Learning Community, Rhizo15

Thinking About Communities for Learning {#Rhizo15 Week 5 – Catch Up}

Q: What a #Rhizo15 post? But Laura, I thought the course was over? Is this not true?

A: The #Rhizo15 is never over with a community like this one. #truth

Week 5 poked and prodded at the notion of community for learning, with questions like:

  • How do we make sure there is always room for new and contrarian voices?
  • Do we need to create a them to have a we?
  • How do we cultivate a community learning ecosystem so that it continues to grow outward rather than inward?
  • What does that mean for learning?
  • Must rhizomatic learning be an invasive species?

In my efforts to set up my 10-week Summer courses (why I dropped off the #rhizo15 path as an “active participant” both blogging, tweeting & on the Facebook group), I thought more about how communities can enhance learning, both the informal and formal sides. As I read the #rhizo15 week 5 blog posts and thought a the questions above – it made me consider access and agency to learning – my own and others. Whether it has been a course, certificate, professional meeting or a training seminar — the best experience in learning has been the people and their contributions. The opportunities to dialog and share experiences have lent to stickier and more meaningful learning — for myself and others. There is great knowledge With regards to facilitation and instruction, I would agree with Lisa’s sentiments from week #4 where the fearless #rhizo15 leader, Dave has “chosen words, for every one of his prompts, that are very open to interpretation.” Others interpreted this prompt with metaphors and ideas, including cultivating a garden of learning/teaching, thinking about spontaneous growth, and considering lines of flight for the #rhizo15 course/community.

I agree with these sentiments for my informal learning practices. In a number of my personal learning networks and communities of practice, there are always issues of cultivating a broader network and experience for those involved with learning. It is critical to avoid the online echo chamber when surrounded by like-minded people. This notion of echos in the network vary for #rhizo15 learning community. Some believe this community provides learning support and outlets to challenge the norm, while other community interactions or experiences might be determined by an algorithm. It is important to find ways to challenge and engage the learning community to reflect upon their practice and consider contrary points of view. Sometimes it is a good idea to step back to assess the conversation and learning in the community. I think it’s healthy to have a critical eye when reviewing the participation, discussion, and contribution in the learning community. How can we evaluate and reflect this practice more in our own learning networks?


The Echo Chamber [Revisited] by @gapingvoid

In my efforts to set up my 10-week Summer courses (one of the reasons why I dropped off the #rhizo15 path as an “active participant” both blogging, tweeting & on the Facebook group for a while), I thought more about how communities can enhance learning, both the informal and formal sides. In reflecting on my own formal learning/teaching, I have always valued individual contributions and experiences shared by others. Whether it has been a course, certificate, professional meeting or a training seminar — the best experience in learning has been from the people. We typically have been prompted to respond, answer, or be involved in some sort of interaction — however the learning happens more when the group of learners actively participate, chat, and share. This got me thinking about how to develop a learning community in a formal course curriculum and consider ways to personalize the learning experience.

Forcing or facilitating openness? You decide.

I like the idea of openness guided by the instructor. I enjoy finding meaning and ways to interpret the discussions; however I knew that most of my learners need directions and clear targets. This prompt encouraged ways to facilitate “openness” in my own teaching/training to revitalize a sense of exploration for my learners/participants. I want to facilitate a space that is structured “enough”; however it  does make room for all voices and galvanizes my learners to contribute to include their different perspectives and experiences. How are you encouraging these type of “open” learning experiences in your courses? How are they being interpreted/received by your students?

This past Monday kicked off the Summer sessions at UNT, and I was excited to welcome my learners in #LTEC3010 (Personal Development) and #LTEC4000 (Introduction to Training and Development). Both courses guide career and professional development either as individuals or within an organization [both course syllabi are posted here, if interested]. Interestingly enough, these two different courses have a lot of similarity in understanding organizational learning and individual performance in the workplace. There is enough “structure” for our online undergraduate courses; however I have made room for research, questions, creativity, and contributions from the learners. To be intentional about community learning, there are a number of activities (e.g. discussions, research projects, etc.) and examples to encourage self-directed learning offered in each class. As per usual, I hope to model the impacts online communities of practice and professional mentoring can have on individual academic/career development, while also introducing how informal and online learning networks can support new modes for training and development.

