What’s Metaphor Got to Do With It?

is the metaphor broken? Oops!

For the past several weeks, I have been participating in a discussion/group/online “course” called Rhizo15, hosted by Dave Cormier. From an early blog post by Daniel Clark about the course:

Cormier’s idea is based on the Cynefin framework, which was developed for business, and the need for education to take account of uncertainty is extremely relevant to my own field of management education.

I have been finding the experience, ideas discussed, and interactions with participants to be really intriguing and provocative, and I have been enjoying the course.

But, as the weeks have gone by, I have become more and more uncomfortable with the metaphor of the rhizome itself. Here are some comments I just wrote in response to a blog post by Sarah Honeychurch:

I really appreciated your post. At times in this experience (Rhizo15), I have felt like we have been committing that same fallacy to a certain degree. There are times when the experience of learning seems like and even feels like a rhizome. I find myself moving from idea to idea and seeing some connections and the making new ones. But, to me, that is different than a theory of learning. And I am not convinced that this experience of the rhizome is the same as talking about how learning actually happens. Maybe it is not supposed to, but I feel this has been blurred in some of our discussions over the past few weeks.

There is also one more problem I see, metaphor-wise. In biology, a rhizome is a form of asexual reproduction.It is a way of a single plant replicating and passing on its own DNA. That means that all of the offspring are genetically identical to the parent plant. In my understanding, learning is growth and change, and I get concerned that the metaphor is limiting.


How IT and the Role of the CIO is Changing in the Era of Networked Organizations

I keep thinking about how this model (see the diagram) could also apply to learning environments. Rather than a top (teacher) down (student) model, what about a network of connections leading to real learning? What would learning environments look like then?

On Digital Strategy | Dion Hinchcliffe

As I’ve examined the case examples below, and talked with many top CIOs about how they were operating their departments over the last several years, it’s become clear that the contemporary IT organization — at least ones that are successfully leading their organizations into the future — is now wielding a new kind of power.

I don’t mean power in the traditional, hierarchical sense through departmental mandate, titles, and the org chart. In fact, those don’t seem to mean nearly as much as they used to, as I hear more and more concerns about the growth of shadow IT and the lines of business increasingly going their own way with their budgets, all with minimal formal IT involvement.

Yet, looked at another way, these very trends — worrisome as they should be for most CIOs — might actually represent vital asset pools and change capacity that we could actually tap…

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Content (happy) with Content (stuff)?

I have been really struggling with the work of  #rhizo15 this week. Dave has challenged us to look at content and to try to make sense of how we view content in learning (at least, that’s what I understood about the challenge).

In a lot of ways, this week’s challenge has given me a headache AND crystallized nagging concerns I have been having about my experience with the rhizome since we started. I have always enjoyed the process of learning and have mostly considered that experience more valuable than any of the content around which learning experiences I have engaged in have been organized. That said, although I thoroughly embraced so many things I learned (human anatomy and neuroscience and Latin and film history), I was left with more than process. In the end (or at least the end so far), I was left knowing more stuff. Is it fair to say, I knew more content?

I worry that I had begun to create an algorithm, which, loosely translated reads: process good; content bad. And I have found this really troubling.

Then, tonight, I was “learning.” Reading some critical analysis of MOOC research written by Stephen Downes.  Then, I read some work on multimodal tutorials by Ian O’Bryne. Then, I stumbled onto Laura Gibbs’ Myth-Folklore Un-Textbook.

As each link brought more and more amazing work and thoughts to me, I had an insight: the content of what I was learning was getting built through/with/in the wake of the process of learning I was engaged in.

For now, at least, the headache is gone.