I’m always humbled when I think about the tremendous trust students show in enrolling in our adult education programs.  They place way more confidence in me than I have in my ability to fulfill that trust.

When Dave Cormier asks, “How do we design our own or others learning when we don’t know where we are going?” it feels a lot like an itch I need to scratch.

Then he asks whether “learning subjectives” can help us with this question. I’ve had a broad-spectrum treatment of learning objectives.  What in Bloom’s name might “learning subjectives” look like, and how could they possibly be helpful? That sent me down this path in a quest for meaning (originally dictated as notes on my iPhone while taking a break from reading James S.A. Corey’s space opera.)

Learning objectives: intended learning outcomes
intended by whom?
the course, the curriculum, the instructor, the certification body,
Learning subjectives: could that be the unanticipated consequences of un-learning ?
where “un-learning” equals questioning what I thought I knew

subjectives framed

Hmmm,  maybe,

How about some
word association…
(Pssst – graphic on the left)

Ahh – not really.
Back up and try again.

Objective: the object which is in view, the purpose
Object: the person or thing acted upon, the receiver of the action
Learning objectives: what someone else wants to teach me

Subjective: of, or having to do with, the subject
Subject: the person or thing performing the action, the actor
Learning subjectives: what I actually learn, perhaps by determining to do so, perhaps incidentally or accidentally

Can Grammar help us find our way? (Or maybe Gramper?)

Objective case pronouns: me you him her it us them
Teach him, instruct her, drill them, punish me
Subjective case pronouns: I you he she it we they
He perceives, she practices, they explore, I want

Definitely some hints there, but there must be more to it

Objectives for Rhizo 15:
Write frequent, insightful, lucid, profound blog posts exploring connected facets of rhizomatic learning. Set up TweetDeck to follow as many conversation streams as will fit on my screen. Post frequently in Facebook, G+ and Twitter. Comment on and link to other people’s blog posts and take part in being a generally polite and contributing citizen of this learning community.

Subjectives for Rhizo 15:
Read what I have time to read.
Read what interests me.
Ignore some platforms completely.
Reply or comment when I just can’t resist the urge – and delete it.
Or just spout off if I find a humorous twist.
Occasionally spend an inordinate amount of my leisure time in a tortured attempt to voice something that struck me as profound, and then leave it unpublished.
Dash off a tongue-in-cheek blogpost because whimsy is where I am most comfortable when I am outclassed.

OK, that’s getting closer to home, but part of me cringes at the self-indulgent tone, even though I am the subject.

I suspect my “learning subjectives” will be revealed when I realize my practice and my ways of being have changed (improved he hopes) because of Rhizo15.  Not entirely possible to anticipate just where it will poke up a shoot.

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On Being a Learner

What’s the difference between taking a course and being a learner?


We often assume that everyone who attends school, at least an adult who chooses to do so willingly, goes there to learn. I’d like to point out that some people, especially adults, chose go to school because they want to take a course. Both are good and valid reasons to enroll in school; they might even overlap, but we get into all sorts of trouble, both as students and as educators, if we assume they are the same thing.  So here is my only-partially-tongue-in-cheek, not-totally-objective, and in-no-particular-order guide to help us figure out the difference.

If I am most concerned with getting the right answer, I am taking a course.
If I am not satisfied until I understand how the darn thing works, I am a learner.

If I want to know what I need to do to pass, I am taking a course.
If I get excited because something in class touches my “real” life, I am a learner.

If my motivation is to get the certificate, I am taking a course.
If my motivation is to become better at something I love doing, I am a learner.

If I attend classes because I can’t get an excused absence, I am taking a course.
If class is so interesting that I don’t want to miss anything, I am a learner.

If the best part of the day is going home to my family, I am human.
If you wondered what that has to do with anything, it’s just my whimsy intruding.

If I only spend time studying what’s assigned, I am taking a course.
If I get side-tracked investigating new ideas that aren’t directly related to assignments, I am probably a learner.

If I only discuss my studies with the instructor and others in my class, I am taking a course.
If I can’t shut up about what I’m studying, if I bring it up with my family and friends until they get tired of it, I am definitely a learner.

If the most important part of my writing is punctuation and grammar, I am taking a course.
If the most important thing in writing is communicating what’s on my mind, I am a learner.

If my biggest accomplishment is passing the test, I am taking a course.
If I can’t wait to put my knowledge into practice, I am a learner.

If the class is too easy for me, but it’s required in the program or job, I might just be taking a course.
If I just want to be in school even though the course content is too difficult for me, I still might be a learner.

If I am afraid to make a mistake, I am taking a course.
If I give myself the freedom to try-fail-try again, I am a learner.

If I lay awake at night worrying about my grade, I am taking a course.
If I lay awake grappling with the subject, I am a learner.