We shall see how these learning communities develop and grow… more to share soon (I hope).

Rhizo15, Teaching

Being Content Without Content {#Rhizo15 Week 3 Catch Up}

The irony from my last #Rhizo15 post = having to grade multiple assignments for the end of the semester. I should have seen that one coming. I set it up that way. Lesson learned. That being said, I have put a great more thought on my curriculum, with regards to evaluation, assessment, and, #Rhizo15 week three’s topic, CONTENT.

Dave’s prompt for Week 3: The Myth of Content and “Content is People” first made me think of Soylent Green is People, and then how most educators (myself included) tend to drive our students to learn based on the content over any other approach.


We create learning modules, assign specific readings, designate topics for lectures, and require discussion posts with specific content in mind. If a course was just a textbook or a course pack to read, then why teach? What would it be like to focus a class on a general topic? How can you offer a structure of learning for participation, inclusion, and knowledge sharing?

“We are all so much bigger than the content we teach. Perhaps that would go on our subjective portfolios and resumes – the place where all the really important things are listed and never realized.”  {Well said, Ron!}

It’s great to see how content can come “from the people” and present itself in a democratic way. I like the resources, references, and ideas shared from the #rhizo15 community. This is how we are modeling content by the learners. I suppose #Rhizo15 is a solid example of this, but can we do this within our disciplines and for our own courses? I would like to think so… and this summer, I might just have to test out the #rhizo15 waters with a new course I am picking up to teach:

LTEC 4000: Principles of Training and Development:. This course investigates the design, delivery and evaluation of training and development programs, specifically with regards to the relationship of modern technology and training theories.

In considering this strategy, I know I’ll need to create a framework for sharing, outline the purpose of the course, consider effective evaluation strategies, and offer a type of learning structure for my online students. My program typically has a wide-range of adult learners who share fantastic experiences and get to apply strategies from class to the workplace. Every semester, I learn a great deal when my learners to talk in discussion threads, blog posts, journal entries and on Twitter. I really am looking for my learners to embrace continuous learning in the workforce through discovery, curiosity, and inquiry.

I do have the same sentiments/questions shared by Mr. Misterovich:

  • Is critical thinking truly cognitive development or is it more socially guided?
  • In other words, should we not expect certain age groups to easily think critically because their brain development is not ready for it?
  • Or is critical thinking more of a cultural/social development?
  • If we choose to do so, could we introduce critical thinking earlier and start students stepping up the developmental stages earlier?

I look forward to the contributions my students will provide for training and development, and my own challenges/developments as I work on a “content-less” course. To be blogged about…

Learning, Reflections, Rhizo15, Teaching

Measure This, #Rhizo15!

If you are teaching a course or conducting a training, those providing and taking ALWAYS want to know how you will measure success, learning, and performance. ALWAYS. What’s the bottom line? What’s the ROI? What’s the learning outcome? How will we know our learners have learned or our training participants “get it”? GRADES. SCORES. NUMBERS. STATISTICS.

This week Dave reminds #Rhizo15: “Learning is a not a counting noun.”

I am tardy in this post for a number of reasons (#et4online and #Fiachra40Fest, I’m looking at you). Without even knowing it, we actually had a late night discussion post-fire pit sing-song at the #et4online conference. {How did you get in our heads, Dave? Well done, sir.} Let me share a bit of that post-ukulele, harmonizing chat for you here.


If you think about it, our learners are programmed to believe a grade informs their knowledge but is this actually the case? Grades evaluate an outcome; however it might not really mean learning. Do you know if your learners make meaning, identify value, or apply their knowledge beyond the assignment or specific course requirement? Grades have been there to offer benchmarks, set standards of evaluation, and help instructors measure FOREVER.

