I enjoyed reading Dave Cormier's article on Rhizomatic Education. The rhizome metaphor emphasizes the importance of diversifying instruction and assessment. Curricular aims for language learning are typically based on certain behavioral patterns that provide reliable and valid evidence that the learner has achieved a desired level of communicative proficiency. A rhizomatic education frames these common sets of curricular aims in terms of establishing individual learning progressions with distinct starting and ending points. In my opinion, relying on traditional tests and quizzes and discrete activities alone will fail to develop the individual learner due to the assumption that an entire group of learners are starting from a single starting point and will end up (or should end up) at one common ending point.
In contrast, establishing foreign language exchanges, for example, provide the means for developing individual learning progressions that promote individual interests, needs, and learning styles while at the same time respecting curricular aims. Although preparation for the language exchange performance task can include teachers taking a didactic and facilitating role, the bulk of the actual performance task requires an active learner and a teacher as a coach. During the language exchange common themes assist the language learner to focus on a certain lexicon while conversations take different directions based on the knowledge and experience of the interlocutors.
The final discussion this week ended with George and Stephen providing an example of connectivism in a practical sense. George provided an example very similar to a language exchange as discussed in this blog while Stephen, after writing off a connective-classroom environment as somewhat “artificial”, stated the importance of getting students out of the classroom and doing something for the betterment of society. While I agree that the latter might be a preferred way of learning, I don’t see anything artificial about learning another culture through a connective-classroom. Getting to know people from different cultures creates a level of respect for others that also contributes to the common good.