Rhizomatic Learning: a Model fit for the AS[EI]AN Century

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Keynote Lecture to Faculty and Students, De La Salle University, Manila, Philippines, 21 February, 2013.

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Rhizomatic learning: a model fit for the AS[EI]AN Century :

Rhizomatic learning: a model fit for the AS[EI]AN Century Professor Dr. Andrew Lian Suranaree University of Technology, Thailand Emeritus Professor, University of Canberra, Australia a ndrew.lian@andrewlian.com http://andrewlian.com We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are. ( Anaïs Nin) The universe is made up of stories, not atoms (Muriel Rukeyser) Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change (Max Planck) 1

Let me:

Let me Begin with my sincere thanks for your kind invitation to come here and live and think with you for a few days! 2

A preliminary remark:

A preliminary remark Although the presentation will focus primarily on issues of language and culture, the principles discussed are transferable to other areas of learning and teaching (language-learning is not seen as special). 3

AS[EI]AN:

AS[EI]AN What does this rather strange-looking word mean? 4

The Asian Century:

The Asian Century The 21 st Century is known as the Asian Century This is a result of the scale and pace of Asia’ s development which will impact on the whole world In particular, there is massive growth in China, India – Academically too 5

Asian Century – Academic success:

Asian Century – Academic success 6

The AsEan Century:

The AsEan Century But also the ASEAN Century with the ASEAN Economic Community and The possibility of a larger regional community involving ASEAN and other major Asian players as well as Australia and New Zealand Governments around the world are responding to the AS[EI]AN Century Next: The African century; the Latin American century? 7

Consequences of AS[EI]AN development:

Consequences of AS[EI]AN development Primarily economically-driven for world at large Largely driven by mobility in AS[EI]AN Greater linguistic and cultural interactions with the rest of the world Greater linguistic and cultural interactions within AS[EI]AN region Given the cultural and linguistic richness and diversity of the AS[EI]AN region, culture and language learning needs will be just as rich and diverse 8

Specific consequences:

Specific consequences Demand for English (the ASEAN common language) will rise considerably Demand for other languages must rise considerably and not be ignored The cultures of all social and linguistic groups will have to be taught – not just English Cultural fluency will need to be emphasized and not cultural literacy The study (and research) of language and cultures will become critically important 9

Specific educational consequences:

Specific educational consequences the demand for universal language/culture learning will outstrip the supply of formal avenues for such learning (e.g. schools, universities) people will have unpredicted and unpredictable needs in their newly mobile lives They will not need university certificates, but to pass specific proficiency tests (perhaps voluntary, perhaps set by governments/ employers and at a suitable time and place) 10

At the same time:

At the same time There are important changes in society in general which are consistent with these trends 11

Let’s take a look…:

Let’s take a look… Individuals have and will have more access to information than at any time in the entire history of humanity. This can only grow . This important development is being accompanied by… 12

social and intellectual trends:

social and intellectual trends unprecedented mobility an unprecedented rate of change: nothing stands still unprecedented access to increasingly rich “information” or “knowledge” (discourses on understandings) a growing emphasis on interdisciplinarity and an understanding that life is not discipline-based the growth of a research mentality: the power of community intelligence … the power of social networking; \ the need for creativity and divergent thinking (but…) the intellectual empowerment of people in general and therefore students, through technology as a society, I believe that we are “getting smarter” 13

21st Century educational paradigm:

21 st Century educational paradigm Some related trends ( affecting all ) (based on Churches, 2011): Collaborative, student-centered, interactions (we learn best in groups - Robinson) – more than motivation or compensating for lack of knowledge: helps look at things differently (Minsky) A focus on outcomes – people want to achieve things The google effect, (Sparrow et al.), just in time , just enough and just for me – not just in case; too much is unpredictable Move from independent to interdependent learning (Minsky) – this is a new social phenomenon Accommodate for multiple “intelligences”, “thinking styles”, “learning styles” (should encourage creativity) Potentially international (more or less automatically) Other languages help us think differently (better?) (Boroditsky) 14

The combined effect of these trends:

The combined effect of these trends Resulting from access to sophisticated technologies Includes an empowerment to solve many problems This empowerment has been embraced with surprising alacrity thus demonstrating the readiness of the population to take charge of its own problems People are now able to take care of many, if not most, of their information/knowledge needs by themselves and, increasingly, to solve their own problems without recourse to traditional sources of expertise such as libraries and universities. In a sense this is the “natural” way to do things. 15

important outcomes:

important outcomes Is the growth of a “Do-It-Yourself” mentality With people taking charge of their information needs, in a way, they are automatically learning to become researchers and engaging in research activities There is evidence of this from the “Google Effect” and From participation in intellectual/research games such as the protein folding game called Foldit Are we getting smarter? “community intelligence”? Self-adjustment or unsupervised chaos? 16

Actually…:

Actually… Human beings are simply doing what they have always done: they are adapting and Changing – even neurologically and genetically But 17

What is clear:

What is clear Is that traditional experts and educational bodies are losing ground/power People are turning less and less to traditional sources of expertise such as libraries, universities and, in general “authorised” experts They continue to have access to these but now also have access to outliers or people and organisations which, sometimes, are very appealing as they seem to respond better to the great diversity (intellectual as well) of people. This diversity is becoming increasingly recognised 18

In this context of:

In this context of Great change Great diversity (and recognition of diversity of all kinds, including intellectual diversity) Great unpredictability of the future and of needs Traditional forms of largely one-size-fits-all teaching and learning models are under considerable pressure e.g. centrally-controlled, relatively fixed, relatively non-negotiable, often sequential, time-bound syllabi How can we improve things? 19

We need:

