Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Compagnie d'apprenants

Rounders, the ball comes my way, I give it a big wallop and then run round, sort of.

Here's a sort of wallop:

I was in Nancy in November 2010, for a conference which I blogged about in "What are you?".

That was one perspective on a process I have been living over a number of years. I was there to talk of  "company of learners" - "Compagnie d'apprenants" in the company of learners.

I felt, perhaps wrongly as a result of my own fear, that I wasn't in the company of learners.

My anger comes out in my blog post. I am not sorry for my anger.

I felt unable to connect.

I was in Clermont in 2008, a maverick, to talk about using social networks in teaching , my mother had just died, the internet didn't work, I felt unable to connect with many of the people there. I was over the edge.

The words of one of my students, one of my fellow learners helped me continue. Those words, some of them, are translated here in this post Nagasaki mon amour.

I was in Pau in 2010 to talk about how to find meaning in language learning with connecting learners via their passions, via affinity.

I attended the conference in secret. 

During the summer I wrote unexpectedly a sort of article in French while sitting next to a swimming pool, I didn't know I didn't have to write an article.

I was able to write an article, to come so far because of my colleague Marie Christine Rustan.

Without her, nothing would have happened. I would have remained isolated probably, unhappily in a disconnected classroom.

She helped me with my French, she helped me fight.

She trusted me. 

This is a tribute to her, to all the learners with whom I have been able to learn - sometimes despite them.

They put up with me

This is a tribute to my wife, my two sons, two daughters who help(ed) me with my French, miscellaneous cats, dog and fish and all my family spread out around the world and elsewhere.

I spent hours writing that article I didn't have to write. I am not sure what my family thought.

It would have been difficult to explain.

Aikido taught me to respect the other as myself.

Pau is a long way from our home. My family came with me, the internet didn't work, my family had made great sacrifice to accompany me, their anger helped me to complain to the organisers to find another slot.

I spoke, I was in tears at all the frustration I had felt, the people in the room were touched.

I was touched. 

That would be Taches de Sens dans les Nuages

The accompanying portfolio/website would be Taches de Sens

I started a blog.
This would be this  Touches of Sense
I didn't really know why or if I would ever write more than one post.
To boldy go represents the first.
It will also represent the last.

I came out in the open.

I started to find wider support in my institution.

I was able to go to Learning without frontiers in January 2011 in 2012.
I was able to spend special privileged time in the company of my uncle in his final two years.
I was able to see Steve Wheeler speak.
I learnt what Twitter was about.
I began to feel really connected.
I was no longer alone.
I might be a maverick, a one-off.
I was no longer weird.
I wasn't completely crazy.

In April 2012, I fulfilled my ambition to speak at the Plymouth Enhanced Learning Conference.

I felt able to experiment, to venture into Nomad's Land.

There were not many people present but the voices of Alec Couros and another person who spoke with me after, reassured me. I felt connected, I felt supported. I could take risks, safely.

I wrote about this experience here in Swings and Roundabouts.

I met Catherine Cronin, I think first in London and then again in Plymouth, I met Mary Anne Reilly, we spoke over dinner about Nomads, about Rhizomatic Learning. I felt connected. I felt that I could communicate, I felt nurtured. I was not alone.

In September 2011 a connection with my friend Teresa Mackinnon, met on Steve Wheeler's blog Learning with e's, opened up a path to connected learning via his blog via Twitter. It was thanks to his blog that I learnt that I could comment safely, the perhaps that I might even blog. I felt as many do I had nothing to say. I could never contribute anything. I still lived with the words of an ex-boss in PR,

 "and you can't bloody write".
(not like you Tony, not like you)

With only an hour face-to-face meeting with my friend Claude Tregoat we set up connections for 500 students in a project which would become to be known as CLAVIER.

They trusted me!  

In August 2012, with my colleague and research mentor Christine Rodrigues, she trusted me (I didn't know how some of you guys do research stuff) (I didn't know how to use the library) I was able to get a presentation, a study on social networks of language learners online, entitled Building Bridges, accepted at Eurocall in Sweden. We still have to find the time to write the article.

I met with my friend Marcin Kleban. After a twenty minute discussion we started a project of 40 language teachers and learners, he trusted me.. I met with my friend Blaise Ngandeu, I was able to learn about Nexus Analysis from my friend Maritta Riekki.

Suddenly people in my institution appeared to be taking what I had to say seriously..to almost trust me.

In August 2013, with my colleagues Christine Rodrigues and now Marcin Kleban we presented again at Eurocall in Portugal a study, Telecollaboration in Historical Spaces, looking at the barriers and openings  to widening connected learning among teachers and learners.

We are still looking for a place to publish the article. So if anybody has some bright ideas?