Credit goes to Aggie Brockman of the Northwest Territories Literacy Council who invited me to write a guest blog in honor of Adult Learner’s Week for their weekly newsletter.  Thanks Aggie for helping me realize that I am out of the habit of thoughtful writing. I spent several tortured hours trying to write profound paragraphs on theory that went nowhere before I came up with this list.   Interesting though, that I ended up back where I started, drawing inspiration from the opening lines of Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society*,

“Many students, especially those who are poor, intuitively know what the schools do for them. They school them to confuse process and substance…to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new.”

*Illich, I. 1971. Deschooling Society. New York: Harper & Row
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Loosely Tied


loosely tied water knot


another loose tie

The Connected Courses facilitators list reads like a Who’s Who of my favourite rabid connectivists.  How could I not dip in? Ever since PLENK2010 I’ve been hooked by this interaction with clever educators.  It changed the way I approach my job as an adult literacy and basic education instructor.  Fortunately for me, my superiors like the change. Adapting connected learning to the needs and capacity of ABE students is a challenge. I keep hoping to add others with an Adult Literacy focus to my PLN.

Essential Skills is on my plate as well this fall. I’ve enrolled in a for-credit course, so #ccourses will be a mix of lurking and more obvious contribution.  Guess which gets first priority when time is at a premium. At least I’ll keep in touch with some of the content but especially with the people and ideas at the forefront of this flavour of edu-innovation.

I registered weeks ago, but when I checked the action this first afternoon of the Pre-Course – aw Drat! Did I already miss the first live sessions? Now I’ll have to find time to watch the re-run on YouTube, or better yet on the embedded YouTube player on the pre-course page where I can catch up on reading at the same time.

That’s it for a first post.  Let’s see if I can connect my blog now using RSS and Tags.


water knot author David J Fred, licenced CC-BY-SA
water molecule from Wikimedia Commons, public domain


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Apologetic Canadian Zombie

Well friends, here’s a zombie who has happily resolved his identity crisis.
I have come to terms with what I am.

I am a zombie.
I bite and devour people.
Sorry about that, but that’s the way it is.

I tried to deny it for a time. Didn’t think this should be my nature. Wanted to join the non-violent zombie coalition – thought that would make me more pure, would guarantee my redemption.

Would you be surprised to learn that living a lie brought me no joy? Suppressing my urges and trying to be a nice zombie was no fun at all. Oh, there were those who applauded my efforts, who shouted loudly to remain strong. I tried to convince myself that this lonely existence was the upright path. But I was miserable, envious of others I saw who lapsed.

Then with the dawning of a new day, I surrendered to the craving for gore. I slunk through the shadows lunging at prey. I bit openly. I feasted wantonly. One human, a fellow zombie who had received a cure, tried to shame me. She had endured hunger and found redemption. Her rebukes cut me. Had I surrendered too willingly after all? Why this unease just when I was having fun?

Like is slowly expanding cloud of gas, realization crept over me. I am Canadian. I am polite. I am apologetic even when others bump me.   No wonder I was conflicted playing the badass zombie. For the rest of the game it’s going to be, “Excuse me, may I #bite you? Sorry!” and, “Thank you; your flesh is most delicious.”  I am the polite, Apologetic Canadian Zombie.

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Peaceful River Bank

Notice:  All Zombies have been thoroughly exorcised from this riverbank.

Hacked: All Zombies and self-loathing have been thoroughly exorcised from this riverbank.


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Hope Springs Eternal …

scoreboardWait.  I no longer have a human breast in which anything can spring.  I am a Zombie.

I “lost” at Twitter versus Zombies.  OK, in the spirit of the game, I did not really lose; I changed.  But I found myself unhappy with the change.  I had such great plans to avail myself of the antidote rule and then go on to create a restful, safe haven for fellow humans.

Since Twitter seems almost dead right now, I will amuse the non-Twitter human side of me and build that safezone all the same.

IMG_0961 (Large)You need to travel over water to get here.  Kayak, paddle-board, sail, or come with me. There’s an empty seat in my boat.

We travel north by north-west on Lac La Martre in Canada  until we enter the river where an abandoned human village once stood.


Two generations after a forest fire devoured the empty homes, only rusted stoves remain of the burned cabins. Faint outlines of rotted sill logs, now overgrown with moss, are barely discernible in the new growth of willows and alders.

DSC_1713 (Large)


DSC_1702 (Large) Descendants of the villagers return to this site annually to pay homage and to maintain the cemetery where their forbears are buried.


IMG_0683 (Large)



Ah yes, TvsZ-ers, there is peril nearby, but the elders had the foresight to establish their burial grounds across the river from their homes.



IMG_0702 (Large)

Just a short distance upriver, a healing spring flows into the river.  Here the visitors come to bathe in expectation of a cure from physical and emotional afflictions.




