Wednesday, May 13, 2015

There's Little School (Re)Form without Language Invention: A #Rhizo15 Post

Learner as Knowmad (Reilly, 2012)

I. Learner as Knowmad

We're driving in the car when Rob tells me our son is composing a first-person shooter (FPS) video game based on the science of parallel dimensions. I'm told that he intends to limit the weapons in order to level the playing field. Each player will have the same physical weapon, kitted out in the same fashion.

Why is he doing this? I ask.
He wants to study the sociology of FPS when the playing field has been leveled, Rob explains. 

And as we drive, I begin to wonder what emerges in such play? How does the practice of shifting into and out of parallel dimensions influence strategy? What happens to the nature and definition of team when dimensionality is in play? What happens to the understanding of individual when dimensionality is not just an interesting physics problem but a potential that can be realized? How is it that my 16-year-old who has never formally studied physics knows how to make such a thing? Where has he wandered so that he might compose such understandings of multiple universes? How does he understand such worlds?

I'm thinking about this in light of the #Rhizo15 discussion of late about the nature of content and the role of teacher, and the idea of community. I'm wondering about the play between content that gets produced and content that gets consumed and if such play doesn't help us to understand the co-specifiying nature of meaning making and becoming. I'm wondering how our understanding of teaching and learning is disrupted when we think about our children who are connected to a infinite world of influence, friendships, arrangements--where just asking is as natural as breathing and so they ask often and in doing so learn actively. To live in their world is to experience random juxtapositions where content and form are linked, where community is better understood as affinity groups that form and clear as needed.

Teacher as Time Traveler (M.A. Reilly, 2012)

II.  Teacher as Time Traveler

In our children's world, the instability of our titling becomes clearer--shows us more acutely the limitations of thinking roles, such as teacher or student, held steady. For is my son not the teacher in one instance and the learner too?  Is he not the player and the teammate too? Is he not the boy who abandons what he starts and finishes what he makes? Is it not true that a teacher he may need is one he's never met and one he's tutored and one he'll need for just a moment and himself? Is he not also the producer and consumer in so threaded a tangle that to know one is to be the other? Is he not contrary?

Is it not also possible that the role of teacher is too causal for this world and has limited reach? My son's world is one of connections and learners are teachers who time travel. They are knowmadic, for nothing holds steady, here. This is a world of becoming. There are no traces to follow, just maps that get made.

Thinking about this makes me wonder where inside the classrooms we are composing today does such fluid learning and becoming get privileged?  We must keep close to the heart the understanding that being is not equivalent to becoming. It never has.

Community as Rhizome (Reilly, 2012)

III. Community as Rhizome

Motion slows the passage of time and the titles we used to fix time--hold it steady are less orientable and far less accurate in the worlds our children are composing. There causality has limited play at best. Community is not defined by who joins, but rather by who plays. And play is not limited to participation based on what we can see or what we think we know.

Rather than classrooms inside buildings separated from the towns and cities where they reside--think assemblages formed by plateaus that are interconnected and breakable at every point of contact. We might think such communities are fragile.  They are not.  Rather they are non-orientable and to many of us, feel foreign.  Deleuze and Guattari (1987) explain, ‘Each plateau can be read starting anywhere and can be related to any other plateau’ (p. 22).  Learners in such affinity groups move horizontally and by lines of flight that cut stratification, clear over-coded space.

Think middle, not edges.

IV. Less (Re)Form, More Invention

School (re)form requires language invention.  How we name is how the world appears. That which we have no language for does not exist. Language invention will allow us to stop replicating models of learning that are causal. "I teach. You learn," does not serve us, or our children, very well.

And so, when we continue to understand teacher and student as separate roles located in distinct silos, our naming fails us. When we equate content with something set and proffered to all, our naming fails us. When we orient learning time to starts and stops signaled by the proverbial bell ringing, our naming fails us. When we understand physical classrooms and school buildings as community definers, our naming fails us. When we equate success with answering  predetermined and mass produced questions correctly and quickly our naming fails us.

In the learning spaces we most need, learning is already happening. No one is waiting for us to show up, unless we have forced them. There, learners are becoming not through some sequential development toward a stated standard--some state of being, but rather through a dynamic flow with self and others.

Here's the shift we most need to grasp: There's nothing to prove.  Becoming "produces nothing other than itself" (p.238). That's it. 


  1. I love this line:
    "I'm wondering how our understanding of teaching and learning is disrupted when we think about our children who are connected to a infinite world of influence, friendships, arrangements--where just asking is as natural as breathing and so they ask often and in doing so learn actively."

    1. Thanks Kevin. I do think those who have grown up using the Internet find asking to be far easier than those who have not. Appreciate you taking time to read and comment.