Research about rhizo14

Exploring learning in open online studies is my hobby and so I wanted to check what is happening to the  two research projects of Rhizo14. A group of course participants planned a survey for us and began to gather our answers. It was called an autoethnography. Keith Hamon wanted to activate the process in his blog post “Who is writing the rhizo ethnography?” This post helped me to check the situation and now I know that the raw material is still waiting for researchers. It is open to the writers and nothing has been done since April. But now the group (Sarah Honeychurch et al) is planning a Hangout and you can follow the process via the  FB rhizo group – and participate, of course, if you will. A lot of hard work is waiting for doers. The material consists of answers to many questions about the learning process. You can read the questions in my blog post, my autoethnography. Keith Hamon tells the names of 35 possible authors who have told their stories.

Another research project was started by Jenny Mackness and Frances Bell (and Mariana Funes). You can read in Jenny’s blog about their presentation in June. It was very interesting to watch. Their interest is to follow the name of the course and explore how it was interpreted. They received 47 answers to the four questions and continued with interviews of 35 people. The questions were:

How the Rhizo14 experience relates to learning/teaching experiences before, during and after the course, triggered by the rhizome image. Your interpretation of learning and teaching need not be confined to formal settings.
1. How does the image of a rhizome relate to your prior experience of teaching, learning?
2. How does the image of a rhizome relate to your experience of learning during Rhizo14?
3. How might the image of a rhizome represent your future practice?
4. If the above questions did not allow you to fully explain your learning experience in Rhizo14, then please comment in the box below on those aspects of the course which were significant for you, and what kept you in the course or caused you to leave early.

It was not easy to answer the questions if you hadn’t thought anything about any rhizomes ( or actually it was easy to tell: no connections). I was a bad answerer in their research but I liked to watch their presentation. I took 2 screenshots of the presentation (the link to it is found in Jenny’s blog post). First they emphasize the complex nature of learning and then they combine the Deleuze-Guattari principles to learning in the course.

rhizoresHow are connections emerging? Is it really possible to connect from any to any?

Heterogeneity is obvious when the course is open to anyone. There was a huge amount of variety of beliefs and schooling and interests etc.

The researchers are working on these concepts in order to find the connections between the principles of rhizomatic thinking and participants’ experiences during rhizo14.

The metaphor level is fascinating but it can be used according to the writer’s own beliefs and I am not sure how much it will help. If rhizomes are spreading via clones, it doesn’t sound good or how? How many like-minded students I met on the course? Many?

The researchers know that objectivity is not possible in a research where they have acted as engaged participants. It is a challenge to listen to all the voices of participants. One solution could be to write down the researchers’ own beliefs before analysing the material. Transparency helps the readers to assess the researchers’ influence to the results.

The other image gives concepts for describing the possible results (or descriptions).

rhizores2Ambiguities and concerns vary greatly in the material. As a participant I could follow many lines (personal orientations) inside the course. Some people were interested in scientific research while most denied its value totally. Artistic line (poetry, word art, videos, images etc.) was very popular and it is a good way to describe complex phenomena. I could define those arrows as clusters toward these lines (conceptual vs images or learning vs rhizomatic learning).

In a course without content the personal orientation is most important and it means that many people are worrying about own space and competencies. Are my sayings worth saying or should I be quiet? Self- confidence is not given as a talent. Part of the energy during a course always goes around the own ego -or the facilitator’s ego.

It was interesting to hear that someone questioned the community as curriculum – is it possible to use side by side with rhizomatic thinking or learning. The learning process becomes deeper during the research process. I appreciate every effort to deep understanding of human learning.

This is a poor reference about Jenny’s and Frances’ presentation. I blended my thoughts here and there and it makes this messy. Please watch the video yourself (18 min). It is in Echo360 environment and you can find other interesting knowledge about MOOCs too.

The third survey in my mind was implemented at the end of the course. I checked Dave Cormier’s blog but did not find the results about his survey. Perhaps it doesn’t matter, he is planning the next rhizo course already.

My next post will deal with my own summary and my vision for mooc research. It is a hot summer here in Finland and lakes are too warm for swimming, can you imagine that? I came to town because it was too warm at our summer cottage.


6 thoughts on “Research about rhizo14

  1. Heli, thanks for the link and for asking good questions. I especially like your observations about self-confidence being a key to engaging a cMOOC such as Rhizo14. I don’t see enough talk about confidence in ones ability to map a new learning space publicly and let others see what you are mapping. It can be intimidating.

    Your link to my blog post has an error in the web address. It has a stray space (%20) at the end. Delete that space and the link will work. Thanks again for reading.

    • Hi Keith, thanks for helping with the link address.

