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Jun 21 2019 - 09:06 AM
Rhizomatic research - The making of a manifesto

Start here!

An orientation of sorts

Read these notes in whichever order you prefer. I added questions to some of these findings that I’m using to guide my thinking; maybe they could help you, too.  

I'll be adding to this resource as I continue to find and refine information on the various learning theories and ideas discussed here.

I encourage you to explore these resources in greater depth and to add your own that you find along the way!


A learner's ecosystem of tools

Take a look at the arrangement of tools educator Martin Weller needed for his open education course, and his gripes with each of them: My MOOC Tech Ecosystem


  • What can we, as experience designers, take away from his summary?
  • Can you keep track of all of the different means and mediums of communication?
  • What is the main form of student reflection?     
  • How are students connecting with each other? 

Visualization tools



A painfully slow way to browse data from the rhizome course

But it might be good for inspiration

Tools to facilitate social learning


Pigeonhole lets your audience ask and vote for questions through online polls. It's great for live events. 

Try the Demo to get a better picture of how it works (it's cooler than how I'm making it sound here). 

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The rhizome philosophy

The basics


The rhizome, as a philosophy, was developed by French philosopher Gilles Deleuze and psychoanalyst Félix Guattari around 1980 in their seminal work, A Thousand Plateaus. 

Rhizomatic principles: 

  • "Although a rhizome can be broken or injured in one location, it will merely form a new line, a new connection that will emerge elsewhere."
  • "The rhizome is both heterogeneous and multiplicitous. It can be entered from many different points, all of which connect to each other. The rhizome does not have a beginning, an end, or an exact center. "
  • "The rhizome is reducible neither to the One nor the is comprised not of units but of dimensions, or rather directions in motion."
  • "Rhizome is 'defined solely as a circulation of states,' that are able to operate by means of multiplicity, variation and expansion."

From the Chicago School of Media Theory

A lecture in rhizomatic theory

Got an extra hour to spare?

This video comes from a course in the Open Yale Courses catalog: ENGL300: Introduction to Theory of Literature. 

This is lecture 15: The Postmodern Psyche. 

Professor Paul Fry gives an overview of Deleuze and Guattari's philosophy. Find the full course here

Thanks, Reddit!

Want to see an example of social learning in action? 

One redditor took to the Critical Theory subreddit for more human answers on Deleuze and Guattari's theory. 

Here are the results!


  • Which do you prefer, the textbook explanation or the human ones? Why?
  • In general, what do you do when a definition is too esoteric for you to understand? 

Of course there's a course

Want to see what a rhizomatically "organized" course looks like? Wonder no more! 

Dave Cormier, staunch proponent of the rhizome philosophy, developed a unique learning experience that has since been enjoyed by thousands of learners. Using P2PU as a platform, he launched Rhizomatic Learning -- The community is the curriculum. 

As you explore the course, consider:

  • Why might he have chosen to use P2PU as a platform?
  • In what ways are learners communicating with each other?
  • How does this course uphold the principles of rhizomatic learning? 

Video speaks louder than words

Learn how to pronounce "Deleuze" and "Guattari" in this 3-minute explanation of the rhizome philosophy. 

Connections to Connectivist Learning Theory

The basics

    As made popular by George Siemens:

    (Note: The website is very old and wonky but it's the most succinct summary of the theory I've found.)

    • Highlights:
      • Learning happens in many different ways. Courses, email, communities, conversations, web search, email lists, reading blogs, etc. Courses are not the primary conduit for learning.

      • Learning has an end goal - namely the increased ability to "do something".

      • Learning is a knowledge creation process...not only knowledge consumption. Learning tools and design methodologies should seek to capitalize on this trait of learning.

    Deeper definitions

    In Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past?, Kopp and Hill (2008) investigate connectivism's place on on the learning theory continuum. 

    Key highlights include: 

