Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Planet of the apes?

Planet of the apes, is surely one of my top three movies featuring Charlton Heston.

It is a wonderful morality tale for our DOT (com) age.

Man's savagery is out-savaged by the apes.
Ape culture is to the fore.

That icon to the age of enlightenment, the Statue of Liberty herself, is found derelict on a beach by an agonising Charlton.

God! Nobody does agonising better than Charlton.

My top three Charlton Heston movies are, in no particular order:

  • Planet of the Apes (for the Statue of Liberty scene)
  • Ben Hur (for the chariot race)
  • Bowling for Columbine (for Maryline Manson).

Return to Planet of the Apes

Actually, it was Howard Rheingold who got me reminiscing about Charlton's agony.

I was watching one of my favourite hangouts from the Connected Courses Studios featuring John Udell, Howard Rheingold, and Gardner Campbell entitled "Thinking Like the Web" and there were some remarks of Howard's which caught my imagination;

"You know the irony of this issue, of people saying, 'I'm really not a technical person, why should I use the web?' is that the web was such a wonderful step that enabled people who weren't technical people to use the internet. You don't have to go through any kind of technical depths in order to move from one internet site to another, you click on a link. 

You don't have to go through some kind of command line arcana to do things on the web, there are forms for that. 

I think it is a little like saying, 'Well I don't intend to be a published author why should I learn to read and write?' We're living in a literate world, if you don't read and write, you are disempowering yourself. 

You are not necessarily going to choose a career in literature, you are participating in the power that the literate community conveys on anybody who goes through the quite a bit of trouble to learn to read and write."

I am struck by the irony of the mass of research funding which has gone into enabling humans to communicate with our cousins the apes.

Latest developments in ape-education include (no kidding) iPads!!

Despite our best efforts, and millions of dollars in research funding, literary critics are sadly disappointed at ape efforts to produce great works of art.

Complete works

Apes - 0
Shakespeare - Quite a lot.

Just think of the quality of post-renaissance literature embodied by William Shakespeare.

Thank goodness that he had  forward looking parents!

Thank goodness for Will's remix artfulness!

Learning to read and write must have been seen my some as new-fangled in those days.

School wasn't even compulsory at the time!!

Measure for measure.

Back in the lab...
(you know the one responsible for ape-mutations leading to our downfall and Charlton's agony)

Wise scientists are pessimistic that apes will ever be able to, to... ape Will's best efforts:

"Is it really feasible that a chimpanzee with a typewriter and an infinite amount of time will be able to produce the complete works of Shakespeare?"

Dumb and Dumber

So we are giving apes, iPads to undumb them.

So we are giving kids iPhones and worrying that such technology is dumbing them down.

We are arousing moral panic about:

in the same way that our elders and bettters did in the 18th century about novels .

Protect our vulnerable ladies and children.

Oh the irony!

Such trashy, morally suspect stuff as is now studied in length at school.

Moll Flanders anyone?

We complain that kids waste their time on the most sophisticated communication tools ever devised playing Candy Crush, taking Selfies, and ban them from classrooms, so that we can concentrate on studying 18th century novels and writing essays.

Do most kids know how to write essays with a pen before we teach them?
Do most kids know how to use the web and social media to learn before we teach them?
Do most kids need to learn how to learn about living in their present and their future?

It is unlikely that either apes or kids will be writing many 18th century novels now...sniff.

What the hell is the point of education?

Is it a) clicking for cheap bananas?
Is it b) clicking for freedom of expression?
Is it c) clicking away the clicker?

Declaration of independence anyone?

It is certain that our  current vision of freedom has much to do with a revolution of thinking and of communication which has its roots in the 18th century.

Maybe we are forgetting the long struggle for people's hearts and minds which enabled such freedom?

Maybe we are forgetting the connection between the introduction of new technology and new ideas, new forms of art?

Manifesto anyone?

I would suggest that digital technology does not dumb down apes any more than it dumbs us down.

I would suggest that we need to learn with our kids how to use digital technology like smartphones to communicate widely and create new forms of art.

I would suggest that our masters are no longer nationally or geographically dependent.

I would suggest that Amazon is no longer simply the brave young girl accompanying Charlton.

