Marram grass

The elusiveness of the term community, or perhaps the jaded quality of the word raises the challenge of mapping “community” in any useful sense. The idea of community as curriculum could be understood as essentially getting rid of the concept of curriculum and working with the “community” at hand. This is a useful approach that I have found works well with demotivated learners, and though I have not participated UMW’s ds106 course seems to work in a similar direction very successfully.

If however curriculum is still a useful notion, and we wish to frame community as curriculum, then we need to further discuss what community involves. In a previous post I mentioned some of the elements that may form part of it, but left out perhaps the most important one, perhaps because it is so obvious, interaction. Communities involve interactions between individuals and groups of individuals and indeed with other communities through networks. When these interactions are rich, conversations emerge, and when these conversations are rich, when they go beyond serial monologue, dialogue can be developed (in the sense used for example by Freire, Böhm or Buber). This kind of interaction, though hard to achieve, could perhaps go some way toward revealing and contesting the power relations that Mariana Funes refers to. It is also perhaps what we should be looking for, at that campfire in the dunes, as a way of focusing and mapping our learning. I believe marram grass is a rhizome J

In this sense, it may be that instead of community as curriculum, we might explore the notion of the conversation as curriculum.


9 thoughts on “Marram grass

  1. Conversation as a curriculum, that is a beautiful metaphor. Maram Grass is called helm in Dutch. Very important to stabilize sand.
    As conversation has a connotation of kindness and equality the curriculum is the subject we choose to talk about. (Like the conversation in Facebook in the rhizo group)

  2. I am assuming this is Nick? I may be missing the obvious but I see no bio info…you have the right to remain silent of course 🙂 I notice I find it hard to respond to words without knowing something of the human behind them…

    Frances was saying somewhere that if the focus is on conversation then where do we engage in that given that we are saying Twitter can be used to start a conversation but not too deepen, that we have separate campfires and are too lazy (or principled in my case – refusing to engage with FB ) or too busy to cross-post and engage…G+ does allow engagement asynch and synch with Hangouts. I have to be honest and say that it is only through having actually met the people I engage with online that I feel they are part of my life or through having engaged with them on a particular learning task.

    Dialogue of the kind that I know is possible between humans say on a retreat? Interestingly I have an interpersonal meditation practice group I belong to and attend each week. Yes, it is possible to engage in that kind of depth. But in that case, we all have many years experience of meditation on a cushion and at monasteries…There is something that is developed in that that has to do with presence and meditation. Also – has to do with a willingness to suspend other activity and focus on the moment. How many of us learning online engage with just one thing/idea/person/ fully without any other distractions?

    I am now reflecting on what makes genuine dialogue possible online and the creation of relationship beyond I-it – some talk about reciprocity as a factor. I have seen how that gets transactional online too: ‘I will retweet you, if you retweet me’. ‘I will comment here, but if you don’t comment on my work I will move on’ . I then move to intention, and then that is complicated by our inability to observe intention online…it is complex. As Frances asks – where do we have this kind of conversation online? Hangouts work with only the few as finding time and willingness to converge at a certain time is hard. And then I am reminded of Sherry Turkle talking about how we actually do no want the challenge and inconvenience of ‘real’ relationship so we ‘hide’ online… it is just too hard and much easier to be Alone Together….no answers just threads.

    BTW the link to my name did not work for me – not sure what you are referring to but I imagine it is the Storify?

    Look forward to getting to know you better. #rhizo14mf

    • This is the blog I use for courses. I slow blog (geologically slow!) on my institutional blog at, though I hope to be more active this year, as I finally got my doctorate out of the way last October.
      The question of campfires is very complicated online. FB is dedicated to destroying cultural diversity, and probably the heat death of the universe as well, so I don’t go there. I am also pretty sceptical about G+. I chose to tweet and blog when I could on this rhizo event.
      WRT dialogue, yes, that kind of dialogue. It is a way of being that one has to learn, but seems to me to be integral to what we might call “deep” learnign. The word retreat is interesting, one of the first pre-requisites of that dialogue is to shut up and listen. Online you are largely characterised by the noise you make, the text you generate. Silence online transmutes to a lack of presence, and described as “lurking”. Lurk has too many negative associations to be reframed. But we do have the right to remain silent!
      Another issue, as you observe, is that dialogue is not transactional, but online interaction does very often seem to devolve to that kind of behaviour…
      Edited the link, it should work now, it is to your Storify
      So much to talk about!
      Un abrazo!

  3. I am going to stay quiet for the weekend. And reflect on this conversation! You may be raising something that could be a deal breaker for deep learning online…really enjoying talking with you

    • It is mutual, Mariana.
      I did some work on this some years ago, on the idea of understanding online tutoring as conversation “design” where we drew on the concept of dialogue as a model. I wasnt very satisified with the word design, but it might serve as a wall to throw ideas off. Alternatively maybe we should go on a retreat!
      Anyhow, enjoy the silence!

      • “Online you are largely characterised by the noise you make, the text you generate. Silence online transmutes to a lack of presence, and described as “lurking”.”

        This keeps resonating for me. Also I had a chat with David Kernohan on Twitter today where he was wondering if we needed anymore content. All of this ties with what is an experiment (of about 1.5 year so far) of working online as an open educator – I started with a belief that blogging was not ‘proper academic’ writing and to be honest I still feel that. It is a different kind of writing. Some people argue that in doing ‘observable work’ we refine our ideas. I see as much of an argument for the opposite view – the illusion (for it mostly is an illusion) of an audience generates a kind of writing that seeks approval or a response at least. It this the kind of depth of thinking that is generated by me taking 1 year off work to write a book that answer one question? Is the noise we make online necessary for presence? Another thought that keeps circling is All thoughts have been thought…and to make them ours we must re-think them. Goethe never said we need to blog or tweet them 🙂 And there is a whole lot of research in my own field (cognitive science) that shows the truth of Turkle’s saying: Unless we teach our kids to be with themselves by themselves they will only know how to be lonely. The book is the Alone Together book, my quote not accurate. The idea is that we are losing the ability to be still and rejoice in solitude – something essential to genuine dialogue. Yet, we make it work in my interpersonal meditation group…once again many threads not conclusions. NIce mind-walking with you 🙂

  4. “The idea of community as curriculum could be understood as essentially getting rid of the concept of curriculum and working with the “community” at hand.” I don’t quite see it this way. I see it as looking at anything to be learned “through” the community. You can have lots of curricula in a community but they are transformed by rising up through the roots and into the members and out again. I see this as a potential evolutionary response to the stultifying complexity we have to deal with daily especially in knowledge work like teaching/learning. We must rely on the large hive mind to grasp a larger reality. Or something like that.

  5. Pingback: Agree//disagree: a poem and its inspirations. | Explorations in learning

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