Meanwhile Teresa Mackinnon has been able to represent our rhizomatically evolving project in the UK and elsewhere got it accepted as a case study by a European Project.

In January 2014, I signed up and played along with Dave Cormier's Rhizomatic Learning Course, I started with no time, plenty of fear, and no expectations.  I found that not only I could write regularly when well connected but with ease.

I was able to really accelerate my reflection, my competences, my network connections, my vision of my place in this world.

I dabbled along with the #ds106 crew, that was fun.

That was a new sandbox.

In August 2014, I followed my friends Terry Elliot, Kevin Hodgson, Keith Hamon, into CLMOOC, I learnt to haiku, I rediscovered my love for art. I met a new friend Susan Watson. That playing around naturally led to Connected Courses.

There were names that were already familiar to me:

Howard Rheingold (yes he speaks)
Jim Groom (yes he speaks and speaks)
Alan Levine from #ds106 (he seems to have the biggest spanner),
Alec Couros, (he has lots and lots of great slides and talks and makes us laugh and think)
Mike Wesch - the guy who helped a bunch of students to make 'Visions of students today.
Mimi Ito, (I just read your report, and your book thanks a lot!)
Helen Keegan the one from Salford who does amazing stuff with gamification in front of Manchester Town Hall...et al.

I had already connected myself with their worlds through Youtube, through books, through Steve Wheeler, through lurking but never participating in MOOCS with Steven Downes et al.

Meanwhile our CLAVIER #tag is expanding its attention like topsy, people are popping up from all over the place to connect with us. These are heady days for a teacher who was told off, warned that his career might suffer if I didn't just teach. That was the worst thing they could have said to me. I found pleasure, space, just to play, to learn, to connect, to teach in secret. This is no longer a secret.

This morning, after a blog post I shared with my friend Maha Bali, a few tweet chats with more of the rhizo14 crew.

I found a moment to watch Catherine Cronin's ALT Keynote: Navigating the Marvellous.

 All the thoughts about space, about openness, trust, respect of learning across spaces, the importance of hermes-like tags which can cross boundaries,were as if condensed in her conference.

That for today is quite possibly the best conference I have attended Catherine. A special thank you.

You know there are moments when things just click.

Things have just clicked.

These Connected courses may not yet have started...but for me the connected courses started in an open classroom in 1995 with a group of unemployed language learners. It was impossible to teach in a traditional way. For me these connected courses started way, way back before I was even an embryo.

This has been a pretty long warm up to this class.

Rhizomatic learning expresses how I learn, how I have lived my life.
It has brought me to write these lines.
I write as Catherine says not with hubris but with humility.

I am now out of in the open. I am unmasked.

I trust myself and I trust you.

This/I/We is/are a product of converging lines, conflict, resonance, trust, play, and love.

I feel that finally I am indeed connected in my disconnections and that indeed with my diverse particles I belong somehow, somewhere in the company of fellow learners.

I thank you.

You mean an awful lot.

(Note to self. That was unexpected)
(Note to self - I think this is what Maha calls a Meta post?)


  1. Loved this part, Simon, really resonated with me:
    I learnt what Twitter was about.
    I began to feel really connected.
    I was no longer alone.
    I might be a maverick, a one-off.
    I was no longer weird.
    I wasn't completely crazy.

    (and yes, I'd call it a meta post but you can call it whatever you like - really enjoying it - am only partway through the non-skimming reading of it but I had skimmed it a few mins ago and loved it)

  2. ok finished it, totally in love with it. Thanks for writing this. Lots of links to follow, will start with Catherine's?

  3. I am so touched by this post Simon. It takes lots of courage to be so open and honest and I am so proud to have played some small part in your evolution. I have to acknowledge the part that you have played in mine though - you have long been the catalyst that makes me reflect and go deeper, you have been the diving partner, giving me the inspiration to find better ways of connecting young people for their learning. Your students impromptu online arrivals in my office have reconnected me with the joy of language teaching and you have always kept it real. Your lovely family and your colleagues have become dear to me and I always enjoy our conversations. I think we both appreciate the French esprit philospohique and bring to this british (or midlands?) pragmatism that moves mountains. Merci et bisous :)

    1. Dear Teresa ! You have had the courage to open spaces to real life. You are an inspiration to more people than perhaps you are able to grasp.
      I am not sure I am pragmatic, I think I am impossibly bloody-minded.
      I only have admiration for those who are able to use that positively rather than wanting to put whatever is there in boxes.

      I can't help myself, I depend much on others.

      Thank you for all.

  4. Yes, Simon, there is a desire pushing through all this, and I think that most of us in Rhizo14 are swept along in that desire. It's a key ingredient brought into relief by these fluid networks we join, and I am so enjoying exploring with you just what it means and how it works. Some really amazing things are emerging, my friend. Flow with it.