Frances Bell

home at last – for all the mes


Rhizo14 – Cheating and Learning

This is my introductory post for the MOOC Rhizo14.  I have joined because I want to understand more about rhizomatic learning.  I have been quite interested in MOOCs in general (less so in the enormous MOOCs run by high-profile universities and then spun out into commercial services.  What interests me is the comparison between informal learning that can be enabled by the Internet and social media platforms, and more formal forms of association such as MOOCs, forums, online communities, etc. that seem to me to sit between the informal associations that learners make and formal education institutions.

What actually prompted me to join at Rhizomatic Learning – The community is the curriculum was the excellent post by Jenny Mackness Rhizomatic Learning and Ethics.  Both Jenny and Chadia (in his excellently titled post I do not agree with Dave Cormier ) question whether cheating is the same as rule-breaking.  I went to Dave’s video and Things to Do via Jenny’s post, and it seemed to me that dear Dave was being a teeny tiny bit provocative by choosing the idea of ‘cheating’ to link to learning.  Cheating is a great concept – definitions can be personal and it definitely evokes strong feelings. So it was really good to kick things off in week 1.  Then I noticed that Dave (in his FB  comments on Jenny’s post) was gently redirecting discussion of the posts back to the source, her post – a practical act that displayed his ethics by modelling a behaviour.

Dave asks of us:

What does it [cheating] say about learning? About power? About how you see teaching?

I suspect that cheating is more about assessment and ‘winning’ than learning.  I noticed that several people have spoken about gaming. Whilst I am sure that playing games can be an important activity in learning, if winning the game became a surrogate for learning I would question the value of the learning.

Power relations in teaching and learning are complex and it’s such an important topic that I hope we will look at power relations and rhizomatic learning.

If I saw teaching as about exercising power by means of assessment, sanctions and qualification I would not have stuck at it for so long.

The second part of the title of this course ‘community is the curriculum’ arouses a lot of curiosity in me.  What sort of community will we become? what will our curriculum be?  That will be practical ethics – what might ‘cheating’ be in our community?  I don’t know but I strongly suspect it won’t be defined by rules.

Poor sad schizostylus

Finally I offer you the poor sad schizostylis that is a rhizome plucked up from South Africa and deposited in the cold wet soil of Cheshire, bravely still showing a flower in deepest darkest January.  I have just discovered that it is only a rhizome by habitat and that others in the species are corms.  What does that have to say to us? that rhizomaticness might depend to some extent on habitat?


francesbell • January 16, 2014

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  1. Nomad War Machine January 16, 2014 - 7:25 pm Reply

    I like your point about cheating being about assessment rather than about learning – I think that’s right. I’m looking at how to use collaborative learning techniques in the humanities and wondering how academics will respond to the challenge of assessing individual pieces of work that have been collaboratively generated, so this point really speaks to me. I also agree that Dave’s being provokative with his choice of words. Mind you, I do that sometimes to get my students thinking 🙂

  2. Dave Cormier January 16, 2014 - 7:54 pm Reply

    Hey now, you’re not supposed to notice when i do that 🙂

    Excellent and interesting as always Frances.

    The community is the curriculum business has (at least) two meanings. On the one hand we are talking about a curriculum created on the fly by the community in which we are working (learners in the class, others in the field, dead people who have left their ideas in books). The other is a stronger (and maybe stranger) claim. The curriculum and indeed the goal of the course is to become resident in the community – to be interconnected with it. To grasp the context.

  3. francesbell January 16, 2014 - 11:27 pm Reply

    Thanks Sarah – I agree that provocative can be good. In my experience the challenge in collaboratively produced work is to shift attention to the quality of the finished product in relation to the goodness of the process. If you wrote a paper with co-authors where you felt the process and product were good you wouldn’t be too picky about quantifying contributions. For students, high-stakes assessment can really interfere with this.

    @Dave I like both your points but think the second is tough on a course. Having said that, an important part of my Twitter network can be traced back to CCK08
    Here is a link about Curriculum that I found useful

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