towards full membership of a community of practice involves connecting and building competences so that the necessary cultural knowledge and experience is available to be able to participate in the ongoing negotiation of competence, knowledge and meaning.  In a recent interview Wenger-Trayner comments on the concept of community of practice this way:

“The notion of community of practice does not primarily refer to a ‘group’ of people per se . Rather it refers to a social process of negotiating competence in a domain over time. That this process ends up structuring social relationships among people involved in various ways is a secondary phenomenon. And this structuring process entails a specific type of relationship. For instance, there is a distinction between a community of practice and a team.” (Farnsworth, Kleanthous & Wenger-Trayner 2016:5)

In the interview Wenger-Trayner also states:

The theory is an attempt to place the negotiation of meaning at the core of human learning, as opposed to merely the acquisition of information and skills. And for human beings, a central drive for the negotiation of meaning is the process of becoming a certain person in a social context – or more usually a multiplicity of social contexts. That’s where the concept of identity comes in. And because this is a learning theory, identity is theorized with specific reference to changing ways of participating in a practice. (Farnsworth, Kleanthous & Wenger-Trayner 2016:7)

So learning is connecting and belonging – just as much as it is learning by doing and participating – and just as much as it is becoming through interacting and constructing identity – and likewise just as much as it is experiencing through interpreting and negotiating meaning. And these aspects of learning are all elements integrated in Wenger-Trayner’s social learning theory: learning as community, learning as identity, learning as meaning, and learning as practice.

communities-of-practice-and-professional-development-of-teaching-in-he

Enhancement Themes: Developing communities of practice

In the perspective of the digital era, the concept of community of practice has been challenged by the concept of network, and in a 2010-article, “Communities of practice and social learning systems: the career of a concept”, Wenger-Trayner has his conception of communities of practice up for evaluation (which I have written about earlier on this blog). Here Wenger-Trayner explores the uses of the concept of communities of practice, and among the perspectives that make him evaluate the concept is the critique, “…that there is too much emphasis on community for an adequate account of learning in a web-enabled globalizing world.” (Wenger 2010:10). Wenger comments the critique by saying:

“Again there is an important insight to this critique. Some of us have probably overemphasized community in our attempt to account for the directionality of learning. But it is a mistake, I believe, to think of communities and networks as distinct structures. I am often asked what the difference is between a community and a network. Rather than contrasting a community here and a network there, I think it is more useful to think of community and network as two types of structuring processes. Community emphasizes identity and network emphasizes connectivity. The two usually co-exist. Certainly communities of practice are networks in the sense that they involve connections among members; but there is also identification with a domain and commitment to a learning partnership, which are not necessarily present in a network.” (Wenger 2010:10)

“More generally, I find it more productive to think of community and network as combined in the same social structures – but with more or less salience. So the question is not whether a given group is a network or a community, but how the two aspects coexist as structuring processes. This is not only a richer way to think about social structures, it also has useful practical implications. Network and community processes have complementary strengths and weaknesses; they are two avenues for enhancing the learning capability of a group. If a community becomes too much of a community, too strongly identified with itself, prone to groupthink, closed or inbred, then fostering connectivity to generate some networking energy is a good way to shake it up and open its boundaries. There is something random and unpredictable about the dynamics of networking processes, which is a good counterpart to community.”(Wenger 2010:10)

This way new knowledge and content of a subject matter or a discipline could be the result of challenging the regimes of competence in a community of practice through negotiations of knowledge, competences, identity and meaning:

“Note that what is included in a curriculum is usually called knowledge, but knowledge is not a technical term in the theory. We talk about practices, regimes of competence and knowledgeability, but we refrain from defining knowledge. Whose practice and competence gets to be viewed as ‘knowledge’ is a complex historically, social and political process that it is not in the scope of the theory to define, at least in its current state.” (Farnsworth, Kleanthous & Wenger-Trayner  2016:7)

