A rhizomatic teaching story to show my idea of rhizomatic learning.

Bozeman Opera House
Bozeman Opera House
In an old book (Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig, 1974) on page 170 is the story of a girl student wanting to write a 500-word essay on the USA. She could not write a word. The teacher tried anything to help her and at last He said to her ” Narrow your subject down to the front of one building on the Mainstreet of Bozeman. The Opera house. Start with the upper left-hand brick.”
She wrote a 5000-word essay on this subject.
Robert Pirsig explains that the girl had to look for herself now and she could not rely on the things she learned before.

What is rhizomatic in this story?

That upper-left hand brick is a part of a huge rhizome. You could try to think of the rhizome as all aspects of the stone this girl student could write about.

Try to be that girl, go to the hamburger stand across the Opera House and look at the upper-left hand stone. Look at it and Start to write…

This brick has a history, and a future, has a structure, a function, it is artistic, biological, chemical and physical. This one brick has relations to other stories about industry, transport, finance, politics, juridical and socialogical systems. This brick is part of the world and part of so much stories.

These unseen connections of this upper-left hand brick are part of the rhizome.

And than it became part of this book of Pirsig, and it became part of this MOOC.

If you design a mindmap on this one upper-left hand brick of the Opera House in Mainstreet in Bozeman you will have an illustration of a rhizome.

I would like you to comment on this post.


6 thoughts on “A rhizomatic teaching story to show my idea of rhizomatic learning.

  1. One of my favorite books for a long time. Great example, I think. It is about unraveling or taking something and deconstructing its meaning. To me that is the best place to be about learning. Well, I also like the part when I find that the bricks I have delved into are connected to other parts of my learning.

  2. Was just thinking about bricks the other day when reading about Evocative Objects in a Psychiatric book Being a Character by Christopher Bollas. His explanation is that we not only carry memories and skills within our brain and body but also invest objects in the world with thoughts. Or more complexly (I need to read more by him to get this), the objects become both storage and entry into stories and chains of reasoning that build inferences.
    Cool to think of our brains as distributed all over:-). Can that be an explanation for the rhizomatic ‘condition’ of thinking?
    Sherry Turkle
    I’ll park this memory here: Bricks bring up the the story of spending some time in Juvenal Detention (jail) just before high school. A brick building apparently designed by the same architect responsible for design the high school I went on to attend. Later on in class, I could still imagine the bars on the windows.

  3. I really like the metaphor and the way you have used it.
    Doesn.t focusing on one part, though, mean u may lose the big picture? Like the story of blind ppl touching diff parts od an elephant and each of them thinking they are touching something totaly different? It is possible in a course like this one that pockets od sub-communities are doing totally different things. As soon as you get out of P2PU, this can happen, right?

  4. Questions, I really like them. They start one thinking. My question on your questions:
    As soon as you take a view from P2PU or from where you are now, you will not see the whole picture. These blind people do not see the elephant in the room, but we do not either. Because the rhizome is changing, unseen, abstract or whatever it is. It is more than yu can see. So when you try to learn in one course about a subject, you will not be able to see the rhizome from another point of view. As a trained teacher you only can look upon the world through the eyes of a trained teacher. Is ‘ objectivity’ ever possible? Learning is it dangerous for your soul, ?

    Of course things are evocative (I did not yet read the text behind the link yet) because the rhizome it is part of connects it to your world. Humans do think with these rhizomes in their heads, you must connect. Things are rhey evocative and do they only show the world you do know already?

  5. Last week we took Big Mac boxes to class – and asked fifty questions to get people thinking and talking and wrestling… Not our idea – it comes from John Shuh – teaching with objects…

  6. Jaap, you could be right about objects evoking what you already know. To a blind person extremely fond of snakes any part of the elephant they touch will be further proof of the wonderful diversity of snakes:-) More practically, since most things in our brain are assembled from a number influences that may never reassemble in exactly the same order, or with the same number of parts, object study may be a way of triggering a way of thinking. So when danceswithcloud presents students with a Big Mac box it becomes a story that begins with the box and plays out in a different order than if it had started with little red riding hood holding the box?

    And that gives me an idea about imagination and cheating so I’m off to my blog!

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