    • In the connectivist model, a learning community is described as a node, which is always part of a larger network.  Nodes arise out of the connection points that are found on a network.  A network is comprised of two or more nodes linked in order to share resources.  Nodes may be of varying size and strength, depending on the concentration of information and the number of individuals who are navigating through a particular node
    • According to connectivism, knowledge is distributed across an information network and can be stored in a variety of digital formats.  Learning and knowledge are said to “rest in diversity of opinions” 
    • Connectivists believe, “The capacity to know is more critical than what is actually known.” In other words, they believe in continuous, lifelong learning
    • The learning process is cyclical, in that learners will connect to a network to share and find new information, will modify their beliefs on the basis of new learning, and will then connect to a network to share these realizations and find new information once more. 
    • Learners may transverse networks through multiple knowledge domains.  The peripheries of knowledge fields are porous, allowing for the interdisciplinary connections to be made. 
    •  Learners will be at the centre of the learning experience, rather than the tutor and the institution.  Learners will be instrumental in determining the content of the learning, in addition to deciding the nature and levels of communication, and who can participate.
    • People can move from a learning environment controlled by the tutor and the institution, to an environment where they direct their own learning, find their own information, and create knowledge by engaging in networks away from the formal setting.
    • The networks in which people communicate can be small or vast, but the main characteristics for networks to support knowledge development will be that they are diverse, open, autonomous, and connected 
    • Current research in adult education shows that the levels of confidence and learner autonomy, in addition to discipline, are of crucial importance to the level of engagement by the learner in a personalized learning environment, as lack of these in the majority of participants hampered their learning online
    • New learning environments are informing present and future trends from which both educators and students stand to benefit.
    • The way in which global networks and communities of interest are currently being formed through emerging technologies is encouraging young people, in particular, to develop new, creative, and different forms of communication and knowledge creation outside formal education.
    • School systems have not developed a connectivist model within which to deliver curricula, partly because educational staff and institutions have not caught on to the possibilities that digital technology have to offer, and partly because not all people are autonomous learners.  Additionally, school systems tend to value education that is grounded in traditions of the past, steeped in values that have developed over centuries.  If, however, learners’ worlds inside and outside education become too disparate, new learners who are familiar with the opportunities for learning on the Internet will be able to find their experts elsewhere.  

    An even better explanation [Video]

    This is a fantastic 3-minute video explanation of the theory

    Open education

    How can learners be evaluated?

    Stephen Downes who, along with George Siemens <see "Connectivist learning theory: The basics">, created one of the first ever MOOCs, notes a few ways this can be accomplished:

    • Automated essay assessment
    • Automated assessment based on task completion or success-based metrics (think Codeacademy)
    • Peer assessment
    • Network-based grading (similar in concept to Klout)
    • Scrap grades entirely and move towards portfolios

    To see Downes's critiques of each of these methods of assessment, see his post: Assessment in MOOCs

    Open Education: The Course

    Curious what Martin Weller's course looked like? This may come as no surprise, but it's still open (though not active)!

     Learn all about open education, in course form.

    Note: Learner-created pieces of the course are sprawled all across the internet. They can seemingly be found searching #h817open.

    Quick facts about the course:

    • Students who stuck it out received a badge to show that they earned a) an understanding of OERs b) an understanding of MOOCs and c) course completion.


    • Did you have any difficulties following this course? What would have made it easier?

    ds106 vs. Udacity: A student's comparison

    An new spin on open

    ds106 is an interesting case study of an open course. "DS" stands for digital storytelling. While it has ties to university course catalogs (students at the University of Mary Washington have been enrolling in it since 2010), it also invites students from all over the world to drop in and participate in the active course! 

    There are a variety of fun ways for open participants to contribute to the larger discussion (i.e., do a Daily Create; create a project from the assignment bank; remix an assignment from said bank; add to the #ds106 conversation on Twitter). Above all, participants are encouraged to create their own learning path through the open course

    An old spin on open

    How does this structure compare with that of an "xMOOC" like Udacity?

    For one, xMOOCs support more traditional learning though video presentations and quizzes. 

    As part of an assignment in the Open Education course, students were asked to compare MOOC models: either ds106 or Change the MOOC with Udacity or Coursera. 

    Christina Hendricks (no, not that one), Senior Philosophy Instructor at the University of British Columbia and student in the Open Education course, had much to say on the assignment

    • Can you find comparisons from other students in the course? Which style do they prefer? 

    A common complaint from open learners

    Where is everybody?

    As part of the final assignment for the Open Education MOOC, students were asked to create a video covering one of the following elements: 

    • What aspect of openness in education interests you most (and why)?
    • What the future direction of open education will be in your opinion, justifying your answer.
    • Your experience of studying an open course versus traditional, formal education.What aspect of openness in education interests you most (and why)? What the future direction of open education will be in your opinion, justifying your answer. Your experience of studying an open course versus traditional, formal education.

    Martin Raybould, who is teaching English abroad in Italy, chose to tackle the feeling of isolation that can overcome learners of open online courses. Says Martin, "It doesn’t necessarily help to be one of thousands enrolled on a course if you can’t make any real connections with other learners."

    Here is a link to his blog post on the topic, including his video response. 

    Research on Rhizomatic Learning

    The classroom as rhizome: New strategies for diagramming knotted interactions

    “There’s no fixed course”: Rhizomatic learning communities in adolescent videogaming


    Technology-enhanced language learning environments: A rhizomatic approach


    Real life rhizomatics

    BMA Outpost

    A mobile museum whose original working title was "The Museum of Mattering." 


    Rhizomatic classrooms in practice

    Subject: British and American literature

    Subject: British and American literature

    • "Choose-your-own adventure"-style
    • Students moved through literary eras together but chose their own texts and areas of focus. 
    • Students constantly repositioned themselves in the room, forming and reforming groups
    • There was no hierarchy with the teacher at the top. 

    |By: Panisuan Chasinga|1128 Reads