It is in this space, opening up between existing knowledge on the one hand and developing practices and competences on the other hand, I see rhizomatic learning taking place, and to me it fits very well with Dave Cormier’s idea of what education is for: “We need to make students responsible for their own learning and the learning of others”, as he puts it in the video “A talk on Rhizomatic Learning for ETMOOC”. So when dealing with education the rhizomatic way, students have to develop an understanding of the learning process they are going through while they are going through it. As Cormier highlights it in the video:

  • Students have to understand what they are looking for when joining the course.
  • Students have to take it upon themselves to engage and to continue to grow.
  • Students have to choose and to make a syllabus for themselves through connecting, responding and collaborating.
  • Students have to understand what it is to learn and what it is to know in a subject matter or a discipline and to be able to make decisions about how to create their own learning within that process. (Cormier 2013)

The open syllabus is, as far as I can see, what Wenger-Trayner calls ‘a living curriculum’. It frames the relevant knowledge and competences that emerge in the intersection between community and network and it is the result of the interaction with the regimes of competence and knowledge while developing new knowledge. The learning processes Dave Cormier describes – from students are entering a course and engaging with foundational knowledge through to a level where they have acquired the meta knowledge and the humanistic knowledge that is necessary to handle and engage in an era of knowledge abundance – are parallel to the learning processes participants have to go through while building identity in a community of practice. It takes a journey through three modes of engaging with the world – imagination, alignment and engagement – to know what you are looking for and to keep you going (Farnsworth, Kleanthous & Wenger-Trayner  2016:12). That is for example the imagination of becoming an online learner or educator, the alignment of what you need to go through to reach your goals and finally the engagement in the practices and the regimes of knowledge needed in the domain. As mentioned earlier, participation doesn’t just mean being active, it is also about being part of a shared practice and a culture. And that is what Dave Cormier tries to achieve, as I see it.

The aim of a community of practice is sharing and creating new knowledge in order to develop the domain, in the case of rhizomatic learning a complex domain, and in order to spot how the community of practice is intertwined in Cormier’s thinking about rhizomatic learning, it might be interesting to compare the list of important aspects in communities of practice with the three key elements in rhizomatic learning as they are presented in “A Talk on Rhizomatic Learning for ETMOOC”: the complex domain, the community of practice where people work collaboratively, and the rhizome that moves in different directions and at the same time is resilient while people are responding.

“Communities of practice are important because they:

  • Connect people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to interact, either as frequently or at all.
  • Provide a shared context for people to communicate and share information, stories, and personal experiences in a way that builds understanding and insight.
  • Enable dialogue between people who come together to explore new possibilities, solve challenging problems, and create new, mutually beneficial opportunities.
  • Stimulate learning by serving as a vehicle for authentic communication, mentoring, coaching, and self-reflection.
  • Capture and diffuse existing knowledge to help people improve their practice by providing a forum to identify solutions to common problems and a process to collect and evaluate best practices.
  • Introduce collaborative processes to groups and organizations as well as between organizations to encourage the free flow of ideas and exchange of information.
  • Help people organize around purposeful actions that deliver tangible results.
  • Generate new knowledge to help people transform their practice to accommodate changes in needs and technologies.” (Cambridge, Kaplan, and Suter 2005:1)

A real course

Working with complexity and problem-solving, while connecting to knowledge and responding to the unknown and to uncertainty, is at the core of the rhizomatic learning process according to Dave Cormier. But what does it look like when the principles behind it are transformed into a course design for a course in higher education?

