Month: March 2014

Musings on Rhizomatic Language Learning

I have recently attended a couple of very interesting classes at UnB. On the very first class, the professor talked about the curriculum, and the required readings, and gave us a historical and conceptual overview of the subject-matter, namely Approaches in Language Teaching within the field of Applied Linguistics. As the professor was exploring more theoretical grounds, presenting key concepts/constructs, a fellow student asked him the question: “Why is there a need to label things?”. She was genuinely curious, and so was I to hear his answer to that somewhat unexpected question. He explained that we needed to name constructs and concepts so as to develop a common code or language which would enable researchers to understand each other and to build up on the existing knowledge in the field. Academia is, among other things, a language, then.

The other day I had the pleasure of having a wonderful conversation with fellow rhizoer Simon Ensor. One of the things he wanted to know was whether I saw a connection between rhizomatic learning and language learning/teaching. Although I`d thought about the possible connections and applications of rhizomatic learning to my teaching practice, what I said to him had not occurred to me before the moment I actually heard someone other than myself ask me the exact same question I’d so many times before asked myself in thought. I said to him that rhizomatic learning resembled language learning, in that a specific language, or a branch/dialect of a language we might have already been familiar with touched the nature of my rhizo14 experience in a way. I mentioned a feeling shared by another fellow rhizoer Bali Maha. She mentioned how it sometimes felt like we were unconsciously creating exclusion with all of our reflections and writings and other expressions within rhizo14, and the difficulty with which someone not a part of rhizo14, or not being the least bit familiar with the language/constructs/concepts of rhizomatic learning might have faced in attempting to make any sense of it. Rhizomatic learning is, among many other things, also a language, then.

A while later, Keith Hammon wrote a post inspired by a recent rhizo14 Twitter chat. He talked about the need for a rhizomatic rhetoric that would somehow help make sense of and communicate the personal accounts of rhizo14 experiences being shared on the various autoethnographies/surveys that are going down as a follow-up to the course. Keith explores the potentials of what a ‘rhizo-rhetoric’ might look like. If there is to be such a thing as rhizomatic writing, what rhetoric should inform a writing of this kind, Keith asks. He goes on to share with us a take on Deleuze and Guattari’s Introduction: Rhizome, pointing out that DL&G reject the idea of the observing by-stander, who offers explanations detached from the object of inquiry/investigation. I will not exhaust Keith’s wonderful post here, for it is definitely worth your while reading it.

Then there was a very interesting discussion thread following a post I wrote about learning. There was talk between Frances Bell and I of comparing the nature of the learning experience in rhizo14 to the experience of an ethnographer/anthropologist engaged in participant observation within a social group/tribe. Then Keith jumped in the discussion, bringing his ideas of BYOC (bring your own context), asking whether that might actually be part of the secret of rhizomatic learning, after all. He ventures into an exploration of a rhizomatic dynamic in which the learner would seize and exercise his ‘freedom of context’. I feel the need to share Keith’s words with you now.

“Traditional education too often strips the context from the object of instruction (language, math, science, history, etc.). At best, traditional ed may try to supply a one-size-fits-all context that students must find a way to fit into. Rhizomatic classes, on the other hand, encourage students to bring their own context (BYOC) to the class and to find their own meaning. Those students, or participants, who manage to do so find the MOOC engaging and rewarding. They find meaning within their own contexts, and then they find a way to enlarge their contexts by engaging the other participants with their contexts and meanings.”  ~ Keith Hammon

Traditional education. Rhizomatic education. Traditional language. Rhizomatic language. Must they always be in eternal opposition? Are we as educators, having been initiated in the rhizomatic rites, facing a duty of sharing that ‘linguistic’ knowledge with our learners? With everyone who crosses our paths? How about those of us who are already fluent in the language of academia? Are we up for the task of facing the challenge of blending academia and rhizome, creating a new language? A new educational culture?

I leave you with Scott Johnson’s fiery last lines of comment on this amazing thread.

“What bothers me about modern education is the student leaves no marks of their passing through the landscape beyond those selected as approved by the keepers. Keepers of things not theirs to own and trade. I think Freire knew education to be transformative by the sign it left on us as well as the marks we made to it.”  ~ Scott Johnson

And so, power, again… Which of those among us are willing to think/deconstruct/challenge? the powers-that-be with our rhizomatic language skills?

I have a box of matches in my pocket…

Why learn about learning?

paulo freire

Paulo Freire

The learning process is human, organic, and complex, in that each individual, unique in his experiences, identity, as well as socio-historical context, transforms the act of learning into an absolutely personal and self-transformational experience. However, for that process to be a truly transformational one, both of the learner and of the world surrounding him, it is necessary that the learner engages the object of study, as well as the act of studying itself, in a critical manner. For Paulo Freire, it is this critical stance facing one’s object of study, and throughout the act of studying, which propitiates the fundamental goal of education, that of creating, re-creating, and co-creating knowledge, ultimately re-creating and reinventing the world around us. This is the critical stance in face of the search for knowledge which realizes the full potential of education, which is to bring about change.