I would suggest that our own species and other more vulnerable species are in danger.

I would suggest that we need to learn how to use the web to participate in discussions on what constitutes Liberty in a net-age, unless of course in our DOT-age we want to become captive signing-apes in a zoo.

Thank you Howard, Gardner and John for your inspiration.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Goldfish soul.

It's official, I have the attention span of a goldfish.

I always knew there was something wrong with me.

The Latin teacher was one of the first to notice.

"adtendite puer".
[just use Google translate.]



I hear you ask. Tables, in Latin, didn't you know?

Weren't you paying attention either?

I remember that.
I was just off on Google looking for the vocative case (as one does), and I fell upon Churchill.

Yes that Churchill, the one in the war.

Winston's message to Latin teacher.

I can't remember if I had fallen upon him before.


His story about Latin.

Winston's story,

I am sure you'll like it, as much as mine and I will have a rest to reflect.

[he reflects]

Winston's story.

"You have never done any Latin before, have you?" he said.

" No, sir."

"This is a Latin grammar." He opened it at a well-thumbed page. " 

You must learn this," he said, pointing to a number of words in a frame of lines. " 

I will come back in half an hour and see what you know."

Behold me then on a gloomy evening, with an aching heart, seated in front of the First Declension.

         Mensa   -  a table
         Mensa   -   O table
         Mensam   -   a table
         Mensae   -   of a table
         Mensae   -   to or for a table
         Mensa   -   by, with or from a table

What on earth did it mean? Where was the sense in it? 

It seemed absolute rigmarole to me. 

However, there was one thing I could always do: I could learn by heart. 

And I thereupon proceeded, as far as my private sorrows would allow, to memorize the acrostic-looking task which had been set me.

In due course the Master returned.

"Have you learnt it?" he asked.

"I think I can say it, sir," I replied; and I gabbled it off.

He seemed so satisfied with this that I was emboldened to ask a question.

"What does it mean, sir?"

"It means what it says. Mensa, a table. 

Mensa is a noun of the First Declension. 

There are five declensions. 

You have learnt the singular of the First Declension."

"But," I repeated," what does it mean?"

"Mensa means a table," he answered.

"Then why does mensa also mean O table," I enquired, "and what does O table mean?"

"Mensa, O table, is the vocative case," he replied.

"But why O table?" I persisted in genuine curiosity.

"O table – you would use that in addressing a table, in invoking a table." 

And then seeing he was not carrying me with him, "You would use it in speaking to a table."

"But I never do," I blurted out in honest amazement.

"If you are impertinent, you will be punished, and punished, let me tell you, very severely," was his conclusive rejoinder.

Thank you Winston. 

Nice story. That was a nice rest

So while I left you in the Latin class with Winston, I was off remembering why I wasn't paying attention in Latin.

I was lazy. I was distracted.

I had Latin attention deficit.

It was my watch.

I was looking at my watch.

Well, not exactly my watch.

It was the reflection of light that my watch was making on the ceiling.

I like reflection.

The reflection was lovely, particularly when it blinded the Latin teacher.

So I wasn't really not paying attention.

I was only not paying attention to the table, MENSA! (come on are you not following?).

I am bored with Latin.

I shall look at my smartphone.


Question to self, can Google translate 'smartphone' into Latin?

That is a jolly good question.

Just a moment.

Blimey! The Romans could talk about smartphones before Steve Jobs.

Look it's official:

OK, I know it's a bit small, but take my word for it, Google translates smartphone into Latin, look here's the link:


Fancy that, maybe the Romans had attention spans like goldfish too?

So that is my point, now I have a smartphone, a mauris quis felis, I have become like a goldfish from the point of view of attention span.


I am constantly using it to take photos of reflections, to tweet reflections, to read reflections, to tweak reflections, to facebook reflections, to blog reflections.

Look here. Some of my reflections:

A stainless steel reflection

Look here. Some of my Mauris quis felis reflections. (hidden link)

I am disconnected from the real world.

I have attention deficit.

That's it.

It's in my horoscope, that's science.

I am Pisces. 
(is that Latin?)

I have a Goldfish soul.

This is all Tania's, or maybe Maha's, or was it Cogdog's fault.

Oh, I don't know.

No, it must have been Maha.

