Thursday, March 23, 2017


gerund or present participle: crisscrossing
  1. form a pattern of intersecting lines or paths on (a place).

    "the green hill was criss-crossed with a network of sheep tracks"
    • move or travel around (a place) by going back and forth repeatedly.

      "the President criss-crossed America"

We set up the meeting for 15:00 Finnish time. 

I am never quite sure whether in France we are one hour ahead or behind. 

Leena found the mistake...

It was one hour behind.

A week or so before, I had sat with a Maritta from Finland, Terry in the US, Teresa in the UK and Marcin in Poland on a smartphone and a group of French teachers talking about higher education in an age of technology and connectivity saturation.

They had talked of the lack of training in pedagogy in their context.

They had showed interest in the possibilities of continuing conversations between countries, of investigating the possibilities sharing their pedagogical practices and discovering those of others.

The days before I had been busy with facilitating exchanges between French, Polish and UK students as part of the CLAVIER project.

It was the third and fourth time that we had had physical exchanges with students from Poland and the UK.

It is these criss-crossing of paths which enable us to learn deeply and gradually to change together.

It is a slow at times pain-staking process.

I am currently reviewing and mapping out my reflection here in this blog concerning the CLAVIER.

Having written at speed, now I am going back slowly trying to get an overview, an other view.


So there we were, Christine, Leena, Maritta, and myself in a hangout.

If with Leena and Maritta we have been in contact for two or three years, the time taken to really understand each others' contexts has been limited.

I had sketched out some possibly areas of converging interests for conversation during the hangout and sought to find out whether we might find spaces to work together.

Just before the hangout, I engaged in a short Twitter conversation with Jesse Stommel who I noticed had tweeted the following:

Thereon there was a rapid exchange of tweets between the US, the UK and perhaps elsewhere.

Meanwhile we concentrated on the hangout.

Time was short, it felt, only an hour to try and explain my thinking and to attempt to find some sort of common ground.

Retrospectively that was perhaps absurd.

We need so much time to make sense of contexts that we have never lived.

I think now of all the time - the five or six years of I have spent criss-crossing the English channel, getting to know the context of the language centre in Warwick University.

As I spoke more and more, I felt more uncomfortable.

I felt that the picture that I was painting was difficult for Leena and Maritta to decode or at least to translate into their very different context.

I am becoming to realise that there is a chasm between work in an English language centred philology department and traversal foreign language service like the one in which I am employed.

As we teachers we have much in common with the librarians with whom we collaborate.

We are subject neutral, even if we get to specialise over the years within specific departments.

It is this element about my work which I enjoy, the ability to cross disciplinary boundaries.

It seems that these question of boundaries, national, institutional, social, disciplinary are at the forefront of our concerns today.

During the hangout Christine had a back-grounded telephone conversation going on in her office which with the audio system became fore-grounded at times during the hangout.

Open conversation across boundaries is not without obstacles.

And yet we are thrown together by this "internet" this global network.

If some are free, have the power to pass through boundaries with impunity, we inevitably get pulled back into the little boxes within which we are grounded.

I am looking forward to Maritta coming to France in June so that we may deepen our understanding of our contexts and to speak of possible ways forward.

I am wondering whether Maritta, Leena and Christine will share their reflections on our meeting, will meet me and others on Twitter to connnect.

I look forward to reading and hearing more of their stories.

Will their student teachers finish by working with us in Clermont Ferrand?

Will their teachers exchange what it is to work in these strangely connected times?

Will we learn to work together over time?

Time will tell.

In the meantime I will continue my reflective path.

It is when those distant voices come to people our little boxes an instant and change it for ever that we realise that we do indeed share a common and for ever shifting ground.

It is that curious attachment which brings us together despite all our differences to meet and so to learn and to grow which fascinates me.

Of all the people who might have shared their attention, it was them, then.

I went back to Storify the conversation which had happened during our hangout.

Another line of thought to follow....


  1. Hi Simon! Thanks for your reflections on yesterday's meeting. Here are some quick responses from me. I'm sorry if you felt uncomfortable speaking and thought that we had trouble seeing the picture you were painting. I don't think that was the case at all. I was not talking very much because I wanted to concentrate and listen to all the visions you had to figure out what our role could be. And all your ideas seemed interesting and it was important to hear what you've been up to in recent times to figure out the possibilities of collaboration. I think there was no difficulty from our part to understand the situation. All the fields you mention are relevant for our university, too, but what we need to envision is what fits into our working profiles and the field our department and the concrete time when we would be doing something together. As I said Maritta and I need to sit down and think about the possibilities and see where we are next autumn and suggest to you ways how we could be involved. I'm very optimistic about finding a suitable focus for activities. Our fields are different but it is a matter of fine tuning the "project" together to identify a sensible way to work together. A real rhizome this is :)

  2. Hi Leena! Thanks for your comment. As I reach out I sometimes flounder as I can feel a loss of confidence in what I am trying to do. It is momentary. It is why I am reviewing my reflective work at the moment to feel solidly grounded when dealing with complexity. I write to map.

    I am having to move forward simultaneously on a number of fronts - notably towards a thesis, embedding CLAVIER out among colleagues and finding support amongst teachers in different disciplines.

    I am very pleased that you feel optimistic of finding convergence.

    We have lacked time together which is why it is important that we can meet in spaces like this and on Twitter to criss-cross our paths.

    Obviously it will help if we can engineer physical mobility - which is why Maritta's trip here will help a lot.

    I am comfortable with expressing my vulnerability here and with co-learners as emotion and sensitivity is both what drives me and also guides me - hence I suppose "Touches Of Sense".

    As I suggested before this space is what I consider a space of connected autoethnography. I am looking to do meta-study of it with view to future articles.

  3. Hi Simon. I enjoyed reading this recap. I wonder if you have considered creating a story map like the one I did last November to show how you are connecting with people in different places. Perhaps this could be a project that one or more of your students adopts? Here's article with my map.