Thursday, May 21, 2015

Seven Mantras for Rhizomatic Learning

To contribute to the Practical Guide for Rhizomatic Learning (such a great idea from Dave!), I thought I would write up a few notes about the results of my learning subjective for #Rhizo15, which was to jumpstart my totally revamped approach to content in my Indian Epics class, a project that will occupy my whole summer. This course redesign was something I had been planning for months, so the timing of #Rhizo15 was perfect, and so were the topics that Dave brought up week after week, especially the content week. Instead of getting lost in the details, I'll try to sum up my experience in general terms. :-)

1. LET THINGS GROW. During Rhizo15, I got to watch my Indian Epics space split into three different spaces, and it was a very "natural" process, a growth spurt as it were, but it took a while: I was patient, and I waited until I could see which direction things were going before I made the new spaces. Things that are growing need room to grow in, and now I have three nice big spaces, ready for what will grow there this year: IE Images, IE Guides, and IE Comics.

Little by little grow the bananas.

2. PRUNE AS NEEDED. To make room for good new growth, you need to prune away the old growth, the wilted flowers, the scraggly-looking branches. For example, during the spring I let my book list grow and grow and grow to well over 100 books, but over the past few weeks, I pruned it back, with this result, about 50 public domain books for my students to browse: IE Guides. And now I can let it start growing again, and then prune it back again next year.... and so on ad infinitum and ad libitum.

Weeds spring up where we do not sow them.

.... BUT DON'T FEAR THE WEEDS. So, yes, prune as needed, but don't worry about weeding and pruning until you really need to do that. Let everything grow for a while, and then you can decide later what to keep and what to compost!

A good garden may have some weeds.

3. LET THE SUN SHINE IN. Get rid of the so-called walled garden of the LMS... which is really just a dark dumpster, not a garden at all. Let the sunshine in! Everything needs sunshine to grow. Go open-by-default and put everything you can on the open Internet.

4. LINK EVERYTHING. If something is not linked, how will you ever get there? I believe in linking all the content, linking all the people, linking everything. A big part of my content development process is adding links and links and more links so that students will be able to go wherever their curiosity leads them. So, for example, here is a page from my Public Domain Ramayana, and here is a comic book Reading Guide: I don't like to lecture, but I sure do like to link! For a visual metaphor, here is a map of the Seoul Subway:

5. BLOG EVERYTHING. Just as with the Connected Courses experience last fall, the Rhizo15 experience confirmed for me what a powerful tool blogs can be for connecting people! My favorite thing about Rhizo15 was reading blog posts and finding new people to connect with that way, connections I hope will continue after Rhizo15 is "over" (scare quotes intended). So, I feel connected to other people in #Rhizo15 through their blogs (thank you, Inoreader!), and that blog-connectivity is also what powers my Indian Epics class as well. Here's a screenshot from the Inoreader bundle for Rhizo15 this morning:

6. BRING THINGS TO THE SURFACE. I am a big fan of using randomizers to bring things to the surface, helping people find things serendipitously that they might not have found before. This is especially important when there is a superabundance of stuff to experience and enjoy, so much so that consciously choosing which way to go is hard! In the sidebar of those three IE spaces — IE ImagesIE Guides, and IE Comics — you will see randomizers that feature random student Storybooks from the past along with random images, and I will be able to add a comic book randomizer at the end of the summer! Whoo-hoo! Meanwhile, here's the Storybook randomizer: let the students from past classes help you with your learning now!

And last but not least . . .

7. DANCE TO THE MUSIC. I've got my YouTube Indian music channel embedded in the sidebar of the Indian Epics spaces because music is fun and music is beautiful. You can never have too much music! :-)





  1. So I've just got to say, Laura, being exposed to your blog is one of the greatest boons I've gotten from the Reflective Writing Club experience (so far). I would LOVE to take your Indian epics class (and I guess since it's on-line I could do it - how would I enroll?) Reading through this post I was reminded by something my favorite yogini taught me during teacher training. She said: "bring them an ocean, but give them a shore." (As an oceanography instructor it is a particularly apt reminder). Thanks for shining your light!

  2. Oh my gosh, Rachel, this was really wild: your comment prompted me to look back at a blog post from back when I was making big changes to the Indian Epics class... and I am so used to how things are now (things are GOOD) that I sometimes forget how it used to be before I opened up the readings and we got all the awesome ACK comic books in the library. And what a lovely saying from your yogini! Proverbs and wisdom sayings are such a big part of the folklore tradition of all peoples, so I am always looking for good sayings to share.
    The course materials are all online, so when people are doing these courses on their own, the best way is just to get a "study buddy" so you can read each other's stories and give each other comments. There are so many fantastic videos to watch: do you know about Devdutt Pattanaik? he is my Indian mythology hero, and the Epified TV Channel has been making beautiful "videobooks" with the full text of his books and lovely art to go with them. Here's a post I wrote about him at the blog where I keep notes on the class readings:
    Featured Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
    And have you met Daya through the Club? She is working with women in Kerala and they have a beautiful website all about the project: Blossom Project.

    1. I was not aware of ANY of this (until you just told me about it just now) - thank you for expanding my world. I love Indian mythology! Hagar Harpak is the yogini I mentioned and she is a devotee of Douglas Brooks who I believe is up at Rochester. Anyway, she is always weaving these stories into our yoga practice and I love it SO much that I have invested in some children's books of some of the Indian epics for my 5 year-old daughter, but I had never heard of ACK comics or Devdutt Pattanaik. The world is rich with such amazing people (and you are one of them!) I'm curious when did you decide to put your course on-line to be freely available to everyone (and how did you go about it)? You are still attached to an institution, right?

    2. How great that your yoga teacher used the stories! At one of the yoga schools in Norman, they had an instructor who brought in a singer to sing the Ramayana while people were doing yoga, so of course I was urging everybody in my class to go take yoga classes there and listen to the singing!
      Devdutt does WONDERFUL books for children; if you look for him at Amazon, you will find all his stuff. He has done a Ramayana for children (it is focused on Sita, called The Girl Who Chose) and just recently a Mahabharata (The Boys Who Fought).
      I've always had my web content online (I've been doing online stuff for forever; I fell in love with the Internet when I made my first webpage back in 1998). And my school (University of Oklahoma) has been very supportive! They have let me continue to teach the same classes every semester since 2002. Anything that you tinker with for that long will get better and better!


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