If we are to understand the act of studying, of searching for knowledge, as a process of (re)creation, then we need to admit that the process is dynamic in its nature. Critically engaging a given text is establishing a dialog with its author. It is by means of this dialog, of this questioning, and this critical vision that knowledge can be reinvented, rewritten, and recreated. For it to be so, it is necessary that the learner has a heightened sense of agency, that is, that the learner sees himself as being the agent of his education; that he acts as subject in his search for knowledge, in his learning journey. The attitude of letting oneself be domesticated or indoctrinated does not lend itself to the critical posture advocated by Freire. The subject must penetrate the text, imbued with a sense of curiosity, fearless of letting himself become problematized by his dialog with the text.

The act of letting oneself become problematized is an act of surrender to the dynamic and organic process which is learning. Being open to learning is embracing uncertainty, for the act of learning critically presupposes an engagement with the text with an open and inquisitive mind. It means to venture into the unknown. The journey of learning becomes even more revealing if we let ourselves be humbled in face of the search. Being humble is being critical, in that learning is a challenge that requires hard and systematic work, and that many times may demand more than what we are capable of responding in a given moment. We must, therefore, persist and look to become better equipped to return to the text/object of study ready to understand it, to establish a fruitful dialog with it.

It is the duty of every educator to search for self-knowledge and self-reflection as a learner. Living the experience of learning first-hand opens up a channel for important insights into the learning process which may result in disruptions necessary for the refinement of our teaching approaches, methods, and techniques, for our being/becoming educators with the full potential to foster the kind of learning experiences which will instill our learners` curiosity and critical engagement with their own education, as well as the world around them.

In the words of Paulo Freire:

“Studying is not an act of taking in ideas, but of creating and recreating them.”

FREIRE, Paulo in Considerations regarding the Act of Studying (1968)

Por que aprender sobre o aprender?

paulo freire

Paulo Freire

O processo do aprender é um processo humano, orgânico e complexo, no sentido de que cada indivíduo, com sua unicidade de experiências, identidade e contexto histórico-social, transformará o ato de aprender numa experiência absolutamente pessoal e auto-transformadora. No entanto, para que esse processo seja de fato transformador, tanto do aprendiz quanto do mundo que o cerca, é necessário que o aprendiz engaje o objeto de estudo, assim como o ato de estudar, de maneira crítica. Para Paulo Freire, é essa postura crítica diante do objeto de estudo e durante o ato de estudar que propicia o objetivo fundamental da educação: a de criar, recriar e co-criar o conhecimento, recriando, assim, o mundo que nos cerca. É essa postura crítica diante da busca do conhecimento que potencializa a educação, resultando em mudança.

Se entendermos o ato de estudar, de buscar conhecimento, como um processo de (re)criação, precisamos admitir que se trata de um processo dinâmico em sua natureza. Engajar-se de maneira crítica com determinado texto é estabelecer um diálogo com seu autor. É através do diálogo, do questionamento e do olhar crítico que o conhecimento poderá ser reinventado, rescrito e recriado. Para tanto, é necessário que o aprendiz tenha um aguçado sentido de agência, ou seja, que ele se veja agente de sua educação; que ele seja o sujeito na busca do conhecer e do aprender. O deixar-se “domesticar” ou “doutrinar” não faz parte da atitude crítica proposta por Freire. O sujeito deve penetrar o texto, imbuído de um senso de curiosidade, e sem medo de se deixar problematizar pelo diálogo com o texto.

O ato de deixar-se problematizar é um ato de entrega ao processo dinâmico e orgânico que é o aprender. Estar aberto para o aprender é abraçar a incerteza, já que o ato de aprender de maneira crítica pressupõe engajar-se com um texto com mente aberta e indagadora, de arriscar-se pelo desconhecido. A jornada do aprender se faz ainda mais reveladora se nos colocamos com humildade diante da busca. O ser humilde é ser crítico, no sentido de que o aprender é um desafio que demanda trabalho árduo e sistemático e que, muitas vezes, poderá exigir mais do que nossa capacidade de resposta em determinado momento. Devemos, assim, insistir e buscar nos equipar melhor para retornar ao texto/objeto de estudo em condições de entendê-lo e de estabelecer um diálogo produtivo com ele.

Como aprendiz, é tarefa de todo educador buscar o auto-conhecimento e a auto-reflexão. A vivência do aprender em primeira mão nos proporciona a possibilidade de insights importantes com relação ao processo de aprendizagem. Esses insigths podem resultar em rupturas necessárias para o refinamento de nossas abordagens, métodos e técnicas de ensinar, de exercer nosso papel de educadores em sua plenitude, buscando fomentar experiências de aprendizagem que instiguem a curiosidade e o engajamento crítico de nossos aprendizes com sua própria educação e com o mundo que os cerca.

Nas palavras de Paulo Freire:

“Estudar não é um ato de consumir idéias, mas de criá-las e recriá-las.”

FREIRE, Paulo in Considerações em torno do Ato de Estudar (1968)