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22st Annual OLC International Conference
November 16-18, 2016 | Orlando, Florida | Walt Disney World Swan/Dolphin Resort

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#Rhizo14 Collaborative Autoethnography: Challenges and Joys of Unwriting the Untext

#et4online #et4rhizo
Rebecca Hogue (Student, Canada)
Additional Authors
Maha Bali (American University in Cairo, Egypt)
Lenandlar Singh (University of Guyana, Guyana)
Apostolos Koutropoulos (University of Massachusets, USA)
Sarah Honeychurch (University of Glasgow, United Kingdom)
Simon Ensor (Clermont-Ferrand, France)
Terry Elliott (Western Kentucky University Writing Project, USA)
Keith Hamon (South University, USA)
Vanessa Vaile (Unsure, USA), Kevin Hodgson (Norris Elementary School, USA)
Sandra Sinfield (London Met, United Kingdom), Scott H Johnson, Jr. (Lac La Biche, Alberta, Canada)
Session Information
April 22, 2015 - 3:00pm
Open and Collaborative Education
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Research Study
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Emerging Technology (tools or processes)
Institutional Level: 
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Discovery Session
Lone Star Preconvene
Session Duration: 
60 Minutes
Discovery Session 1

What are the challenges and joys of attempting a distributed collaborative autoethnographic research project to represent a rhizomatic learning experience?

Extended Abstract

Connectivist-style MOOCs (cMOOCs) are engaging students in innovative learning spaces that challenge the most experienced online learner. How do we make sense of a course with no syllabus, teacher, or learning objectives, and how do we assess what we are doing? This presentation shares an emergent research design we use to explore an emergent form of online learning, and attendees will be challenged to develop new approaches to examining and explaining the new kinds of learning emerging online.

In January, 2014, we participated in Dave Cormier's cMOOC, Rhizomatic Learning: The Community is the Curriculum (#rhizo14 on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+), which put into practice Cormier's concept of Rhizomatic Learning (Cormier, 2008). Partway through the course, we agreed to conduct a collaborative authoethnography (CAE) to research the experiences of participants. We chose CAE because of its participatory nature and its allowance for multiple, not necessarily convergent, perspectives while negotiating power amongst participant-researchers. We like using a research approach that challenges traditional notions of research to explore learner experiences in a course that challenges traditional notions of online learning. Like Sotirin (2010), we advocate 'a rhizomatic practice of autoethnographic writing and reading that works creatively within, upon, and beyond personal narratives ƒ spreading out over their narrative surfaces to make different relations and connections'.

Ellis et al (2011) suggest that 'autoethnography is both process and product'; therefore, we will share both the process of conducting research as well as emerging patterns of the CAE. We will also share the challenges of working on the CAE over great distances, which is difficult to do, but has been done (Bentley et al, 2014), and across cultural, linguistic, and timezone challenges (we are from Guyana, Egypt, USA, Canada, Scotland and France).

Partway through doing this digital collaborative research, we decided to write an article called 'writing the unreadable untext' on the challenges we are facing, and this evolved into an artifact of rhizomatic learning in and of itself - a google doc with multimedia, a rich discussion in the side comments and a true cacophony of voices akin to a 'swarm'. This led Hamon (2014a) to reflect on how different this collaboratively created documentÍs ñswarmî voice was from the original autoethnography document which contained self-contained narratives of individuals (with comments on the side, but still, individual narratives).Within our reflexive group response to the original autoethnographic narratives, some of us feel a coming together of our identities into the more complex process of moving from self-declaration to a voluntary but compelling obligation to become more than self in the discomfort and vulnerability of collaboration with 'strangers.' This method might be understood by comparing it to Deleuze and GuattariÍs idea of decalcomania, which is a "process of transferring designs from prepared paper onto glass or porcelain" (Macbook online dictionary)-- with each of our attempts to write about #rhizo14 we produce a handprint, or a map of the experience (Hamon 2014b) which we hope will help readers to appreciate the flavour of the #rhizo14 cMOOC without the need to have experienced the whole six weeks of it.

Among our challenges were those of representation: any sub-group of #rhizo14 could not represent the experiences of all participants. So our research, like most social research is partial: it does not represent those outside this particular group. It is also partial in the ways in which our discussions influence each of us in our thinking, reflections, and memories about our experiences. However, we feel the richness, depth and collaborative nature of this research has potential to reveal more about the connectivist MOOC experience than more traditional forms of research, and we will challenge attendees to consider how to develop this, and other, approaches with which to evaluate and interpret connectivist style learning experiences.

Bentley, P., Crump, H., Cuff, P., Gniadek, I., Jamieson, B., MacNeill, S., & Mor, Y. (2014). Signals of success and self-directed learning. Proceedings of the European MOOCs Stakeholders Summit 2014. p. 18. Retrieved from: http://www.emoocs2014.eu/sites/default/files/Proceedings-Moocs-Summit-2014.pdf

Cormier, D. (2008). Rhizomatic education: the community as curriculum. Innovate: Journal of Online Education. Re-published on Cormier, D. (2008, June 3). Rhizomatic education: the community as curriculum [weblog]. Retrieved from: http://davecormier.com/edblog/2008/06/03/rhizomatic-education-community-as-curriculum/

Hamon, K. (2014a). The Rhizo14 Ethnography and Decalcomania.[weblog post]. Retrieved from: http://idst-2215.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/the-rhizo14-ethnography-and-decalcomania.html

Hamon, K. (2014b). Rise of the Swarm: a first global look at the rhizo14 autoethnography. [weblog post]. Retrieved from: http://idst-2215.blogspot.com/2014/11/rise-of-iswarm-first-global-look-at.html

Ellis, C., Adams, T. E., & Bochner, A. P. (2011). Authoethnography: an overview. Qualitative Social Research. 12(1). Retrieved from: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

Sotirin, P. (2010). Autoethographic mother-writing: advocating radical specifcity. Journal of Research Practice. 6(1). Retrieved from: http://jrp.icaap.org/index.php/jrp/article/view/220/189