She has a blog called 'Reflection allowed.'

Not sure that I remember her in Latin class though.


Let's just call it distributed inattention.

I don't remember any of them in Latin class.

I won't tell the Latin teacher anyway.

I am not a sneak.

Goodness, Laura's a Latin teacher.


I will be kicked out of the FORUM...

Sorry, I am really sorry.

[he reflects]

Maybe I need medication?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Driftwood curiosity.

The window sill was full of junk.

Arranged in some sort of pattern were miscellaneous finds.

The objects were certainly curiosities.

The objects were perhaps memory aids.

The objects were perhaps an artist's exhibition.

There were no legends to explain.

We will have to assemble our own meaning.

The collection certainly attested to a love of nature.

In no apparent order there were:

Collections of shells.

Broken clock mechanisms.

Pebbles from a beach.

An asparagus fern.

A driftwood stallion.

There was nothing of any saleable value. 

The objects were beyond value.

Shall we call it a treasure chest of scrap?

Shall we call it an animistic shrine?

Here lies buried, a story-teller's hoard.

For today, I shall keep the plot simple.

I will not weary you with interpretation.

I beg your forgiveness.

I don't suppose you will see interest here.

I don't suppose you will see value here.

How can one be attached to a piece of driftwood?

I am content you see no value.

I see myself standing on a beach.

You have left me quite alone.

Objects are washed up by the ocean.

Something catches my eye.

I bend down to pick it up.

It will spin my yarn a while.

Gulls' cry in the wind.

There is a strong smell of brine.

Waves crash on the shore.

Pebbles drawl.

I am home.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Rallying Cry?

Nothing like a stirring speech to forge camaraderie, stiffen resolve.

"The game's afoot;
Follow your spirit: and upon this charge,
Cry — God for Harry! England and Saint George!"

Henry V.

We spend our time preparing for these moments. 

Who will be our leaders?
What will be their vision?

What will be our fate?

Humanity reveals itself in selfless acts of courage? 
Humanity reveals itself in bloody conflict?
Humanity reveals itself in blind ambition?
Humanity reveals itself in sordid bargains?
Humanity reveals itself in.....
Humanity reveals itself in.....

"Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead!"

Henry V.

We find meaning beyond base squabbling, we forget banal bickering...

Archers, knights, squires, kings moulded as one to overcome, to overcome.

Overcome with emotion.

We are lifted up in the moment of truth.

We are lifted up in the moment of connection.

What brings us together to act for all?

Do we ever act for all?

War? Horror? Crisis? Fear? Love? Hope?

What will be our cause?

What shall be our rallying cry ?

What stories will be told of us?

Are such tales survivors' lies?


Ephemeral presence.

Nomadic meandering.

Momentary communion.

"Oom pah, pah."

We are Saltimbanques

Jugglers, fire-eaters, acrobats, clowns.

Foolishly deep.

Sadly shallow.

We are Tamers.

Elephants, poodles, tigers, lions.

Captive, costumed, circus turns.

Put on the tinsel, rake out the round.

"Oom pah pah"

We are Saltimbanques.

Bring on the show.

Amplify the ringmaster.

Blast out the fanfare.

"Oom pah pah."

Cajole the applause.

Sip up the ovation.

"Oom pah pah."

We are Saltimbanques.

We turn, we turn, we jump, we mime.
We clap, we yelp, we laugh, we gasp.
We turn, turn, we jump, we mime.
We clap, we yelp, we laugh, we cry.

"Oom, pah, pah."

Come full circle.
A big top falls.
A magical illusion.
Another show calls.

We are Saltimbanques.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Are we not content?

Halfway through scene one, I realised that I had been wildly optimistic....

My mind was a horrific blank.

I would never get to see Birnam wood for the trees.

It was perhaps the curse of the Scottish Play.

So proud had I been to be given the starring role, so confident was I that I would be able to pull it off with a minimum effort, I usurped my position, I didn't respect the author who had given us custody of his work.

I grabbed a copy of the book, nobody seemed much to care, the other kids didn't know their lines either.

That didn't make any difference to how I felt.

I felt that I was cheating.

As the play advanced, fragments of the key monologues came back to me, I was able to pocket the book. 