Dave Cormier gives some insight in his own campus course – not to mistake for his cMOOCs – which he presents in his e-book, “Making the community the curriculum”. Here he not only introduces the principles behind rhizomatic learning and gives practical guidelines for a rhizomatic course, but also stresses that his focus is on the generative knowledge of networks to drive the collaboration, participation and the knowledge creation in the course as a community of practice. This is the vehicle for understanding knowledge as contingent and complex and an answer to a situation of knowledge abundance. ‘Old’, validated knowledge meets new information and data not yet evaluated, interpreted or negotiated and forms new knowledge, new approaches, new competences, and new understandings. This is echoed in the contract and the tasks for the course that require that the students engage in a rhizomatic learning process that is self-directed and based on collaboration and peer-to-peer learning: a learning process that has no marked route to follow but several pathways to try out, and also has no simple or correct answer but a multitude of answers depending on context.

So the concept of content is evolving in rhizomatic learning, and Cormier demonstrates this in the chapter “Moving your teaching up the collaborative continuum” where he explains:

I would posit that the ‘content’ of a course is just an excuse, or at least just a foundation, for getting accus-tomed to a context for a given field or discipline. We do need to get a sense of how language is used, and how concepts recombine in any new discipline, but definitions will hardly allow us to do that. We need to try things out, to test drive them, to see how they work out in conversa-tion to really round the edges of our understanding. The content is part of that ecosystem, but not the goal of it. (Cormier 2016)

This way of defining a subject matter or a discipline mirrors two of the assumptions about a pedagogy of abundance, Martin Weller has put forward:

  • Based on a generative system, unpredictability and freedom are essential characteristics of the internet.
  • The ease of content generation will see not only a greater variety of formats for content, but courses being updated and constructed from learner’s own content. (Weller 2011:229).

Moving up along Cormier’s collaborative continuum – from a content perspective – ending up at the student-centered end would meet these assumptions while building on the advantages of them in a course, so that students not only discover and master content together, but  also create and use new knowledge in the world. Social practices and new technology give possibilities for a radically different pedagogy, and that is what rhizomatic learning is about:  a pedagogy of investigation, serendipity and networking set within a community of practice, where Cormier’s  idea of ‘an open syllabus’ aligns with Wenger-Trayner’s concept of ‘a living curriculum’.  And as Wenger-Trayner has said it himself in a brief introduction to communities of practice: “However, the very characteristics that make communities of practice a good fit for stewarding knowledge – autonomy, practitioner-orientation, informality, crossing boundaries – are also characteristics that make them a challenge for traditional hierarchial organizations. (Wenger 2013)

Dave Cormier warns, that rhizomatic learning is not for any course, and I would say that it is only for subject matters and courses that can cope with the epistemological challenge that knowledge is under dispute, and that we don’t have a uniform agreement about what the facts are, as Henry Jenkins has put it.

And this just leaves the question: what else could rhizomatic learning look like across the entire educational system from primary school to higher education?

Further reading:

Cambridge, Darren, Soren Kaplan, and Vicki Suter (2005): Community of Practice Design Guide, EDUCAUSE

Cormier, Dave (2016): Making the community the curriculum, davecormier.pressbooks.com

Cormier, Dave (2013): A talk on Rhizomatic Learning for ETMOOC

Cormier, Dave (2008): Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum , Dave’s Educational Blog

Farnsworth, Valerie, Irene Kleanthous & Etienne Wenger-Trayner (2016):  Communities of Practice as a Social Theory of Learning: a Conversation with Etienne Wenger, British Journal of Educational Studies, DOI: 10.1080/00071005.2015.1133799

Lave, Jean and Etienne Wenger (1991): Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation, Cambridge University Press

Weller, Martin (2011): A pedagogy of abundance, revista española de pedagogia año LXIX, no 249, mayo-agosto, 223-236

Wenger, Etienne (2010): Communities of practice and social learning systems: the career of a concept. In Social learning systems and communities of practice, pp. 179-198, Springer London

Wenger, Etienne (2013): Communities of Practice: A Brief Introduction

Wenger, Etienne (1998): Communities of Practice. Learning, Meaning, and Identity, Cambridge University Press

Photo by KamalJith –  CC- BY  Some rights reserved on Flickr

Elna Mortensen

 

 