      The autoethnography material is large and I am still wondering how it can be used so that it will be in a readable form. Dynamic processes are interesting only if you are inside the process. I found 30 stories + Sarah and Dave, so 32 is my number of the material. A frame is needed or many frames for description of possible findings. Time will tell..

  2. Hi Heli – thanks so much for your interest in our presentation and for taking the time to listen to it – and now for this post, which I have been thinking about a lot. You write:

    >>How are connections emerging? Is it really possible to connect from any to any? Heterogeneity is obvious when the course is open to anyone. There was a huge amount of variety of beliefs and schooling and interests etc.>>

    As a result of your questions I have been wondering what Deleuze and Guattari really meant when they talked about connections and heterogeneity. It is so easy to automatically/without thinking match their writing to what we already know and understand, however tentative that knowledge and understanding is. But what if their meaning was something way outside my own ability to understand or way outside my prior experience. So I have been digging around a bit and getting more and more confused. One thing I am becoming fairly clear about is that there is no one way to understand Delueze and Guattari’s writing.

    You ask if it is possible to connect from any to any and that question reminded me of the 6 degrees of separation activity – – that I first completed on the very first course I did with Etienne Wenger, where it was used as a way to get the course participants to learn as much as possible about each other in the first week. I found I was connected in many ways to others on the course, without ever having met or heard of them before. So thinking about it in this way, I think, yes – it probably is possible to connect from ‘any to any’.

    I have also been wondering about the meaning of heterogeneity. I have come to think that for Deleuze and Guattari this was more than simply diversity or difference. It incorporated multiplicities, in the form of differences in kind, differences in degree, items and qualities – not simply people or even resources. I am still thinking about this and need to dig a bit deeper.

    You have also questioned the use of the metaphor, just as we have and are doing. I think it is worth remembering that all metaphors have their limitations and perhaps there isn’t (hasn’t been in rhizo14?) enough discussion about these limitations. I found it interesting that a few of our survey respondents recognised these limitations. Metaphors are not perfect. Lakoff has written that metaphors work if they advance our understanding. I am interested in whether the metaphor of the rhizome can advance our understanding of teaching and learning. I haven’t come to any conclusions yet.

    One of the other lines of investigation in the research is around the idea of ‘the community is the curriculum’. What does this mean? What does community mean in this context? What does curriculum mean in this context? What are the implications of this approach for teaching and learning? This line of inquiry is proving very interesting.
    I am looking forward to your next post, but it sounds like you are having a good summer.

    And – no – I can’t imagine lakes that are too warm to swim in!

    • Thanks a lot Jenny, you gave me questions to think further.
      Perhaps I should not at all speak about D&G because I haven’t read their books. I had a glimpse of the material which Cath Ellis gave in the rhizo14 and I noticed that I knew all the theories on which D&G grounded their thinking, also the most complex ones (marxism, psychoanalysis, postmodernism..). Critical theory has been my mental world since 1970’s, and I feel that I don’t need those D&G books. So I shouldn’t say anything about them.

      Dave Gormier seems to use them in order to prove the complexity of learning and the premises which he gives are similar to self-directed learning or empowerment – the principles which are implemented in Finnish adult education (and many other countries of course).

      So may sayings about your research concerning the rhizo ideology, they are only my first feelings after listening to your presentation. You aroused my thinking about rhizo14 and I am grateful for it. Perhaps I should write one post about my attitudes toward D &G. They are a philosopher and psychiatrist and interested in rhizomatic thinking, not learning?

      All my sayings were based on my old knowing (critical theory or psychology) and my experiences. The rhizo14 course did not trigger me toward theoretical studies.

      Now it is only 20 grades Celsius and I love this traditional Finnish weather, not too hot yet. Thanks for your comment!

  3. Thank you @helinurmur. You always drop rich questions and gems of observations.
    I really appreciate the suggestion that we write down our own beliefs – will do;)
    I also appreciate your comments about ‘community is the curriculum ‘ – we are thinking about that and your contribution helps;)
    Love the idea it’s too hot to swim in your lakes. My daughter did river swimming last week and loved it!

  4. Hi Frances and thanks for you comment

    Writing transparently my one beliefs was something I did when I worked as a researcher. I did action research with teachers and students and felt a strong pressure to show how well everything went. National Board of Education payed my salary and I felt to work in a trap,

    You have freedom to explore the rhizo14 course as you like and it is easier to forget other participants’ expectations or is it? To become a better researcher requires a good analysis of own beliefs/purposes/needs

    I have read the autoethnography materials and followed the discussion in the FB group – some people there think that the raw material is everything, it is a perfect expression of all the voices. Collaborative autoethnography is challenging, time will tell what happens.

    We never speak about river swimming in Finland but many people in your country have that hobby. I love the cool weather today, only 20 Celsius, I hope it stays until afternoon.

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