It’s amazing what happens over coffee: or deterritoralising the curriculum (a #rhizo15 story 2)

Cracked_Toadstool_Stock_PNG_by_pixievamp_stock

I had meant to take a break from #rhizo15 but instead found myself taking a coffee break that brought me right back.

Over coffee, at the end of a year’s teaching (my first full academic year in the job), myself and a colleague got to reflecting on how the year had gone and how we might develop things next year.  In the back of my mind was the article by @sbayne that I think was put out there by@NomadWarMachine (not @davecormier) and the task he proposed for #rhizo15 this week.

So, I don’t know to what extent this musing is a detailing of my ‘subjective’:

How do we design our own or others learning when we don’t know where we are going? How does that free us up? What can we get done with subjectives that can’t be done with objectives?

or a working out of ideas partly inspired by Sian’s article.


During the coffee chat it became clear that while happy with the main course I oversee (for me still new, to my colleague now possible tired), having made various changes to emphasise the challenges I wanted participants to engage with rather than just go through content (the content instead working as a vehicle for engaging with concepts and problems), I felt a desire to push explore the possibility of creating more open/connected/distributed forms of learning.

My recent engagement with digital scholarship and #connectedlearning has propelled me to consider other options, and to think about how I might hack my own course, hybridise it.

The stimulats, very much driven my the discussions in #tjc15 and #rhizo15, are:

  • think of resources rather than content: while remaining with the striated texture of the current course (a pre-defined syllabus and form of assessment) how might we reconfigure these so that they are more like initial sets of resources organised around difficult ideas that we face as university educators?  How do we communicate that intent and encourage a mode of engagement with them that is more akin to ‘hacking’ than consumption?
  • can aspects of the syllabus be participant driven? one idea that occurred to me as we talked was of playing with the current timetabling in order to facilitate more participant engagement and potential to generate participant relevant content.  Folks did find useful the clear signposting (and if you read my #rhizo15 story previously you know how attached I am to signposting) of key texts/resources that were organised around difficult or challenging ideas.  Rather than being tied to the fortnightly 3 hour workshop (at the end of busy days) why not have the participants work in cross-disciplinary groups (like action learning sets) to work on the key texts and find their own texts, all the time focusing on the critical questions for practice this reading produces (semester 1 is more theory focused while semester 2 is more practice focused); and have shorter workshops that model many of the ideas we promote.  I think this is about pushing my interest in practice theory further to see how it can reconfigure the current approach.  It is also about playing with the potential for learning to come out of the connections folks make within the course.
  • making emergent objectives explicit: while we will have learning objectives, the reality is that folks operate with their own emergent objectives.  They are motivated differently to participate in the course, this motivation often changing over time, and in relation to different aspects of the course.  I make the assumption that they are all strategic learners.  So why not make emergent objectives an explicit structure within the course?  This would be transient, and would help them see their own students differently, more positively.  Emergent objectives could become points for reflecting on what the course should be dealing with, what the difficult ideas and issues are, and therefore the content required.
  • disrupting my role as obligatory point of passage: and how can I dislodge myself as the obligatory point of passage, the ultimate point of authority? I have tried to break this down a little already by sharing with them my own critical reflections on the course (see here and here for examples).  But by constraining the power to archive materials in the institutional VLE a clear hierarchy is established.  I will not pretend that I am removing the hierarchy since I am after all a final arbiter, the one who, institutionally, is responsible for assessment – this Sian Bayne’s struggle to institute smooth spaces within striated institutions.  But this can be disrupted by distributing the curating role across as many participants as possible through the use of social bookmarking to share resources (as well as the VLE).  Also, could we introduce aspects of peer review?

What have I done here?  I think I have, in the doing of this post, identified an emergent objective – that is the way my participation in #rhizo15 can feed back into my thinking about my own practice as an educator; working with the play of smooth and striated space.

But also, it is subjective in that it speaks to how I want to constitute my self as practitioner – what kind of educator can I be?

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7 thoughts on “It’s amazing what happens over coffee: or deterritoralising the curriculum (a #rhizo15 story 2)

  1. I have gone through great lengths to de-centre myself in #rhizo. Last year, I made of the mistake of thinking of that process as something that I had ‘failed’ at because I hadn’t managed to do it completely. This year, in better keeping with the other tools we are using, i try to see the things i do put out there through the lens of de-centre-ing myself. I am no longer trying to ‘be’ de-centred, but rather to act in a de-centre-ing way.

    There is some inevitability to hierarchy when you refuse to share the creation of the signposts on the journey. This, of course, is why I do rhizo the way that i do it. Broad based community leadership (see DS106) is interesting, but not what I’m trying to do. I am trying to stay ‘just close enough’ to the formal education model that some of the lessons that I learn in rhizo could leak over into the formal system.

  2. Hard to leak over into the machine’s flood of measurables, deliverables, data… alas, all that much more important to rhizo the beast… can it be done in an aikido way… slipped in as a deliverable, something STEM, Harper and the Chamber of Commerce / [insert institution name here] Board of Directors would buy into as, oh, I don’t know… flexibility or creativity for the Great Profit of Tomorrow? This whole damn thing is too wonderfully disruptive and anarchic. It defies the protocols, heirarchies and data mountains of management…

  3. Wow ds106 is old and rigid. To nitpick the community leader you describe in the way it’s taught at UMW comes somewhat because it is at its core a class where students register and pay for.

    But there have been other iterations such as the headless open ds106 in fall 2013 that had no UMW students, no teacher. And last summer, a group of open participants ran their own version completely off the rails, the Bergeron family version – a full listing of ds106 flavors at http://ds106.us/history

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