“You actually believe in grades?” asked Pete (a.k.a. @allistelling)

Great question. I thought about it. My response: Not really. As a faculty member, I have to provide an outcome or a grade for my students – but that is the university requirement and standard for our department. Our academic institutions require a numbered measurement to move forward in degree programs; however it is really the process of development, fine-tuning, and involvement where I see my students “learn” the most. For our students, a number is easy. It places them in a particular level or understanding of “how am I doing in the course?” Often they look at their learning in comparison to one another, and to figure out if they are “measuring” up to the learning standards. We could do better to “show you know” in other ways beyond a numbered evaluation. Really.

I am thinking more about the grades or non-grades in a couple of my courses. Two of my online courses are very much project/portfolio based, where the final product is built throughout the whole semester. My presentation class #LTEC4121 has a “TED” talk and short demonstration video, and my instructional design/facilitation #LTEC4440 class is building a 5-week online training proposal. Both of these assignments are very applied and relevant for my students; however a number of my learners are being pushed outside the comfort zone for their projects. Although most of the course evaluation (the numbers) are weighted towards the final projects, a few students will leave this course or give up based on early grade assignments. They are concerned about their GPA in this course, their cumulative GPA, etc. Those who stick past the first few weeks actually stop asking me about the numbers. Which is great! They want to know more about shooting film and editing, or considerations for putting media into their training course program. At the end of the course, I am impressed by their projects and final videos they deliver, here are a few examples of technical demonstration created last Fall 2014 :

In our fireside conversation, we talked about the value of developing artifacts, engaging in the peer-review process, how collaborative input matters, and working through revisions leads to understanding. With grades or marks (I’ll be inclusive to my Canadian & US colleagues), educators (myself included) often forget to model learning as a process. Learning should be developmental. As instructors, we need to remember to have our learners build upon previous knowledge and apply their learning beyond our course. There should be an opportunity for our learners to take risks, make mistakes, and pick up the pieces for the course and beyond. Making learning as not a number is not easy – for both the instructor and the students. There will be confusion and possibly frustration; however you have to be willing to work through the learning process with your students. I am thinking of just grading early items as complete or not, and providing feedback for their final projects. I am also considering what really needs to be accounted for in a letter or percentage grade, with regards to their final project developments. Finally, I do want to give credit for my students who have collaborated and learned on a local level. I have witnessed a number of connections thrive beyond a semester or course, as they support one another in work, life, and then some. Perhaps it is time to get rid of a few numbers to meaure what matters for learning for my next term… it would help with all the grading that I am now going to work on now.

p.s. If you are into learning about learning, it’s not too late to join the #Rhizo15 conversation… better late than never.

Learning Community

Curriculum T.B.D. with #rhizo15

From A Practical Guide to Rhizo15: “Rhizomatic learning is one story for how we can think about learning and teaching in a complex world.” Dave Cormier (@davecormier) has been thinking “in the rhizo” for a while and expressing ideas of the community as curriculum for teaching and learning. Cormier (2011) believes a curriculum for a course can be created in time, while a course is happening, specifically  “… to be rhizomatic involves creating a context, maybe some boundaries, within which a conversation can grow.”  

Sometimes learning can be messy. The rhizome concept is often uncertain as it maps in any direction, starts at any point, and grows or spreads with experimentation within a context. From this idea and others shared at the #ALN14 keynote (Pasquini, 2014), I gathered a number of valuable ideas to shape learning contracts for my own students and encouraging learners to map their own ways of knowing and evaluations (Brubaker, 2010). This talk directly impacted a new course I am teaching this term. Much of the content needed life infused into it, and learners did not seem connected to ideas for effective training and development facilitation from the previous iteration. I turned to my learners to ask them to make meaning and apply these concepts to practical situations, workplace experiences, and relevant examples they might encounter. From the class discussions, curation of readings, and developments of training/instruction, a number of my learners felt more empowered and felt as though they were part of their learning process. That being said – it does not mean things were clean and easy. There were a few bumps along the way; however this process of evaluating the learning structure helped me consider the process of knowing and supporting a collaborative curriculum down the road.

