Why Improvisational Teaching and Learning Matters.

In Dave Cormier’s post for #change11 about rhizomatic learning, I had two favorite quotes the first of which was this:

They are not looking for ‘the accepted way’, they are not looking to receive instructions, but rather to create.

This is something I personally liked to do as a learner, figure it out as I go alone. Find the things I need to accomplish or create something. I feel like there are so many digital tools I learned to use just for the sake of making something (Slideshare Presentation, Prezi Presentation are recent examples). Whether I went back to that tool ever again didn’t really matter. It helped me create or accomplish the thing I wanted to do at the time. And I’m pretty sure that I learned more than that tool at the moment, (because I surely forget how to use a lot of them 🙂 ) I learn to solve problems.

The second quote which I am using now in my teaching is this:

A curriculum for a course is something that can be created in time, while a course is happening. The syllabus becomes a garden space, a context setting within which learning can happen and the curriculum is the things that grows there.

I have gone through a lot of changes in my teaching over the past years, trying to find ways to help students learn the concepts in a course. Usually this involved fiddling with an assignment or two trying to improve it. But in the past year, having spent a lot of time engaging communities that are working out in the open as academics has really transformed how I teach. First there was the CUNY Academic Commons and the York College E-portfolio platform, both of which are built on WordPress and Buddypress. These were both my first experiences using WordPress, but more importantly they both started to help me make connections to people in the University that I never would have previously. This was through a blog I created about my old artwork and through joining groups like the Digital Humanities Initiative.

But it was in the Spring, through the Commons that I was introduced to Jim Groom and DS106. Jim is a instructional technologist at the University of Mary Washington and DS106 is an open course/community about digital storytelling. This was a class that had registered students from UMW, but Jim also invited anyone in the world to take the course as well. Just create a blog and play along. So I did.

In creating my own domain and participating in ds106 I found people to create work for and learn from in ways I never had previously. I was making artwork at a productive level that I had done since I was a graduate student (here’s a GIF, don’t be scared).

And when I made work there was feedback immediately, and I gave feedback to others. I was inspired by them and they we inspired by me.

So this is how I try and teach now. I taught DS106 this past fall to my registered York College students and I’m not going to look back. We make things together, we figure out which assignments to do together, and it’s become this wild, rhizomatic like garden that is rich and unpredicatable.


Teaching & Learning ..

Ever since I was a little girl i loved pretending to be teacher and have my cousins play the student role. As a young child i was always organized. I made my own attendance book, report cards and had my own chalk board. In high school i enjoyed taking Biology classes and Earth Science.

My career goal is to become a Biology teacher for grades 7-12 in high school. I am organized which I believe is a great component in becoming a teacher as well as having an outline and being able to master my subject which is Biology. To become a good teacher i think the person should be socialble which means to form good relationships with your students. I am patient, responsible and love working with people. I want my students to know there is no question, opinion or idea that they have is a stupid or not valued.

Human Biology


Biology is my subject and in order for me to be a successful teacher my goals are to have a vision for my students, help them think of goals and give them guidance on how to broaden their ideas. I want to be involved with my students and let them know they can do more than one thing. I not only want to teach them but i want them to teach me as well.

I will work with my class as a team during our lab experiments and exploring new and exciting scientific investigations. I want to encourage my students to get excited about learning about the microscope, get curious about dissecting some animals such as a frog or pig, learn about DNA and diseases. I want my students to understand their own bodies and how life and the environment is connected.

In George Siemen’s article ‘Rhizomatic Learning — Why we Teach? he explains learning is based on ideas, there are many different contexts when it comes to learning and you have to be committed. From reading this article i learned i want my students to learn to make connections, teach me and to understand change. George Siemen explains a successful learner will continue to grow and there is no perfect answer. George Siemen refers to nomads and he says, “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.” We need to make our own decisions, have our own goals, think for ourselves and have our own opinion. We should be able to create new, exciting and challenging ideas with our students.

Teacher I would be

If I were to become a teacher, I would be the type of teacher that enforces free thinking. Many of the teachers today are just forcing information into your head and you are not allowed to think for a good amount of time. My high school AP Biology teacher Jerry Watkins was one of my teachers that made us all think for ourselves. His tactics was weird. He often provided life examples in whatever he taught and also added things that were not part of the syllabus. I never liked this guy for this but towards the end of the year I understood what he meant. He taught me a great life lesson.

Jerry Watkins my AP Biology Teacher


My own practice would involve free thinking with the internet. I would find this method more effective because the students are not limited to what the teacher says. Students can gain insight on everyone else on the internet, with this they will be able to formulate their own opinion. This way the students are networking. But the class runs the risk of getting distracted with things on the internet such as facebook and other social networking sites.

Students at work

Link to the image

What kind of teacher will you be?

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe

I ask this question to you in two ways, one I want you to in a blog post describe what kind of teacher you’re training for in the K-12 system. And second I want you to read Dave Cormier’s Rhizomatic Learning – Why we teach? and respond to the questions he asks in the activity described at the end of his blog post. You may consider finding an image, video, and/or text to support your descriptions (encouraged actually).

Also if you don’t already have one, please create a Google account. You will need this account to work with the many document tools Google has.

Please play around with some of them.