In an era of knowledge abundance – Part 2

In an era of knowledge abundance – Part 1

2061381703_a57d8d4cb4_qWe live in an era of knowledge abundance – but what does that mean and what are the impli-cations for learning and education? In his article “A pedagogy of abundance”, Martin Weller stresses that “We are witnessing a fundamental change in the production of knowledge and our relationship to content. This is producing an abundance of content which is unprecedented.” (Weller 2011:232). Weller strives for mapping and conceptualizing the effect the abundance of lear-ning content and resources has on how we approach learning and education, while he presents the assumptions that any pedagogy of abundance must take into account. This perspective of abundance extends the presen-tation of the Visitors and Residents framework and  the discussions about credibility and what counts for valid knowledge in an age of digital abundance, I wrote about in my most recent blogposts.

As a background for his examinations of how education may shift as a result of abundance, Martin Weller anticipates and describes a shift in education from ‘a pedagogy of scarcity’ to ‘a pedagogy of abundance’.

A traditional model of education is based on that:

  • Expertise is scarce.
  • Learners come to the place where the experts are located.
  • The lecture is the place for students’ physical interaction with the expert.
  • Content – books and journals – are manufactured according to demand.
  • Access to content is scarce and only accessible through libraries. (Weller 2011:226)

and hence a pedagogy of scarcity has developed promoting:

  • A one to many model to make the best use of the scarce resource – that is the expert.
  • The lecture.
  • An instructivist pedagogy as a direct consequence of the demands for scarcity. (Weller 2011:226)

Now facing a necessity for education to be relevant to the digital society, another model of education emerges  where:

  • Expertise is still rare, but access to content associated with it is now much easier – e.g. resources, critical analysis, dialogue, discussion and reflection are abundant.
  • The traditional model of supply-push needs to be replaced with one of demand-pull due to the growing demand for education and lifelong learning.
  • A shift to active participation will characterize students’ interaction with content and expertise.
  • A change to a more participatory, socially constructed view of knowledge is needed to suit a demand-pull model of education.
  • New technologies are the basis in realizing this new conception of knowledge as networked and socially constructed. (Weller 2011:226-228)

This view on new technologies as the cause of a shift from an era of knowledge scarcity to an era of knowledge abundance is elaborated on by Bonnie Stewart:

“Prior to the digital era, scholarly knowledge was traditionally organized around the premise that knowledge is scarce and its artifacts materially vulnerable. Eye’s (1974) seminal article on knowledge abundance asserts, “[M]aterial can be transformed from one state to another but the original state is diminished…materials are exhaustible “ (p. 445). Manuscripts and books as knowledge artifacts are exhaustible, and costly to produce and distribute. Digital content, however, is persistent, replicable, scalable and searchable (boyd, 2011, p. 46); digital knowledge artifacts can be distributed with negligible cost to the originator or user, and without being consumed or diminished in the process. Thus widespread and increasingly mobile access to digital knowledge artifacts in “an abundant and continually changing world of information” (Jenkins, 2006, Netwotking section para. 1)) marks a shift from an era of knowledge scarcity to an era of knowledge abundance, even though access remains inequitably distributed.“ (Stewart 2015)

The shift to an era of knowledge abundance leaves Weller with one key question:

This scale and range of learning related content at least raises the question of whether we have developed the appropriate teaching and learning approaches to make best use of it. In short, what would a pedagogy of abundance look like? (Weller 2011:227).

Assumptions for a pedagogy of abundance

In order to pin down the assumptions for any pedagogy of abundance, Martin Weller provides a list to reflect on when looking for a pedagogy of abundance:

  • Content is free – not all content is free and not yet.
  • Content is abundant.
  • Content is varied – content is no longer predominantly text based.
  • Sharing is easy – through the use of tools like social bookmarking, tagging and linking the ‘cost’ of sharing has largely disappeared.
  • Social based.
  • Connections are ‘light’ – as with sharing, it is easy to make and preserve connections within a network since they do not necessitate one to one maintenance.
  • Organisation is cheap – Clay Shirky (2008, 31) argues that the ‘cost’ of organising people has collapsed, which makes informal groupings more likely to occur and often more successful.
  • Based on a generative system – Zittrain (2008) argues that unpredictability and freedom are essential characteristics of the internet and the reasons why it has generated so many innovative developments.
  • User generated content – related to the above, the ease of content generation will see not only a greater variety of formats for content, but courses being updated and constructed from learner’s own content. (Weller 2011:228-229).

