Communities That Keep Each Other Accountable

Much of the learning that shapes who I am takes place in the context of communities that hold each other accountable for how we put our values into practice. A shared public mission undergirded my graduate studies, with cohorts that questioned how to make museums and libraries relevant and engaging to lifelong learners, and how to embody the ethics of our professions. Those of us who have taught or studied together keep crossing paths in our professional lives.

Accountability happens even more in my Quaker community, where I have learned by osmosis and experience to trust in continuing revelation, and to listen to and encourage others’ emerging ministry. That tribe is always available, and calls me to participate in shared discernment and play. Walking an unpredictable path together can be tender, and is so much more alive when I keep showing up and let myself be teachable.

So I think about learning across a much longer time span than a single course or a degree program. Museums and libraries offer a wide range of information and experiences, and our users walk in with prior experience and walk out with more beads to string on a necklace.1 Experiences from many contexts build on each other. The ideas that pique my own interest often come from serendipitous collisions across breadth, which may or may not be followed up with more research into depth.

My engagement so far in #rhizo15 has mostly been conversational (responding to others’ blog posts and tweets and Facebook comments). Because it is not taking place within the boundaries of a learning management system, I don’t think of it as a MOOC. As I would have expected, I ponder what we are discussing in the context of my work, and many threads from #rhizo15 wove into my experience of a library conference on Friday. What I would not have expected is that I look at my other networks in terms of how what we are doing is also rhizomatic learning. #rhizo15 is prompting me to reach out much more: to respond to other tweets with questions or links, to notice what kinds of contributions strangers make to Facebook threads. Last night I picked up the phone when a faraway friend texted me.

At first, it seemed to me that any accountability within the #rhizo15 community came from the early pieces that were seminal for me: the gentle guidelines of the collaborative open learning recipe, and wise observations like the need for a flock to chase each other in Keith’s “commandments” post. And of course it was apparent that old-timers were picking up on and newcomers were being invited into interactions, friendships, and conversations that had developed in #rhizo14.

Now I see that the commitment to engage as much as we choose to within a six-week time frame also creates the voluntary accountability of responding quickly and perhaps repeatedly to what we want to keep alive (even if it means sleeping less to do so). From what others have shared, about collaborative projects and other connected learning, and also from Rebecca’s post about the #rhizo14 community supporting her during cancer treatment, I can see that the roots of this community spread and keep responding to life beyond the six-week boundary.

1 Hanson, Signe. “Exhibitions as Educators; or, The Mundane and Magnificent Art of Stringing Beads.” Journal of Museum Education 17, no. 3 (Fall 1992), 8-9. Also reprinted in Hirsch, Joanne S., and Lois H. Silverman. 2000. Transforming Practice: Selections from the Journal of Museum Education, 1992-1999. Washington, D.C.: Museum Education Roundtable.

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8 responses to “Communities That Keep Each Other Accountable

  1. It definitely means sleeping less for me 😉 i keep saying i need to cut back coz i have lots of less voluntary accountabilities… But this kind of thing is what lifts my spirits up and makes all my responsibilities more beatrable 🙂

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  2. Sleeping less for me as well, and ignoring my garden this weekend. You are spot on about this not being a MOOC, and also (if other such experiences are a guide to go by), as lasting way more than the “official” six weeks.

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  3. Lisa, thank you so much for this post. The first thing that struck me about it is when you reference osmosis in relation to your Quaker community.I study Ruskin and that experiential is very much at the heart of craftwork and art.
    It is interesting that you think MOOCs require an LMS. I would love to pursue that train of thought further with you. In terms of design LMSs can, in my opinion, create a type of linearity to learning that is not conducive to a MOOC experience. Learning is organic, and I think we are definitely on the same page here- I would be interested in hearing why LMS=MOOC to you.
    Thank you so much for sharing your time and thoughts with us!

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  4. Ann, if MOOCs were truly “massively open online”, they might look more like #rhizo15, taking place across multiple platforms with optional participation that’s hard to track. But I think of “MOOC” as meaning primarily the structured courses that take place on proprietary platforms (edX, Coursera, and such), with “open” referring to them being free of charge for those not seeking certification.

    How would you define MOOCs?

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    • Hi Lisa and Ann

      I think Lisa we’re getting at the distinction between connectivist MOOCs and xMOOCs. The very first MOOC was more like #rhizo15. Dave Cormier coined the MOOC acronym on CCK08 offered mainly by George Siemens and Stephen Downes. This is way before Coursera existed. Apologies if you already knew this stuff, but happy to continue the convo if you like.

      The distinction u make “massively open” vs. “Massive open” is actually one Dave made once. #rhizo15 is massive in its openness not so much its numbers; xMOOCs are closed-ish. But massive in numbers

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  5. Yes, that’s an important distinction, Maha, for sure. I am not a big fan of LMSs in general because of their linear and prescriptive way of organizing content which assumes learning happens in only one way. So for me a true MOOC is a cMOOC like #rhizo15 as you say with many platforms, etc. and not as much xMOOCs as mentioned by Maha above.
    It is so nice discussing these issues with a great group of people!

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  6. Lisa, what an inspiration this is. I’m so pleased to see the many paths that are interweaving—never following identically—to create the rich tapestry that is Rhizo15. Thanks for weaving.

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  7. I like this thought you shared, ‘creates the voluntary accountability of responding quickly and perhaps repeatedly to what we want to keep alive.’ That statement right there is a succinct description of the rhizome metaphor. It includes the personal interest/personal growth aspect with the need for the life blood of the community with the emergent unplanned (but not random) nature of the learning. That really helps me get my brain around this concept.

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