Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Model two: nomads

This is the second in a series of posts about Deleuze and Guattari's rhizome models: nomads. Nomads are characterised as moving across space or territory according to need rather than according to the demands or borders of organised States (such as nations). While Nomads recognise and are aware of points (water points, dwelling points etc) these points are less important than the paths that they determine. In other words, nomads move towards water points so that they can then move beyond them.

In terms of rhizomatic learning, I feel I best understand this in terms of preparing students for their career paths or trajectories. After all, one of the main reasons people pursue education (and particularly Higher Education) is to improve their career prospects. The way that education providers (and here I'm thinking particularly about the tertiary or higher education sector) have approached this task has changed substantially in recent years.

Once upon a time Universities prepared graduates for a relatively stable and knowable set of career paths. In turn, graduates would embark upon those career paths and have them remain relatively stable and knowable across their working lives. Now we are finding that career paths are becoming increasingly unstable and unknowable. For instance, relatively recently we were continuing to train research librarians. Now, in 2014, that job has pretty much disappeared. The future of print journalism has changed considerably in the last five years and is likely to change even more in the next five years. You can probably think of countless other examples. Arguably, the role of university lecturing is itself changing considerably and may be almost unrecognisable in a decade.

The point is that a lot of graduates are going into a world of work that will change and shift almost constantly under their feet. Our current undergraduates are highly likely to find themselves doing jobs and performing roles that we don't even know we need yet at some point in their working lives. The more entrepreneurial of them will even be instrumental in making the changes that bring these new roles into being. For our current students, uncertainty will become a certainty.

Thinking about teaching and learning in this context, it is relatively easy to shape curriculum design along arborescent principles in a world of work that is predictable and stable. In the less predictable and stable world of work that our undergraduates will be experiencing, the skills and abilities that we need to help them acquire at University are going to very different to those needed by previous generations.

In other words, nomadism is going to be a characteristic of many of our graduates' careers than it has ever been in the past. Our students are going to need the skills to help them adapt and change, to find new pathways between career 'points' and to feel comfortable and confident in the inevitable uncertainty that comes with that. Providing a curriculum that is only about certainty is never going to be adequate to equip students with the skills that they need.