This list might seem obvious to many, but I think it is important to keep it in mind to be able to figure out what abundance in all its complexity means to teaching and learning. Weller points to that we may not be needing new pedagogies to meet the assumptions on his list, although we can’t just continue designing and practicing teaching and learning the traditional scarcity way in an era of knowledge abundance, and to stress this apparent contradiction he quotes  Grainné Conole (2008):

Arguably, then there has never been a better alignment of current thinking in terms of good pedagogy – i.e. emphasizing the social and situated nature of learning, rather than a focus on knowledge recall with current practices in the use of technologies – i.e. user-generated content, user-added value and aggregated network effects. Despite this, the impact of Web 2.0 on education has been less dramatic than its impact on other spheres of society – use for social purposes, supporting niche communities, collective political action, amateur journalism and social commentary. (Weller 2011:227-228)

Weller concludes while pursuing this line of thinking:

Many of our approaches to teaching and learning were developed in a different age, and this basic shift from moderate scarcity to excessive abundance constitutes a challenge to higher education, and to individual information processing abilities. It may well be that our existing theories are sufficient, they just need recasting and reimagining for a world of abundance. (Weller 2011:232)

iIn his article Martin Weller examines some of the pedagogies that emphasize the benefit of social and situated learning and also meet at least some of the assumptions on his list. Problem based learning, Constructivism, Communities of practice and Connectivism end up being the ones that are positively evaluated as pedagogies suited for recasting and reimagining for a world of knowledge abundance. All  of these pedagogies and learning theories are convertible into supporting participatory culture as well as collaborative and situative learning as key ingredients in any pedagogy of abundance, although connectivism has been criticized for not being a theory of learning but rather a theory about education. These theories can be recasted and reimagined towards building learning on connections, on networks, in communities and in communities of practice in order to align with a more participatory and socially constructed view of knowledge. Anyhow, the quest for a pedagogy of abundance resembles the move from Learning 2.0 to Learning 3.0 as Steve Wheeler has described it:

Learning Modes Grid

Steve Wheeler: Next generation learning

And indeed, the shift from moderate scarcity to excessive abundance is a challenge, not only to Higher Education but to the educational system altogether. Martin Weller comments the challenge this way:

The issue for educators is twofold I would suggest: firstly how can they best take advantage of abundance in their own teaching practice, and secondly how do they best equip learners to make use of it? It is the second challenge that is perhaps the most significant. Exploring pedagogies of abundance will be essential for educators to meet the challenge and equip their learners with the skills they need in an age of digital abundance. (Weller 2011:232-233)

This final challenge leaves all the hard work to the educators, so I think it is only fair to give further attention to the double question put to educators by Weller and recast the two questions within the mode of Learning 3.0 dominated by learner-centered learning, networks and communities, and rhizomatic structures.

Rhizomatic learning

Rhizomatic learning is Dave Cormier’s metaphor for ‘chaotic learning’ (Wheeler 2015:42-43), that is learning that takes you across borders when hyperlinks take you to places, content and things you didn’t expect to learn, or connect you with people you have never heard of before:

Rhizomatic learning invokes the biological metaphor of a rhizome where the stem of a plant sends out roots and shoots, each of which can grow into a new plant. Rhizomes resist organizational structure and have no distinct beginning or end; they grow and propagate in a ‘nomadic’ fashion, the only restrictions to growth being those that exist in the surrounding habitat. Seen as a model for the construction of knowledge, rhizomatic processes hint at the interconnectedness of ideas as well as boundless exploration across many fronts from many different starting points. (Innovative Pedagogy 2012:33)

