Nomads and Rhizomes- Dave’s blog revisited

I read this blog awhile ago during #etmooc course but thanks to my Twitter PLN, I rediscovered it.  Today, in the climate of confusion and discontent in British Columbia public education, the themes could not be more contradictory with our classroom experience.  Teacher professional development and reform doesn’t function in a vacuum. It is organically growing within the classroom setting- embedded with our young people. It is rhizomatic learning. Adapting, reaching out, and evolving in multiple tentacles, Pro-Dev thrives with good soil and fresh air.  The BC Government is currently smothering teachers and even elected school boards. Public education as a societal ambition demands an empathy and execution much like we now see our ecological issues. Schooling is an organic collective of human beings much like a sensitive but resilient environment. It can absorb many body blows yet wanton disregard for life does result in extinctions and degradation. 

People learn collectively and individually. Teachers and pupils forage for meaning. They flourish when nomadic not constrained inside a cage. The cages may be the restraint of many policies and cultures.  Wreckless or ideological, leadership needs stewardship of people and environments not just accounting.  BC education IS people. It is a living thing. It’s rhizomatic. Parents, teachers, students and our public deserve to treated by their elected officials less like container ships of iron ore and more like a rich vegetable garde.  Teachers should be respected more like proficient caring gardeners and less like endentured labour. Leadership, like good parenting cannot be arrogant. Like gardening or parenting, family or nation, our children need measures of experimentation, boundaries and love.  David Cormier’s blog, although assessing paradigms, is observing human relationships and culture. How does your garden grow? 

 Cormier tackles pedagogy and approaches change with the #rhizo15 paradigm. His insights are interesting  for teachers embracing their own professional development. Sadly, #bced Bill11 is legislating mandated PD structures for teachers, while espousing ‘personalized learning’ for students. The paradox, if not hypocrisy, of this government’s strategy flies in the face of many progressive education reform. Teachers need considerable professional autonomy in order to be innovative and effective. The climate of teacher learning does directly impact the nature and degree of student learning.  – Al Smith

  • Why do we teach?
  • What does successful learning look like?
  • What does a successful learner look like?
  • How do we structure successful learning?

It is that map that I think successful learning looks like. Not a series of remembered ideas, reproduced for testing, and quickly forgotten. But something flexible that is already integrated with the other things a learner knows. Most things that we value ‘knowing’ are not things that are easily pointed to. Knowing is a long process of becoming (think of it in the sense of ‘becoming an expert’) where you actually change the way you perceive the world based on new understandings. You change and grow as new learning becomes part of the things you know.
Sounds a bit like networked learning…? The rhizome is, in a manner of speaking, a kind of network. It’s just a very messy, unpredictable network that isn’t bounded and grows and spreads in strange ways. As a model for knowledge, our computer idea of networks, all tidy dots connected to tidy lines, gives us a false sense of completeness.( Cormier )


What does a successful learner look like?
In a recent blog post i tried to offer three visions for ‘what education is for’ to help provide a departure point for discussion. Workers take accepted knowledge and store it for future reference. They accept that things are true and act accordingly. The soldier acquires more knowledge and becomes responsible for deciding what things are going to be true. The nomads make decisions for themselves. They gather what they need for their own path. I think we should be hoping for nomads.
Nomads have the ability to learn rhizomatically, to ‘self-reproduce’, to grow and change ideas as they explore new contexts. They are not looking for ‘the accepted way’, they are not looking to receive instructions, but rather to create.(Cormier )


Cormier, D. “Dave’s Educational Blog.” Daves Educational Blog. N.p., 5 Jan. 2014. Web. 29 Apr. 2015. <;. 

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