Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Connectivity in the Classroom

So Deleuze and Guattari say that in the rhizome all points are connected to all other points, even unlike, heterogenous points, and that these connected points are a multiplicity emerging from multiplicities. To my mind, this undermines directly the traditional, industrial approach to education which identifies each student and teacher as a discrete unit, each class and lesson as discrete units, each educational cohort as a discrete unit, each discipline as a discrete unit, and arranges them all in some factory order, mostly to meet the demands of the factory, the school.

How would I say this for my classes? A class of 20 students brings together more points of value and knowledge than the class can ever hope to mine, utilize, incorporate, cultivate, or explore. Moreover, limiting the value-add merely to the teacher's knowledge short-changes the students' learning processes significantly. Rhizomatic/Connectivist education, then, looks for ways to form connections to all the value and knowledge resident in any given intersection of students, teachers, content, resources, interests, objectives, and so forth, and suggests that the more connections the class forms, then the more knowledge that emerges for all.

What can we connect to? Well, most everything—especially in higher education. While the class may, and probably should, have a focus similar to my focus on academic writing on the focus of CCK12 on Connectivism and connected knowledge, the rhizomatic/connectivist key is to help students and teachers connect this starting focus to their own personal and professional trajectories. In other words, what is the connection of academic writing to the student in my class who is preparing to be a cop, or a nurse, or a legal assistant? What value can the student with six-years of military service bring to the conversation about academic writing? What value from the student has survived cancer? What value from the student who has just graduated from high school?

A rhizomatic/connectivist approach to education, it seems to me, looks for a space within which students can bring their own value to the discussion of whatever, be it writing, art, or zoology. I think MOOCs are one such space, and I'm grateful to be in two of them at the moment: Change11 and CCK12, but I'm also looking for ways to open my classroom in its traditional space to this rhizomatic/connectivist approach. I need specific techniques.

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