EC&I 831 – Week 3 – Rhizomatic Learning – Guest Lecture by Dave Cormier (not Coulier)

Tonight Dave Cormier gave an amazing talk about the way in which the social contract between teacher and student has changed dramatically, due in part to the oversaturation of information available to those who are motivated to access it. Long gone is the belief that the best style of teaching is one of rote memorization. Instead of content, it is now key to recognize the process and method as being of key importance in instruction.
Dave’s points wonderfully redeemed my own approach to instruction. After embracing the idea that information is all around us and is readily accessible, the role of the teacher changes drastically from fount of knowledge, to role model and mentor.
A teacher’s role is to consider:
providing students with the ability to access this information,
Providing students strategies in disseminating the information,
Building in students the ability to create their own argument, challenge their own beliefs, and those of others,
How to keep motivation high
etc.
I love this approach, and model it in my own classroom. After giving my students a crash course in the technology we have available to us in our classroom and on the web, I give my students the opportunity to study their own interest based projects. These go hand in hand with the more formative instruction on the writing process, reading strategies, etc. Students can take the information that they learn from the lessons, and apply it to their own projects. For example, today a lesson in summarizing text was later used when students, working on a quick and dirty self-interest research project, were able to better focus their ideas when putting them to their slides.

The big issue then, becomes motivation. As I touched upon this in an earlier blog post, motivation is essential to self-directed responsible learning. Without it, the best laid plans are moot. I have found that working in a community school, I have had such a difficult time with motiviation, even when the projects are self-interest.
Here’s a list of what could be causing it: (add your own to the comments!)
being stuck down low on Maslow’s hierarchy,
family and community’s limited worldview imposing on said student’s own worldview and growth of said worldview,
limited language skills (when pulling text is very much all about reading, especially when programs like Kurzweil are buggy and rarely work),
or simply under-exposure to the opportunity to practice independent, self-directed working….

When Dave spoke about his own way of setting up his class, the point of ‘teacher interference’ made me realize what had gone wrong with many of my student’s projects (or lack thereof) last year. I provided them with all the tools, the modeling, and the opportunity, but what I didn’t do was ‘get all up in their grills!’

I assumed that because it was self-interest, students would naturally be motivated to do their best work. But by not modelling this (possibly by a teacher sharing their own personal interest research/presentations), and especially by not constantly pestering and questioning, students may not feel the interest, or the need to push themselves.

The lecture, reaffirmed and helped to question the process I am still in the ever ongoing process of integrating into my classroom. A great summary of Dave’s Rhizomatic Learning model can be found by following this link:
http://davecormier.com/edblog/2011/11/05/rhizomatic-learning-why-learn/

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