Monday, May 11, 2015

Goodbye Dave. Hello Dave.


Dave is really HAL, who is emulating Dave
Busy week!  Just finished grading my current class, and finished the syllabus for my summer class.  Now the next stage in the course development is to create some instructions of the assessments, supporting materials, videos... oh my! I guess this is making me a bit late to this week's Rhizo Party on #rhizo15.  I have not read responses of other participants yet (been focusing on Latour...) but I assume I will get to those sometime this coming week (I am almost caught up on Pocket!).

This week Dave asks the following: in a rhizomatic learning environment How do we get rid of the idea of Dave? Should we get rid of Dave? How do we teach rhizomatically and what is the role of the instructor?

Dave wants to focus on formal learning - which is fine with me because that's what I was going to address anyway ;-)  I don't think that we could discuss all learning environments, open, traditional, undergraduate, graduate, K-12, corporate, experiential, and so on with one set of blueprints - assuming that blueprints are what we want anyway.

My focus  on teaching rhizomatically deals with teaching at a university and teaching graduate students. As I have written in at least one other post the traditional, formal, course - the one found in an accredited institution of higher education has learning objectives, things that you are supposed to learn and demonstrate some competency in by the time you complete that course. These course objectives start forming the connective strands for a program curriculum. This is also used by our fine marketing folks to promote our programs. At the end of the day a program and a set of courses are only viable if they matriculate students in them (hard economic fact).

Now should the instructor fade in the background?  I think this has a lot to do with the expectations for the learners, but by and large I don't think that most learners want the instructor to fade into the background.  Most students I've spoken to absolutely hate the "ghost in the wings" type of instructor. I think this comes from a pragmatic fact that the system the learners are in is one where the learner expects interaction from the instructor.  It's not an assessment of prior learning (PLAR), but it is a taught course or seminar. I think that if most of our educational system were based on PLAR, with some rhizomatic seminars interspersed  at strategic points, the idea of the instructor as a key component of a "course" might start to diminish a bit.

In formal teaching and learning settings, even if the instructor becomes less prevalent in a course, I don't think it's a good idea for the instructor to be too far.  After all, instructors are hired because they (supposedly) know a little more about the topic than the students who are in the course.  Even though instructors don't know everything about the subject and the field they are in, they (hopefully) know enough to be able to guide learners away from dead ends and rabbit holes that they don't have time to explore during a time-limited semester.

In an open learning setting we did, to some extent, get "rid" of Dave when some of us started expanding #rhizo14 once the course had 'formally' ended. I don't think this was an attempt at a coup but rather an interest to continue engaging with topics that we had during the preceding 6 weeks.  That fizzled out eventually because not every learner was willing to invest that time in the Rhizo14-overtime event.  I don't remember if Dave was there for most of it - someone please remind me in the comments if you have better memory than I do :-).  This is where I see one of the key jobs of a convener or instructor in a rhizomatic learning environment: not necessarily dictating topics and ruling with an iron fist, but kindling the discussion, posing interesting questions, and keeping the thing going.  I don't think that we need, or should, get rid of the convener.  A central node should be there, even if that node's influence and power are eventually distributed over the network of learners.

Finally, What is a teacher anyway?:  I heard this great line from a comedian, in an interview, today.  This comedian said that they don't get paid to do the show, they get paid to travel - doing the show is something they would do for free.  I feel that this is sort of how I feel about teaching. I don't get paid to teach. I do that anyway day-to-day with friends, colleagues, students, and alumni when I have discussions with them and I informally advise them or help them troubleshoot.  What I get paid for is to be available for a specific time period and to assess minimum passing level of competence for those engaged in that topic for that time period.

Your thoughts?


SIDE NOTES:
Dave's videos for Rhizo at times remind me of the Hulk. Maybe I am influenced from the weight lifting videos he publishes on Facebook, but I honestly expect him to go "Rhizo Smash!" in one of these videos. Mild Mannered Dave becomes...the RhizoHulk!
blog comments powered by Disqus