#DLMOOC: Significacio

Think of a time during your youth when you had a significant learning experience (in or out of school). What was it and why was it so significant?
Tweet your response with the hashtags #WhatisDL #dlmooc

So goeth the instructions for this week’s tweet. I need to tell the story here and then tweet it out from here.

I am an instructor at Western Kentucky University. I teach composition and literature and technical writing. I have a handful of international students every semester. This particular one held one from Armenia and another from China. One day after class they met in my office. They weren’t in the same class, but it just so happened that they converged that day on me. “Z” and Sun were among my favorite people in class. Full of hope. We sat around telling stories to each other, laughing at my lame jokes, talking about idiomatic and idiosyncratic stuff. I stepped out one moment for a cup of coffee and as I returned I heard the triumphal strains of the Russian State Anthem.    As I drew closer to the door my Armenian and Chinese students were clasped arm in arm and singing their guts out in Russian. I walked in. They kept singing.

I was gobsmacked. How did this happen? It turns out that “Z” knows at least four languages and that while he hated Mother Russia with all his heart, he did love the Russian Anthem. “Sun” on the other hand had grown up in a Chinese city that was a very common Russian tourist destination. As he said, “If you are around enough drunken Russians, you will eventually learn this song. They insist.” In my office from the far and near east I learned the true meaning of diversity. In its deepest sense diversity is not something you acquire; rather, it is something you invite. And sometimes it comes unbidden, but I learned that day to always welcome it to the party.

R.S.V.P. – Clueless (1/9) Movie CLIP (1995) HD

Clueless movie clips: http://j.mp/1L8aAwy BUY THE MOVIE: http://amzn.to/txdI1P Don’t miss the HOTTEST NEW TRAILERS: http://bit.ly/1u2y6pr CLIP DESCRIPTION: Cher (Alicia Silverstone) debates immigration policy with Amber (Elisa Donovan) by using a garden party anecdote. FILM DESCRIPTION: Jane Austen might never have imagined that her 1816 novel Emma could be turned into a fresh and satirical look at ultra-rich teenagers in a Beverly Hills high school.

#Rhizo14: To Simon and Ronald and the Still Point of the Turning World

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only dance.
I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.
And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.

I Have Seen This Somewhere Before, (No, Wait . Don’t Tell Me.)

I am swamped and I am reading how others are swamped.  I am tempted to call this cognitive dissonance, but I don’t think that concept catches or carries the embodiment that is #rhizo14.  Instead,  I have been trying to process just like Agent J in MIB:

Searching For A Handle On The Moment? I Can't Help You Sound Clip and Quote - Hark

This morning I remembered.  I had been in this neighborhood before.  How could I have forgotten?  What I remembered was an astonishing blog post by one of my favorite web iconoclasts, Venkatesh Rao.  I have been dogging his blog, ribbonfarm, for many years.  I have been slowing reading and re-reading his book Tempo for almost as long. What I remembered was his take on James C. Scott’s concept of ‘legibility’.  Scott argues that the state in order to  carry forth its institutional imperatives (taxation, for example) takes complexity either in nature or in society and reduces it to counable and manageable chunks.  The picture below speaks volumes more than I could.

A Big Little Idea Called Legibility(“A Big Little Idea Called Legibility.”  Web. 22 Jan. 2014.)

Rao uses an example from Stephen Johnson to elaborate on the concept:

In Mind Wide Open, Steven Johnson’s entertaining story of his experiences subjecting himself to all sorts of medical scanning technologies, he describes his experience with getting an fMRI scan. Johnson tells the researcher that perhaps they should start by examining his brain’s baseline reaction to meaningless stimuli. He naively suggests a white-noise pattern as the right starter image. The researcher patiently informs him that subjects’ brains tend to go crazy when a white noise (high Shannon entropy) pattern is presented. The brain goes nuts trying to find order in the chaos. Instead, the researcher says, they usually start with something like a black-and-white checkerboard pattern.

Rhizomatic learning invokes the illegible, the complex, and the organic.  It is not so much uncomfortable so much as it irreconcileable.  Rao sums up, “it is easier to comprehend the whole by walking among the trees, absorbing the gestalt, and becoming a holographic/fractal part of the forest, than by hovering above it.”  It isn’t that we can’t see the forest for the trees.  It is that we can’t become the forest when we make the trees legible.  In this sense many of the current attempts to make learning legible are doomed to complete or nearly complete failure.  The messified feelings we get from rhizomatic learning arise not from the process but rather   from an attempt to demystify and order/control/guide the process .  We say to ourselves (or at least I have said to myself), “How can I use this in my classroom, my professional life, my life?”

We likely can’t in the normal, transactional sense.  Rhizomatic learning is a sample of one.  And then another.  Our attempts to generalize beyond that might be doomed to the same failure that curriculum planners often come to when they textbook-ify a discipline.  That is not just an uncomfortable feeling for some. That is terrifying for some.  For me it isn’t about letting go, for me it is about letting come.  I must let the forest come, let the gestalt arise, let the zeitgeist form.  [Insert any words here because mine fail.] As always, I could be wrong.