Cormier describes these rhizomatic processes as a way of going beyond the canon of what has traditionally been considered knowledge and the way knowledge traditionally has been validated and verified in an era of scarcity:

“In the rhizomatic view, knowledge can only be negotiated, and the contextual, collaborative learning experience shared by constructivist and connectivist pedagogies is a social as well as a personal knowledge-creation process with mutable goals and constantly negotiated premises. The rhizome metaphor, which represents a critical leap in coping with the loss of a canon against which to compare, judge, and value knowledge, may be particularly apt as a model for disciplines on the bleeding edge where the canon is fluid and knowledge is a moving target.” (Cormier 2008)

And so, rhizomatic learning is Cormier’s theory of learning in a time of abundance. In the video “Rhizomes and Open Learning”, Dave Cormier introduces rhizomatic learning and how he sees it in relation to education:

With the rhizome as his metaphor for learning in an era of abundance, inspired by Deleuze and Guattari, Dave Cormier draws on pedagogies and approaches to learning like connectivism,  paragogy based on peer-to-peer learning and knowledge exchange, and distributed cognition including communities.

Self-directed learning is a keyword in this landscape of pedagogies meant to accommodate and deal with knowledge abundance. How to find, handle, interpret, validate, negotiate, create, improve, apply and share information and knowledge through connecting, communicating  and collaborating with online resources, experts, peers, networks, communities and communities of practice is essential in the processes of knowledge creation. They are also an inherent part of current practices in the use of technologies and emphasize the social and situated nature of learning in a culture of knowledge abundance.

In connectivism learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources (Weller 2011:231), and Dave Cormier takes the idea of connectivism a step further when he introduces rhizomatic learning as a learning theory underlining a non-linear, experimenting, multiperspectivist and participatory approach to learning. In rhizomatic learning serendipity, that is accidental discovery, is an important dimension of networking, and bricolage becomes an aspect of knowledge creation within the context of a community that helps finding, interpreting, validating, negotiating and sharing informations and knowledge while co-creating new, accurate and up-to-date knowledge. As Dave Cormier says it in the video:  “to know what it is to know inside this space” is what you need  to learn, whether it is a subject matter, a problem based task, a case or a theme that is your common purpose and the reason why you got together in the community. This way ‘the community becomes 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 n subject of its learning in the same way that the rhizome responds to changing environmental conditions… (Cormier 2008)

And so, rhizomatic learning is a variation of open networked learning and a model for the construction of knowledge suited for an era of ever changing knowledge.

I think rhizomatic learning is one way to go, when it comes to finding a pedagogy of abundance that corresponds with the affordances of Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 while predicting and shaping Learning 3.0. But I don’t think rhizomatic learning is an as seamless process to engage in for many people as it might seem. In Bonnie Stewart’s opinion it requires networked or digital literacies to navigate in an open networked  learning environment, and she has nicely put this into words in “Learning in the Open: Networked Student Identities”, a blogpost written some years ago:

“But I believe learning – whether in online social networks or straight from the canon, bound in leather – involves being able to read and make sense of the codes and signals being given off by those you interact with, particularly those you expect to learn from. These are what I refer to when I talk about “legitimacy structures” within academia and networks…” (Stewart 2013a)

Screen-shot-2013-02-10-at-4.15.47-PM

Bonnie Stewart: Learning in the Open: Networked Student Identities

These two sets of legitimacy structures and practices are reflected in Cormier’s traditional and rhizomatic models for knowledge validation – and they are both essential to understanding the pedagogies and the two models of education, the traditional scarcity model and the model of abundance and open practices, that are up for discussion in this blogpost.

