Curious, in(ter)dependent and uncertain (week 3 of) #rhizo14

This post is a merge of thoughts about the topics of this and the previous two weeks. I have not been able to be active reading and commenting thanks to off rhizome reasons. Perhaps I also drift off topic because of this. I will be happy for any help finding my way back.  Just so you know, my aim is to add to the more practical and teaching related discussions. However, reading comments about post structuralist or other philosophical views of learning and knowledge is also rewarding, I think! My first thought this week is the correlation between embracing uncertainty and enforcing independence, which I guess is as related as everything else (in a holistic perspective).

When I first read the words enforcing independence I pictured this scene: a young girl is sent away from home to be alone in the world (soundtrack). However, the idea is congenial; is there any other options left when learners have gotten used to being fed instructions and always being led by the hand, as someone else asks the questions leading to a given answer? Constant testing to find out if students know the correct answer kills curiosity, because of that someone’s preferential right of interpretation, be it the teacher or a parent. Perhaps this focus on answers is a tradition that is hard to break free from, but readily serving learners with answers creates dependence. When reading Jörg Lohrer’s interesting post, in which he suggests enforcing interdependence, the taste of the word gives me rhizomatic associations.

Since everything is related, cheating, the topic the first week is invited by this idea of learning and knowledge. When someone else owns the whole picture, you have to be immune to the predictability of it all to stay curious. Also, someone else (the almighty teacher) is also responsible for the outcome, when the idea is that the transmission of knowledge goes from teacher to learner. A good teacher is the one who transmits knowledge effectively. A student is successful if she finds the cues to what the teacher (or the school system) wants her to know. Consequently she studies for the test and ultimately for the grades.

Rhizomatic learning will of course look much different from this, since it requires learners apt to finding their way around problems and who know how to formulate questions and hypotheses. Listening to others’ ideas and questions is also crucial, and I think developing a great amount of patience will help. I recently listened to Ewan McIntosh, who talked about googleable and ungoogleable questions. The latter need time and effort. I think the topics in Rhizo14 are excellent examples of such questions. Please feel free to add more questions!

Last spring, a teacher at Stockholm University,  Krystof Bak, wrote an article in our biggest news paper Dagens Nyheter , claiming that Swedish students, as opposed to the students he  taught in Poland and Germany, have a different way to construct understanding. While the continental students ask a lot of questions, Swedish students begin with the answers. Bak says that his challenge is to create a balance in both cases. To be able to leave yourself and the understanding you have, in order to understand what you do not yet understand is difficult for Swedish students, he says.  I posted a blog related to our topic then. (In Swedish, perhaps Google translate…)

My colleagues and I recognized this behavior, so we decided to take measures: we focus on encouraging the students to as questions and propose and test out hypotheses rather than to find the short cuts to the smart answers. Possible answers are of course welcome, but they will also be followed up with new questions, i.e. on what questions led to the answer. The first year is the year when the students will learn to ask. And ask. And ask. This approach is a challenge for many, since the school tradition is so strong. Most of my students are motivated and some of them are also good at asking questions to challenge their understanding. They also find their ways on the internet, in the library or to the person they need to ask. This kind of independence might make interactive learners, when urged to connect and collaborate, connect, share using tools like Google, Skype and blogs. I have noticed that many already do this outside school, to find the best solution to problems related to their interests.

The metaphor may be cliché, but if we pay attention to the toolbox, which contains a good set of basic questions the learner can develop the skills needed to use them efficiently. I look forward to reading a bit more about self-assessment and self-remediation and will try to find some time this week. Does it have to do with setting your own goals? Do you need others to help you or is it an individual activity? What criteria do we have, the curricular or others?





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  1. Lovely post. You have touched on something that interests me
    ”This kind of independence might make interactive learners, when urged to connect and collaborate, connect, share using tools like Google, Skype and blogs. I have noticed that many already do this outside school, to find the best solution to problems related to their interests.”
    The idea that you can transfer learning skills acquired in one domain (work, study, play) is very attractive but challenging for students and for all of us I think. I am retired since January 2012 but previously taught in HE. I tried to encourage students to build personal learning networks (for whatever they were learning) and probably had some if limited success. One thing that did go down well was tweeting a question out to me Twitter network during a class. so they could see the answers coming back. If you scroll down this post , you can see a student’s tweet in response to the activity
    Mint is a compliment by the way;)
    I wonder how many of us are already learning rhizomatically outside of #rhizo14. Does it feel OK to bring those stories to #rhizo14?


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