April 26

#rhizo15 subjectives

So… I decided to jump into the middle of #rhizo15. As a newbie, I felt/feel bewildered by the intent of this particular MOOC. As a sometimes gardener, I know what a rhizome is in terms of plants, and The American Oxford Dictionary substantiated my understanding:

A continuously growing horizontal underground stem that puts out lateral shoots and adventitious roots at intervals.
Syllabification: rhi·zome
Pronunciation: /ˈrīˌzōm/

I learned a new word from this definition – adventitious, defined as “arising or occurring sporadically or in other than the usual location.” Hmmm, I guess this applies to the nature of #rhizo15, and is perhaps the source of some of my uncertainty. We are a geographically diverse group, and some of us are jumping in here and there, without any particular objectives.

As for subjectives, the Merriam-Webster dictionary provided two definitions that caught my fancy: relating to the way a person experiences things in his or her own mind; based on feelings or opinions rather than facts. There is no doubt that all of us can participate in the same experience, yet walk away with different perceptions, based on our values, experience, and overall mindset. And, whether we like to admit it or not, a lot of us reach conclusions on topics not based on rational, factual information, but rather based on, once again, our values, experience, and overall mindset. One of my subjectives, in #rhizo15, and in any learning experience, is to actually listen to others’ points of view, their experience, and their expertise.

Looking up the definition of rhizomatic led to other discoveries. Merriam-Webster informed me that it is of, relating to, or resembling a rhizome. I have always found definitions that use the root of the word you are looking up as part of the explanation more than a little annoying!

This exercise in dictionary skills did yield fruit, however, which is found in the comments below the definition of rhizomatic.

“’rhizomatic’ is mentioned in a text about the Internet, infrastructure, discrepancies in Internet access, penetration rates etc.”

“…the rhizomatic networks of power and information that typify contemporary globalization.”

“Rhizomatic Interconnections Between University and the Real World”

“The rhizomatic garden is also used as a metaphor for identity politics in the work of Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, and Edouard Glissant, but the historical discourses and practices that underlie gardening in Olive Senior’s poetry construct the metaphor as a far more ambivalent and conflicted process than even Deleuze acknowledges” [emphasis added].

These commenters understand that our increasingly (literally and figuratively) interconnected world is highly rhizomatic. The post-World War II structure we seem caught up in, whether it be related to commerce, politics, or education, no longer applies. Due to the mind-boggling rate of technological change, what is ahead of the curve today will be obsolete in a matter of years, if not months. All of our systems need to be adaptable and flexible, to be able to respond to the ever-changing environment.

Then, a literalist entered the conversation:

“What are you guys talking about? Rhizomatic is a term horticulturists use to describe certain plants ability to create a specialized stem, a rhizome, that grows underground and create ‘daughter plants’, allowing a plant to reproduce and spread.”

Isn’t that where we sometimes get stuck? In the concrete, understandable, don’t-rock-my-boat mindset. This is totally understandable. Humans don’t like change. Or do they? I find digital natives are totally comfortable with the new gadgets that arrive on the scene at a rapid rate. They are not at all afraid to play with them, and figure out how they work. Maybe more of our teaching and learning should be framed around this thought – let students figure things out. Give them the tools and guidance they need, offer them challenging questions and problems to solve, and watch them go!

Going back to gardening. At Sara’s Superb Herbs, I discovered:

“All mints are invasive… Never till mints because each stub will become another plant.”

Wouldn’t that be a great outcome of #rhizo15, that a whole bunch of new “plants” sprout up, and we all become enlarged by our experience?

Sara further explains:

“The word mint comes from Minthe, a Greek nymph who had the misfortune to be loved by Pluto. Persephone, not taking kindly to this infidelity, changed her into a lowly plant. But Pluto, taking pity on her, softened her plight by making her fragrant and even more aromatic when tread upon.”

I want to allow myself to be “tread upon” by my #rhizo15 colleagues, listening to them, learning from them, knowing that my professional aroma will benefit.