So this is the safe have I wanted to offer to humans seeking refuge from the devastating hordes on Twitter versus Zombies.  I wonder if I could deed this space to someone who is still human. – perhaps I can send them the text code and photo links so they could post it.



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Conflicted Zombie

I am a troubled zombie.  Not supposed to have any thought, only cravings for human flesh, particularly brains.  Troubling something buried deep within me, is the question, Why does scorn, violence, and compulsion come so easily?   How can I be experiencing any cognitive dissonance when I have so little cognition left?  But a powerful inner voice that will not be silenced tells me that I belong on the side of light.  I value all that is light and goodness.  Why then, does writing such dark tweets comes so naturally.

This was to have been my Antidote post.  But my zombie mind could not retain the one essential detail of the rule – the 8:00 AM deadline.  I remembered it as 8PM.  Now mid- Sunday afternoon, enthusiastic to re-engage in Twitter versus Zombies, I find I am doomed to be a zombie for eternity – or the next rule change-whichever comes first.

And I did not intend to become a zombie in the first place.  OK, I admit, “After a night’s troubled sleep, I jump back into the fray and defy the loathsome horde.  A Pox upon all your undead houses!” was kind of asking for trouble.  But I had my defense all planned.  Before posting, I had my next tweet already copied into memory. I pasted, “I #dodge you, foul fiend, and leave a #picsafe pan of freshly sizzled bacon to distract other mindless #tvsZ zombies” as soon as the first was tweeted.  My downfall was that I had to attach an image and type the twitter handle of the first zombie who bit me.  (should have gone with a reply) With image attached I was at 152 characters, now had to quickly decide which derogatory adjectives to delete.  (should have realized that 22 chrs to spare wouldn’t cover a handle and link) Of course, during such a long delay I got a second bite, and my strategy went down in flames.  And here’s the kicker.  I had already planned out such a clever #safezone across the river from an old graveyard and downstream from a healing spring.

So here I am, stuck on the dark side.  Now, will my desire to engage win out over my revulsion at what I have become.  I see some #nvzc (non-violent zombie coalition) tweets.   Perhaps I can be a “vegetarian” zombie.  If Edward Cullen could do it, why not me?

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Test Getty Embed

Lisa Lane Diigo-ed The Verge article about Getty Images’s new free embed licence.
Here is the link to Getty’s page advertising the new service.  The embed code adds the appropriate credit – and will probably embed adverts and data collection in the future. Clicking the image takes you back to Getty’s site where you can purchase the image for commercial use.

I’m testing it here.  It appears I can edit the embed code to change the size of the image. No need to calculate the proportions too carefully, it doesn’t seem to distort no matter what you do.  Appears it takes the lowest value (width or height) and scales the image to that even if the other dimension is wildly out of range.

Original embed code is h=407 x w=507 pixels

Here’s the same image set to a carefully calculated 75% size of h=305 x w=380

Here it is set to h=200 x w=1200 – notice that it still stays perfectly proportioned

Oh, guess what.  I just discovered I could drag to resize the image.  Grab the placeholder by the corner handles; the code adjusts itself.  This one started as the default w=507 x h=407, but dragging  changed the values to a thumbnail-sized w=127 x h=100.  Kind of scrambles the image credits, though. Besides this looks smaller than 100 pixels high.

Hmmm, I wonder why WordPress changes the code so height comes before width, when Getty’s original has width first.

One drawback is that word-wrap is gone. So is the Left, Centre, Right image-placement option.  In a comment on The Verge article, “jomamma” said you could edit the WordPress CSS to bring back word-wrap.  Maybe.  It’s beyond me for now.

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Rhizomatic Orality – conversation

booksbooks is my most favouritest way of all to delightfully waste time – expecially “indulgent trash” (spies, mystery, & sci-fi).

The premise, Is Books Making Us Stupid? (from week 4 of #Rhizo14 ) “just hit my berserk button.” (to quote from Haley Campbell when she rightfully took great exception to my calling it “indulgent trash” in an unrelated blog post some time ago)

Here I was just concluding that I need to subject myself to more D&G, Skinner, Mezirow, Brookfield, Knowles, Papert, etc. to get a deeper grounding in learning theory and jargon. Seriously, YouTube is where it’s at after all? For most lectures, including TedTalks, I want a transcript to scan the point in a fraction of the time it takes me to listen. Shallow? I think of it as efficient. I confess though, listening to Dave Cormier’s verbal explorations has a lot more “pull”.

