Rhizo 15 - A practical view

Week 3 – The myth of content

I’ve always been a little confused by the word ‘content.’ There is something lonely and unconnected about the word somehow, when i hear it used with reference to what happens in learning. I imagine a lone student, huddled away in a dorm room, reading sanitized facts in the hopes of passing a multiple choice quiz. The content somehow merging with the learning objective and the assessment to create a world where learning is about acquiring truth from the truth box.

We talked a little this week about how Descartes, ‘thinking alone in his room’ was really carrying on conversations with hundreds of correspondents, and with many other people (also mostly old white men) in the record of their thoughts printed in the books in his library. Even the citation in our research methods is about pointing to the web of people’s thoughts… about preserving the history of the story we are telling.

So what happens when we peek under the word ‘content’ to see what lives there? What does it mean for a course to ‘contain’ information? What choices are being made… what power is being used?


Content is people. Discuss.


  1. April 29, 2015    

    I’ve been loving the term “Rhizomatic” since I first encountered it, I believe from Dave, and just thought of a network and data compilation application of how I understand the process of rhizomatic learning actually takes place, if learners embrace this notion of creating a networked web of “badges” representing their learning, based on having “badged” the entire curricula of open source learning resources to whatever international set of standards best suit the material. The concept evolves from wanting to create online badges for string game learning, where each figure, whether already published or newly created, has a badge that can be earned through uploading a video of the learner doing the figure. Anyone else who learns that figure (from their video or in face-to-face teaching) from that person can put a shine on their badge, crediting them for having taught them the figure. Perhaps some number of shines then allows them to claim the next badge as a teacher of that figure. The resulting network of digital connections and attributions is digital data which represents learning having happened.

    • Vanessa Vaile Vanessa Vaile
      April 29, 2015    

      Same here but without the badges — too much like Bertha with all those medals for being good. That did not end well.

  2. April 30, 2015    

    so glad this is a topic for discussion in the course – have been interested in this metaphor of ‘content’ for a long time, and play with it in the tile of my blog… I wonder if anyone can give an example of it being used in education as any other than a synonym of ‘text’… i wonder how widely read Michael Reddy’s 1979 paper is these days (the conduit metaphor)? It so dominates discourse in education this word, it comes to be taken as a given that meaning and ‘thoughts’ get put ‘into’ texts, but somehow exist apart from them… really looking forward to the discussion this week!

    • May 4, 2015    

      I was going to say that the use of multimedia might be an example of content that is not “text” but then I remembered my 12th grade semiotics course, which taught that EVERYTHING is a text, whether it is printed or graphic or spoken. So, in that vein of thinking, it would follow that EVERYTHING is content, or conversely, content is everything. That is, content can be made up of everything that surrounds us, and whatever affects the way we experience the world, to put it broadly. As a teacher, I’m constantly mining my own life for content to share with students, for illustrative points, or inspiration for how to “deliver” content, so on and so on. It’s really a bottomless well. As long as I’m out there living, I have content up the wazoo. So, it becomes a matter of sorting through it, filing it away and recalling it as needed.
      That’s all I have for now.

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