We need Systems which meet learning needs as and when and if they arise We can describe such learning as rhizomatic i.e. based on the metaphor of the rhizome 20

The rhizome is:

The rhizome is A term originally derived from botany and adopted by postmodern thinkers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. It is a metaphor which, for me, represents a dynamic, open-ended, self-adjusting (not chaotic) personal learning network constructed (by the learners themselves) to meet perceived and actual needs. Students navigate through nodes of knowledge representations or relevant challenges and, in turn, construct personal knowledge organically rather than according to some arbitrarily predetermined external pedagogic sequence. 21

For such a system to work:

For such a system to work For such a system to work, students need to engage in activities (in a learning space or real life) which create confrontation between their logical and representational systems and the task requirements. As they do so, their needs will emerge naturally, be identified and, subsequently, will be supported by human, material or technological resources. 22

While this seems complicated:

While this seems complicated In fact, in today’s world, the rhizome mirrors real life practices. This is what people do when, they use google. They start with a need and try to solve it And need depends entirely on a person’s history You want to learn something, change your history Changing your history means changing your logical and representational systems Interestingly, while ordinary people think/act this way “naturally”, educational systems tend not to do so Educational systems are designed to make you conform… but conform to what when all is changing? Here, conformity can only be conformity to the past 23

Given:

Given The incredible linguistic and cultural diversity of the AS[EI]AN population and the unpredictability of likely needs of the population and the impossibility of having a fixed pedagogic structure responding to ALL the needs of ALL the people (teachers want homogeneity), a rhizomatic structure seems ideal in the AS[EI]AN environment. 24

This is because:

This is because Rhizomatic systems seem able to take into account the diversity of needs encountered by the modern DIY AS[EI]AN citizens 25

Let’s take a look at the spaces:

Let’s take a look at the spaces Things may (perhaps) look like this (F2F and distance) SOCIAL & PROFESSIONAL SPACES (IDENTIFICATION OF NEEDS) MANAGED LEARNING SPACES (FORMAL CLASSES) RESOURCE SPACES (SELF-MANAGED & DO-IT-YOURSELF) 26

And let’ s take a look at the rhizome:

And let’ s take a look at the rhizome 27

Of course:

Of course The network descriptions (the graphic) is insufficiently detailed and, in fact, Can never be pinned down because It is dynamic and ever-changing and potentially infinite It is more like a potential than a description 28

Now… the details of the network:

Now… the details of the network Require us t o dwell for a moment on How to change logical and representational systems Logical and representational systems enable us to have what I call “personal knowledge” (the only knowledge there is) 29

and:

and When we learn something, we (our brain or whatever) categorise things. These are “meaningful” to us. Automatically, the rest becomes “meaningless”. We are aware of the “things” that are meaningful to us right now and unaware of, or oblivious to, things which are not meaningful to us right now (neurological pruning, statistical analysis of sounds by children) Once that happens, we need to rewire the brain in major ways (nothing new by the way) 30

Thus Learning is essentially:

Thus Learning is essentially A process of making the meaning less meaning ful Of making us aware of what we are unaware of And what we do know often blocks access to what we want to know e.g. acquiring good pronunciation is blocked by our perceptual systems which reject the new sounds that we are trying to learn The same is also true of grammar, vocabulary, culture and everything else In other words, this notion can be applied to all learning 31

I would like to show you:

I would like to show you A few ways of helping learners become aware of various phenomena relevant to them as language learners (i.e. awareness-raising) Adapt the principles to your environments and needs Please note that these are proof of concept systems. They are not finished products. But you should get the idea…  32

intonation:

intonation Principle 1: Diagnose the problem at a personal level (done outside the system) Principle 2: enable learners to choose what they feel is valuable Principle 3: Enable easy compare, contrast, contest Principle 4: Optimise the input so that they get maximal benefit from their activities Principle 5: Lighten the processing load Principle 6: Act simultaneously on several brain areas http://localhost/ljunction.com/ipf03/ipf01_6.2/ipf_table_list.php 33

intonation:

intonation 34

linguistic/cultural multimedia database:

linguistic/cultural multimedia database Principle 1: Provide access to rich information – a kind of back-to-front dictionary Principle 2: Enable easy compare, contrast, contest through choices and good support Principle 3: Lighten the processing load Principle 4: Act simultaneously on several brain areas http://localhost/database_demo 35

linguistic/cultural multimedia database:

linguistic/cultural multimedia database 36

Answer-evaluation:

Answer-evaluation Principle 1: Provide access to rich information Principle 2: Enable easy compare, contrast, contest through focused individualised feedback on student’s own production Principle 3: Lighten the processing load Principle 4: Act simultaneously on several brain areas Principle 5: Collect errors for future analysis/ personalised feedback/profiling/system improvement 37

Three important issues:

Three important issues There is little infrastructure in place to support rhizomatic learning. Development will have serious theoretical and practical implications Regulating authorities (teachers, universities, governments) would have to relinquish tight control, transfer it to the learner and make big changes, e.g. not have traditional classes. That is seldom palatable to people in power. We would need a big effort to get everyone to think critically (whatever that means) 38

a final comment:

a final comment The more I do research, the more I am struck by the truth of the need to look at things differently in order to understand them effectively Whatever else they may do, the good tools described here and, in general, all the tools created to help us learn, enable us to look at things differently and to change the ways in which our personal logical and representational systems help us to construct our knowledge 39

minsky and planck were right:

minsky and planck were right When they talked about how we understand the world Marvin Minsky said (I paraphrase): in order to really understand something you must understand it in a variety of different ways And Max Planck is reputed to have said: Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change 40

PowerPoint Presentation:

I leave you with that thought and Thank you for your attention! 41

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