Rhizoid in the Classroom, Week Five: From Feldgang to Ropewalk and Back Again

IMG_20140214_153527469It was a rough week full of fails and surprises. This post represents what Otto Scharmer in his rejuvenating book Theory U calls a ‘feldgang’, a field walk. I practice these on a regular basis on my farm following the time-trodden motto–the best fertilizer is the farmer’s footsteps. Specifically, this post is a feldgang through my week of teaching and learning in my university classrooms (some of which are not classrooms but Google Hangouts, hallways, Google+ alleys, Twitter assignations, in my office, online in unholy Blackboard, and at all the real and virtual coffee shops of the mind).

The picture below is a rough sketch of where I saw our composition class going the next few weeks.  I follow Harold Jarche’s shorthand for…I am not sure what to call it–a learning algorithm?  a personal learning network?–seek/sense/share.  In the whiteboard drawing you can see products and processes and activities and community tools and spaces and a personal ‘kanban’ for the coming weeks in the class.  This is a rhizo fail in a way,  classic overscaffolding.  Ideally, I would just ask my learners what they needed from me, their learning concierge. They might say, “I am needing to create an agbusiness proposal for potential farmers who want to take advantage of the new hemp law in Kentucky” or “I need to look at how the press nationwide has viewed the rollout of the Affordable Care Act in Kentucky.”  And I would go from there as concierge, coach and midwife/husbander or even Hobbit on an adventure.  Is that rhizomatic?  Still unsure about this word while at the same creating principles about it.  Crazy. Fuzzy. Messy.  Now that’s rhizoid! But for now I do not live there. Not there yet. [Sighs all around.]

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The screenshot below this text is from a Google+ community for a group of five interns who I am guiding in a collective blog whose purpose is to be a hub of information, activity and encouragement for English majors at Western Kentucky University.  They are working  here.

How is this a rhizomatic success?  They are beginning to realize that they are a collaborative group who will sink or swim together.  I have just set up the initial conditions for collective action to happen.  To paraphrase Highlander School activist Myles Horton:  the job is to organize the blog just well enough to get learners and audience together “AND SEE THAT IT GETS NO BETTER ORGANIZED (Horton’s capitalization).”  In this I see a basic rhizomatic principle–never let the institutional imperatives trump community principles and values.  This means messification all around.  I don’t much like that. Tough.  No one is making me be a rhizomatic learner and communitarian.

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