"Is this a dagger that I see before me, the handle toward my hand?" 

"Out out brief candle."

"It is a tale told by an idiot...signifying nothing."

Apart from breaking a glass just before the appearance of Banquo's ghost, things went pretty well.

The audience seemed generally enthralled by our performance.

We even got a laugh when the ghost screeched out in agony (he walked on the broken glass).

"Ow, ouch, ow..."

 "Blood hath been shed ere now..."

Thrilled by the applause, I decided that I would have to take things a bit more seriously and learn my lines.

With mastery of the text, I would really be able to appreciate the play, immerse myself in the action.

I decided that I loved Shakespeare.  

I was very fortunate that I had teachers who let us play, and one in particular who let us discover the blood, the terror, the laugther, the beauty of the text which might have seemed so disconnected from us.

We went to Stratford, we marvelled at the Tempest, he shared with us his passion. He made the content of the class come alive.

We were the content.

I have thinking recently about the apparent separation between 'content' and 'conversation' between 'transmission' and 'dialogue', I am coming to the conclusion that there is a false dichotomy being made.

As an actor, I learnt how to memorise text, how to leave myself behind, how to reach out to my memories embodied to create not illusion but theatrical reality.

As an aikidoka, I learnt how to repeat movements, to mirror my partners movements, to experience the energy in the connection between us.

As a learner, I learnt which authors would excite me, would arouse my curiosity, would teach me what I needed to know.


I have been thinking about the teachers who really performed, who really educated, and those who made no connection with us.  Even their texts were poor, not even a brilliant performer could have brought them to life.

Content is nothing without connection.
Learning is nothing without dialogue.
Education is nothing without morality.
Connection for connection is pretty vacant.

Eye-candy, junk food, common core

I think of the time that young kids spend on junk, on the net, in the canteen, at school.

There is no beauty, no risk, no care, no feeling, just numbers, numbers, numbers.

Click, click, click, click.
Glazed expression.
Pretty vacant.

Connected courses

Click, click, click, click.

I have been thinking about one or two of the issues presented on Bill Benzon's blog 'New Savannna' quite a lot recently.

He has a place of rich content for me. He has an intriguing way with dialogue...

I like that. 

I am reflecting on this business of 'Connected Learning.', on education more generally.

I think that he is right when he talks about the importance of authority in education in a blog post entitled 'Authority, Trust, and Responsibility in Education.'

I also think he is right to change his choice of collocation from 'submit to authority' to 'respect authority' as he has done in the comment stream.

I don't think that 'content' disconnected from a respectful relationship between co-learners is a vision of education to which I adhere to.  I am pretty sure that Bill would agree with me on that.

When an actor performs on stage, there is respect for the authority of the author but there is also respect for the essential role of the audience in bringing the story to life.

When a teacher attempts/learns to transmit knowledge, there must be a respect for the dialogue between himself and the learners - they are sharing in an educational performance.  It is for this that I would use the term 'co-learner'.

Aikido for me is an educational model, the master transmits humility to his student in the pursuit of a common journey towards deeper understanding, through a series of learnt movements which only have meaning when enacted together.

It appears to resonate for me as a metaphor for connected learning.

Is this : "Just playing around?".

No it is not.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Summer holiday.

The expectation is growing by the day, the crew are gathering, it's going to be fantastic.

Yee haa!

Paris, the Parthenon, the Colisseum, the Matterhorn,  Saint Tropez -  the dream of destinations is dizzying.

On the jolly red double-decker bus, there is plenty of storage and an open platform to pick people up along the way.

A dream holiday?

You want to water-ski?

Brilliant let's fling on the skis.

You want to surf?

Brilliant let's fling on the surf-boards, the wind-surfing boards, the snow-boards, the long-boards, the kite-surfs, the paddles, the wax.

Amazingly, the drivers and the crew have found a place for all the stuff to please all the passengers.

They haven't just found a place and stuffed it all in, everything is labelled according to the date of arrival, the place of destination.

The passengers spend a good deal of time gazing around in wonder at the rationalised organisation of the contents of bus and the bus itself.

It's brilliant. They feel proud to be on board.

