#change11 Stoloniferous Learning

This is Dave Cormier’s week on the Change11 MOOC in which he has placed before us Rhizomatic Learning. At the start of the week I wasn’t sure what this was. I read some of Dave’s writings and the responses of others on the course too. I’ve watched recording of EdTechWeekly #204 and others. Now by the end of this week I’ve not only got a feel for what Rhizomatic Learning is but also created my own learning metaphor Stoloniferous Learning.

This Rhizomicatic Learning metaphor takes me back to ‘A’ level (a British exam qualifications post compulsory secondary education and pre-tertiary higher educations). Back then I remember doing work about the Dodder plant, which from what I recall would put down roots, and runners would form and shoot off in seemingly random directions across. At some point it would stick roots down again and repeat the process. Looking up details of the Dodder I now see that it is a parasitic plant that sends out runners to locate a new host before entwining it and leeching from it. I don’t remember that at all (it was a long time ago). So maybe that isn’t the best example to pin my thought processes on.

So instead I thought about strawberry plants, now these are much more like it. These send out runners in seemingly random directions and then develop a new plant that throws down roots and the process continues. As I looked to check the details out a little more I realised that strawberries aren’t rhizomes though. Strawberries have what are called ‘Stolons’. A stolon is a shoot, branch, or twig springing from the root. These run horizontally above the ground and produce new clone plants. These new plants are termed ‘Nodes’ and they are spaced at random, varying intervals. The leafless stems between plants are called ‘Inter-nodes’. Such plants are called ‘Stoloniferous’. Hence I am introducing the new term ‘Stoloniferous Learning’ as a metaphor. It builds on Dave Cormier’s Rhizomic Learning work, but it is different. Rhizomes are largely underground stems, which for me implies unseen, concealed, even secret elements to the learning process. I’m more interested in bringing the process above ground with the inter-nodal elements of the stolons on show as part of the working out, part of the process, part of the mechanism.

This difference has implications for the learning process. Now these inter-nodes are kind of like bridges between someones conclusions; the thinking process is on show. This is significant. It means that the thinking process isn’t rigid and can be influences by other factors, other contributions, purely because of the fact that it is visible. Others can interact with these stolons; these learning processes, helping to shape them. And before the concluding idea takes root at the new point of contact for the learner, it can still be easily moved.

This process is taking place right here, right now. I’m working on my learning in the open. Maybe a new ‘plant’ will grow, but it is certainly open to influence, discussion, and re-directing because it’s openly available. Does this process need new immediate mechanisms to facilitate it? Quite possibly. Does it need a practice of openness, and the willingness to make mistakes openly? Yes, I think it does.

I’ll work on pinning down and defining the Stoloniferous Learning metaphor (or Strawaberry Plant Learning) more over the coming days and weeks.


Dave Cormier’s Rhizomatic Learning – Why we teach?

Dave Cormier’s Rhizomatic learning – Response for day 2 and 3

Keith Hamon’s Defining the Rhizome

EdTechWeekly#204 – Rhizomatic Learning & Battling the Positivists

Change MOOC Discussion 11/9/11


3 thoughts on “#change11 Stoloniferous Learning

  1. Nice post, daring idea.
    That will be a new class of learning theories and metaphors: the organic school of learning with the rhizomic and stolonic paradigm. Sounds good and I do like strawberries. As a gardener I know one has to cut off the stolons, because they use energy from the parent and prevent sweet strawberries to grow.
    Hope to read more about your new paradigm.

  2. Hi Mark,
    I’m not sure we need _another_ term, and maybe stoloniferous is actually more what Dave was getting at anyway (I don’t think there’s anything particularly ‘underground’ in what Dave suggests, it is about being in the open). But it is a powerful metaphor because a) strawberry plants are very successful at spreading and b) it’s unpredictable. Of course all metaphors are imperfect – maybe your parasite one was better than you think, because the problem with a strawberry plant is that it produces other strawberry plants, but network learning may produce entirely different things in different locations.
    Anyway, it is certainly a different model – networked, connectivism, rhizomatic, stoloniferous – call it what you like. It works differently to the traditional ‘industrial’ model of education. The interesting questions I think are when does it work, what conditions is it useful for, and when doesn’t it apply? Michael Feldstein has some interesting thoughts on scale here: http://mfeldstein.com/can-enlightenment-scale/


  3. I would suggest that the undergound part is an important part of the metaphor. It also helps to explain other understandings of learning that see only discrete plants and fail to contemplate what is happening below the surface. In some ways to identify learning as rhizomatic may serve to make some of the processes more visible to us (stolonify?).

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