Thursday, September 3, 2015

About The Door: A Reaction to "Why We Rhizo"

In the article Why We Rhizo, by Autumm Cains, she describes the metaphor of doors and what that might mean. It is important to understand what is happening when we use a metaphor in explaining rhizo learning, because typically it means that some significant idea is shaping and while it may not have a perfect definition or context, the metaphor is helping to shape that moment (that is when I pay attention). It has happened a lot to me in the rhizo learning experience and I think as someone who is interested in rhizo learning and creativity (particularly through written expression), that the metaphor is a powerful tool to create comparable language to things yet to be named. That is for another article (probably a lot of them).

Autumm Cains writes about doors in a fascinating way. Like all good rhizo thinking, your whole
essences is up for grabs in understanding the world. So, after reading this passage, a strange moment happened to me.
"The thing about the corridor of doors is that often we think of the doors as being closed as one walks along the hallway but I think the truth is that the doors are in all different kinds of states. Some are open, some are closed, locked, unlocked, ajar, propped… some squeak and stick… some swing… others slide… sometimes they’re those split dutch doors and either half could be in any of these states. Trap doors. Hidden doors. And the state of the door does not belong to the door itself. No, it changes depending on who is trying to access it – it is a very strange place."
After finishing the passage, I thought about the doors, and the connections that are possible. The idea that doors aren't open or closed, but that they can be in all kinds of positions that are both ominous, precarious, wide open, or broken (I think learners can be that way too). I was wondering if I am the hallway monitor, the door maker, the doorman -- I couldn't even imagine what my role might be! An hour later I watched a student with Aspergers come to the office area where I work. She went to the front door and pushed. The door didn't open. She reached for the latch on the wrong side and pushed. Didn't open. She pushed on the upper part of the door and it wouldn't move. I held my breath and started to get up from my desk to help. She was recoiling and thinking. Her hands were a flurry of frustration. And then she turned back. And she tried again. She found the latch. And she was gone.

After calming down and settling back to work, I thought of the metaphor. The door might be that opportunity in whatever state it is in. But the user has to understand the workings of the doors. It isn't user inability and it isn't the defective door, it is a coordination of user and tool together that make something happen. For some, it might be the first spark of learning and for some lighting up a whole new world. It isn't my place to judge the value of those experiences, but just know that they are possible.


  1. Hey Ron,

    I wanted to touch base with you cause this post has been bouncing around in my head since you wrote it. I love how you real-al-ized the metaphor moments after reading it brilliant.

    There was a ton of stuff that I cut from that original post - so many darlings killed. One of my favs was how sometimes the opportunity/barrier is not even so much about someone throwing the door open so much as it is someone whispering in our ear that we should just try the handle.

  2. Thank you for inspiring me, Autumm. I have to say that rhizo thinking and Rhizo15 jumped started a new way of seeing my world. Burned out and frustrated with a lot of elements of my work, finding Rhizo15 saved me as an educator and writer. It gave me inspiration, purpose, a place to say something, and inspiration (twice, yup). It changed my way of thinking about everything I did. It has been very important for me this year and I was glad to also pass that kind of thinking on to other people and share it. Now, as I begin thinking and look forward, I know that I am thinking like a scholar again, falling into a creative thought process, and I am constantly inspired by the people in this rhizo group. It isn't melodramatic to say that it changed me, pulled me back, and rekindled my passion to teach and learn.

  3. Like you, Ron, I have been inspired by Rhizo14/15, thinking new things that would have never come my way without these happenings, going through doors that didn't even exist for me before Rhizo. The doorways are important for my understanding of how we move into new spaces, and I really like how you and Autumm make the door a response to the traveller rather than a thing in itself. The state of the door depends as much on who is knocking as it does on the door itself. I think I knew that, but I have to be reminded again and again.

  4. Love this post esp the story about the person with Asperger's struggling with the door. And how you felt watching. Beautiful metaphor for pedagogy - each learner will respond differently and we struggle as we watch them grapple with it and want to step in to help.