I’m now challenged to reflect on orality in my own life. Childhood. Farming & Gardening. Facts of Life. All oral. Learning the largely-unwritten Tlı̨chǫ language as an adult on the trapline and in hunting camps filled my meaning of the expressions with images, smells, and cold instead of equivalent marks on paper. I lost my frustration with Aboriginal legends when I finally laid aside my Euro-centric demand that every moral and lesson be explicated. Orality is flexible, adaptable, but to a print-oriented society, is also undependable with a whispering-down-the-lane kind of unreliability. Uncertainty in my worldview was characterized as weak, probably slippery and devious, therefore to be rejected. I’m getting over it, convinced in part by the tremendous harm done by some kinds of certainty.

Back to this week’s premise. Books require the same Rheingoldian (or should that be Postmanesque?) “crap detector” we apply to anything else. I think it is our undue reverence for the bound printed page, not books themselves that hinder rhizomatic exploration of learning. Some day I’ll have to write about my ambivalence toward textbooks and syllabi.

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Rhizomatic Independence – Elusive

Stephen Downes, reflecting in  OLDaily on a study of emotional affordances in a MOOC, urged “a need for participants to become more self-reflective.”   Yeah, I’ve been a butterfly, or a shallow root/spindly shoot popping up here and there, mostly in FB, but occasionally going on a blog-reading binge.  Or intending to go on a blog reading binge, then the first thing I read cries out for a comment, and I’m stuck for a half hour or more trying to get my thoughts into words – does this make my point, do I mean what I ended up writing, no – this is trite and that’s overstating my position, how do I get my point clarified?

So, trying to take Stephen’s admonition to heart, what did I think and learn about independence with my limited participation in week 2 in Rhizo14?  I heard Dave Cormier admit in our hangout that he thinks “RE-inforcing” would be a better verb than enforcing, but he couldn’t resist provoking a discussion. I learned that I still have a long way to go with realizing the ideals of independence I hope to teach my adult literacy students. To enforce independence at this point would be like abandoning them. (did I write that somewhere else? sounds familiar) So I need to keep the idea of autonomy before them while providing a support structure.  I keep looking for tools.  Technology holds some promise.  Text-to-speech allows them read the newspaper without getting bogged down.  It’s even delightfully like cheating, taking a shortcut around sounding out words, all the while subversively allowing them to enjoy reading.

I myself am only a partially independent learner, given my reaction to Dave’s proposal in the survey to cut the formal course to 4 weeks.  I have what seem like revealing insights, get excited about something I’ve discovered, but hearing myself writing posts and talking in hangouts, it sounds flat and shallow to me.  Like Joseph Conrad’s Kurtz on his deathbed.

So now I’ve faced my limitations, What will I do to keep learning?  It may be slow going but it’s rewarding to participate and feel included in the community. Even if I’m not a major contributor, I will keep joining.  Only in hindsight do I realize some of what I’ve gained.

Quotes found in my flitting about this week – linked to the owners’ blogs

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Rhizomatic Pragmatism – a Contradiction?

“When what’s on your cell phone is more important Google winsthan what’s in the library, we’re challenged to say how do we do education differently, because if it’s about delivery of content, Google wins over teacher every day.”
GNWT director of education renewal John Stewart addressing a December 2013 meeting of parents and educators in Yellowknife.


I’m really looking forward to Dave Cormier’s Rhisomatic Learning “joining-in-with-me” (aka “course”) at P2PU.  He begins with a question about, “…how we can learn in a world of abundance?” Cormier offers the wandering rhizome as a metaphor for learning via a connectivist community, contrasting it with the tree – a metaphor for learning from monolithic authority.

The learners to whom I am responsible are not in Higher Education.  They never got there because the system was unable to accommodate their different way of learning.  Cormier proposes that we might be brave and decide that “important learning is more like being a parent, or a cook than (memorizing a bunch of out-0f-context facts)“.

This leaves me grappling with some pragmatic questions/issues (while questioning whether “pragmatic” contradicts or complements “rhizomatic” learning):

  • How might this apply to my world of remedial adult education?
  • What could Adult Literacy & Basic Education look like in a world of abundance?
  • How may people who are living with brain injuries and trauma participate in the feast of information and knowledge available?
  • How will they know that they are learning when it doesn’t look like “school work”?
  • What venue is available for them to tell their stories of struggle, hope, and disappointment?
  • Who cares about what they offer to society?
  • Dare I attempt to break with the education-by-authority model that has failed my students and try drawing them into an inter-connected learning community.
  • And where will I find a compatible community for them to connect to?
  • Or should I be reckless enough to try helping them form a community to which others will feel comfortable joining?
  • Is my use of “helping” a subconscious condescension?

These are not entirely new thoughts or questions prompted only by the upcoming course.  My students have been posting their creations to YouTube, SoundCloud, StudyStack, and of course Facebook.  It seems to be going in the right direction, but frustrating to measure by traditional assessments. Perhaps the rhizome will yield some satisfaction if not answers.

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