As Bonnie Stewart says, her legitimacy structures and practices are in a sense literacies, and to me the challenging part for education is to make students  and learners embrace these digital and networked literacies that belong to networked learning while learning how to engage online in a Residents mode as mapped by Alison Le Cornu and David White and presented in my most recent blogposts . Bonnie Stewart talks about these digital and networked literacies as new literacies of participation in relation to learning in MOOCs in her article “Massiveness + Openness = New Literacies of Participation?”. As I see it, this also applies to rhizomatic learning:

“The studies in new literacies (Barton, 1994) established the use of the plural “literacies” rather than the singular “literacy” in order to push beyond the binary of “literate” and “illiterate” that still shapes our cultural threshold-based conceptions surrounding literacy (Belshaw, 2012). Lankshear and Knobel (2007) frame new literacies as follows:

The more a literacy practice privileges participation over publishing, distributed expertise over centralized expertise, collective intelligence over individual possessive intelligence, collaboration over individuated authorship, dispersion over scarcity, sharing over ownership, experimentation over “normalization,” innovation and evolution over stability and fixity, creative-innovative rule breaking over generic purity and policing, relationship over information broadcast, and so on, the more we should regard it as a “new” literacy. (p. 21)

… Belshaw (2012) notes that skills are subject to objective thresholds, whereas “literacy is a condition, not a threshold … you cannot become literate merely through skill acquisition – there are meta-level processes also required”…

To be digitally literate is to be able to engage the connections and communications possibilities of digital technologies, in their capacity to generate, remix, repurpose, and share new knowledge as well as simply deliver existing information. Many people have no experience or conception of these types of possibilities: simply being online does not necessarily build social and communicative familiarity with what Lankshear and Knobel (2007) refer to as the “distinctive ethos” of participatory culture (Jenkins, 2006). But interacting within an environment that exposes and encourages meta-level processing as well as knowledge generation, remixing, repurposing, and sharing can help create that condition of literacy.” (Stewart 2013b)

These digital and networked literacies correspond with Le Cornu and Whites definition of the Resident mode and with my own views on digital and learning literacies, and they can be results of rhizomatic learning as a pedagogy of abundance, too, but they are also learning literacies and dimensions of social and situated learning that needs to be deliberately and consciously developed to keep rhizomatic learning a relevant  pedagogy of abundance. I think this focus on digital and networked literacies could be an answer to Martin Wellers second question to educators: how do you best equip learners to make use of abundance?

Rhizomatic learning is a suggestion for a pedagogy of abundance that has been born of open networked learning and Higher Education, but this leaves an extra question for educators, as I see it: Is it possible to introduce rhizomatic learning and the principles behind it as a pedagogical perspective on knowledge abundance across the entire educational system from primary school to Higher Education?

This blogpost has been edited on 5. June 2016 in order to make the distinction between ‘community’ and ‘community of practice’ clearer in three passages.

Further reading:

Conole, Grainné (2008): New Schemas for Mapping Pedagogies and Technologies, Ariadne, 56

Cormier, Dave (2008): Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum

Sharples, M., McAndrew, P., Weller, M., Ferguson, R., FitzGerald, E., Hirst, T., Mor, Y., Gaved, M. and Whitelock, D. (2012): Innovating Pedagogy 2012: Open University Innovation Report 1, The Open University

Stewart, Bonnie E (2015): In Abundance: Networked Participatory Practices as Scholarship, The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, Vol 16, No 3

Stewart, Bonnie (2013a): Learning in the Open: Networked Student Identities

Stewart, Bonnie (2013b): Massiveness + Openness = New Literacies of Participation?, MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, Vol. 9, No.2

Weller, Martin (2011): A pedagogy of abundance, revista española de pedagogia año LXIX, no 249, mayo-agosto, 223-236

Wheeler, Steve (2015): Learning with ‘e’s. Educational theory and practice in the digital age, Carmarthen

Photo:  AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by . .Jef Safi.  on Flickr

Elna Mortensen

In an era of knowledge abundance – Part 1