Based on my own interest in learning, and the hashtag (#) map of #rhizo15 conversation, I figured #rhizo15 would be a great place to connect and explore this concept further. [Thanks for recommending Socioviz to meet & greet with the community, Dave. Great idea!]



If you did not hear great things about the conversations, questions, and sharing from the #rhizo14 group – then you must have lived under an Internet rock last year. The #rhizo14 community often shared a number of valuable insights and resources. Although I tried to play in the sandbox with this active, online community, something got in the way of my participation (I’m looking at you dissertation). I am looking forward to the #rhizo15 camp that officially kicks off on April 15th for 6 weeks o’ fun as the participants build the curriculum. Here’s to playing in the unknown and building our learning out with fresh perspectives and gentle pushes from the #rhizo15 learning network.

Interested in joining the #rhizo15 fun? Here’s a few ways you can engage:



Brubaker, N. D. (2010). Negotiating authority by designing individualized grading contracts. Studying Teacher Education, 6(3), 257-267.

Cormier, D. (2011, November 5). Rhizomatic Learning – why we teach? Dave’s Educational Blog. Retrieved from http://davecormier.com/edblog/2011/11/05/rhizomatic-learning-why-learn/

Pasquini, L. A. (2014, October 31). Dave Cormier: Rhizomatic Learning – The Community is the Curriculum. The 2014 Annual Online Learning Consortium Conference (#ALN14), Orlando, FL. Retrieved from https://storify.com/laurapasquini/davecormier-s-aln14-keynote-twitter-notes


CCK09, Learning Community

Networks Influence Learning

It’s know what you know, it’s who you know. Dave Cormier believes that “knowledge is something that can be negotiated and validated in a community of knowledge.” This means that the future of education may be more connected and less constructed. This idea both challenge and invigorates educators alike.

A couple weeks ago, Dave & Stephen discussed/bantered about a few key concepts about Connective Knowledge for CCK09 Week 4:

  • Knowledge is the psychological result of perception, learning and reasoning.
  • Connective learning is a process of creating new knowledge patterns.
  • Networks influence how knowledge is shared.

The Online Ecosystem (Redux) by Jay Collier provides a good example of how online connections have become more integrated over the last few years in higher education:


In thinking about how networks influence learning and how integrative online environments impact knowledge-sharing, Dave presents two camps for education practice for online learning:

1) The Guild Model: designed with rules & regulations, peer learners, and methods to validate success; no restrictions & not a fully connected model

2) The Wild West Model: learning & knowing by being connected to a group of people who do the same types of things that you do, i.e. through Twitter, blogs, etc; knowledge exists in random locations; natural kind of learning

Both models of learning have value for the online education, however one method structures networks from the instructor, whereas the other connections are organically grown by the learner. There are many examples of learning technologies and numerous tools to support online initiatives, however it is important to establish methods to make connections and best practices in developing skills for effective learning. As online connections and environments evolve, this debate for how to best construct online learning continues.

Collaboration, Learning Community, Professional Development, Social Media

AACE Global U – Social Media Seminars


AACE Global U will be hosting a series of seminars around “Social Media: Trends and Implications for Learning.” I was able to listen to the archived seminar for July, however I hope to participate in a future monthly online seminar:

August 10, 2009, 9:00 PM Eastern USA
September 8, 2009: 3:00 PM Eastern USA
October 13, 2009: 9:00 PM Eastern USA
November 10, 2009: 3:00 PM Eastern USA
December 8, 2009: 9:00 PM Eastern USA

The seminar series, led by George Siemens and David Cormier, is without fee and will include live interactive sessions, in addition to discussions with guest speakers and participants. All sessions are co-sponsored by and will be archived in the Education & Information Technology Library (EdITLib). And you can join in the discussion on AACE Connect.

During these Elluminate sessions, the conversations will be active in the webinar and recorded for those who cannot participate at these specific times.  By using the #SMTI hash tag you can find conversations on Twitter, archives in blogs and resources in Delicious.

Here were a few key discussion pieces I found useful from the first social media seminar: