UBC Center for Community Engaged Learning: “Celebration of Community”

UBCExpEdGraphicMoreThanLocation I was asked to serve as the graphic recorder at this event with the UBC Centre for Community Engaged Learning, and was very interested, as I’d heard about this group, had a little bit of interaction with them, and other parts of the agency I am part of has worked with them (but not the part that is mostly my focus).

However, my other current interest is the resurgence of the rhizomatic education group/class/mooc (maybe) through the lens of, “Rhizomatic Learning: A Practical Discussion.”  I was interested in how this UBC initiative instantiates some of the ideas in education about how we might learn in different ways, in different collaborations, within community that is, as one told me, “connections beyond classes.”

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Most of my job throughout the evening was to graphically record the feedback of the community partners (more than 80!), the UBC students who had spent time with them engaged in learning projects and those faculty who are excited about the potential of these connections. The gist of these conversations was that folks are transformed by their experience of each other, by moving out of their silos and into other worlds.  Professors told me how excited they were to see the kinds of research they love put into practice and about getting feedback that their work was “needed” and applicable right there, in that moment, in that situation; students told me about how exciting it was to take what they know and what they loved and be able to test drive their skills in places where their work mattered; community partners told me how they’d been nervous and then learned so much from their student partners, been able to reflect on their own work in ways that mattered to them and felt empowered by the connections they’d made.   And some people got jobs or were connected through one partner to another place where they might work.  And everyone grew in confidence.

A theme of some participants was their growing mastery as they participate year after year.  This made me wonder about the practices of collaboration and how we get better and better at something that can be difficult to enter into.

It was a powerful experience to be part of and serve as witness to and made me consider Dave Cormier’s course outline and this week’s question: “How do we design our own or others learning when we don’t know where we are going? How does that free us up? What can we get done with subjectives that can’t be done with objectives?”  One of the conversations I had was with an academic from another country, who had done a project with an organization that supports the poorest and most vulnerable population of women in Canada, in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, and how excited they were to find each other.  “Allowing things to happen, in their own way, in their own time, is what worked,” said one.  “It’s about connections: that’s what it should be!” said the other.  They discovered what they wanted to do together as their connection grew.

How rhizomatic is that? 🙂  So one of my questions about rhizomatic learning is whether our engagement with it is the examination of what is already happening.  The Director of the centre, Susan Grossman, in her introduction talked about these partnerships a way to tackle the kinds of complex issues and problems that we face.  During the evening I talked to people about physics, science, poverty, feminism, LGBTQ rights, education access, disability, economics, woodworking, robotics, and that thing they do with laser beams….  and lots more.  A multiplicity of strengths brought to bear.

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