This week in the change MOOC has been great, because I think the Metaphor of the Rhizome is a particularly good one. When it comes to metaphors, you can often hear people remark critically or dismissively about how they are limited or not exact, with various flaws. This is true, but beside the point of their purpose. What metaphors do is show things that the limits of language alone, and other media, cannot. Language is one of the most precise and flexible mediums that we have, but it is also very limited. All metaphors reveal hidden qualities that mere description cannot, but some do this at higher level of clarity than others.
Why the Rhizome metaphor works so well is because communications and education are in the midst of a drastically changing, transitional era that it is not only showing us very new ways of teaching and learning, but is also opening up a learning environment where any starting point with predetermined backgrounds is potentially extremely detrimental to learners’ ability to learn. Educators do not have a deeply set discourse or much widespread experience with how this style of learning can fit in with everything else that has been built up in the field education. The Rhizome plant – growing with mobility, flexibility, and with no center, interacting at any boundary – shows us some way to relate to what is happening and to start building on this new wing of education. The limitation of this metaphor is that a Rhizome is and always will be a plant. It can never grow into a moving van or a fashionable piece of linen or anything else. Anyway, this limitation is Dave Cormier‘s problem, if he ever sees it as such. I am not so prone to use the metaphor very often.