DDDay (dream departure day)  

The crazy-gang pile onto the bus. They are dressed appropriately for a summer holiday. They have the silly hats, the shades, the hawaiian shirts, they are cracking jokes...

It's brilliant.

Nature trail

We're off, first stop to pick up the naturalists.

They are going to lead us on a magical nature trail, pointing out gorgeous grebes, moorhen, rare wild-life.

It's fascinating and they've brought along the I-Spy books to keep the kids occupied.

The crazy-gang make themselves discreet, we almost forget them, but looking around they are still there grinning.  They look genuinely interested in the I-Spy books too...that helps the more distracted of us concentrate.

First few hours on the bus, and everyone is having a ball.

We're not just having a ball, we are learning about Moorhen.

The kids are a bit tired, but that's normal after the excitement of the first hours on the bus, the preparation, the emotion...

The day dawns, we swerve around a bend...

Suddenly the bus comes to a halt.

Why are we stopping?

We haven't even got to Calais yet.

"Excuse me, excuse me, er excuse me."

We look around and one or two of the gang are sidling up the aisle with their rucksacks bashing people over the head.

What's going on? We were having so much fun.

"Sorry, we have to get off here, hope you have a great trip, love you :-)"

We all smile, we love the "love you" but we are already feeling a bit disappointed, did it have to end so soon?

We were just getting into the swing of things, we were looking forward to the singsongs, the gags, the I-Spy books, the photos of all of us all together...on the bus.

The Pyramid

We feel a bit sad, but hey there are other people in the bus who are going to accompany us to the Louvre, we chirp up.

We look at the pyramid, we learn about its symbolism, we think about how the transparent edifice looks in the palace courtyard.

We almost forget for a moment the crazy-gang...

Another wonderful day.

New friendships are being made,  stories are being told, the bus jolts into movement. 

Meanwhile, some of the passengers are getting a bit worried.

They have had the time to notice the rock-climbing equipment and the kite-surf.

In the exhilaration of the departure, they hadn't taken the time to really look at the details of what was on the program.

Some of them are silently freaking out, but are a bit ashamed to admit the reason to the other passengers, for fear of ruining the atmosphere or looking ridiculous.   

Toilet Break

The bus stops on the motorway for a toilet break. 

It's indiscernable at first, but then at each toilet break, there appears to be less and less passengers on the bus.

No worries, that'll make more space to stretch our legs. There'll be more food to share around. There'll be less queueing for the toilet.

Castles in the air

We arrive at the Loire Valley.

We head down a gravel pathway and we are immediately wowed by the Chateau.

One of the experts is standing on a box talking about some French aristocrat.

It's a bit hard to hear him as we are standing at the back of the crowd.

One guy tries waving his umbrella a bit to catch his attention.

"Yoo hoo!"

Either the expert can't see the umbrella or he is too caught up in telling his story about the French aristocracy.

The guy with the umbrella is clearly a bit miffed.

He grumbles audibly...

"Bloody package tours, I knew it would be like this..."

The people around are terribly apologetic, the expert promises a personal tour of the royal no avail.

The umbrella man goes off in a huff. 

Walking back from the chateau, there is a bit of sadness.

On the bus, the atmosphere is a bit odd.

There are some guys who are going on about the choice of destination. 

"I told you that the Loire Valley was a bit too much after the Louvre."

Some are moaning about the idea of including rock-climbing when some of the passengers get vertigo. 

Others are trying to put a brave face on patch it up.

Some can't be bothered with keeping up appearances.

They have already gone off with a few mates to have a meal in some bistro. 

A crisis meeting is held. 

Maybe the double-decker bus was a bad idea?

Maybe they tried to pack too many things into the bus?

Maybe the impression that all these guys were on the bus for the duration of the ride was a false impression.

Maybe the time necessary to let the passengers get to know each other was not taken?

Maybe a series of short-breaks for small numbers of people would have worked better?

Maybe summer holidays are always like this...particularly in autumn.

Hardcore tourists

Some guys, make mental notes to be better prepared for the next holiday.

They will need more time to prepare for the kite-surfing, they will spend more time choosing who to sit next to, they will take a day off if the proposed activity is not interesting.

The remaining guys, appreciate the space to stretch out, appreciate the choice of equipment, appreciate meeting new people who get on the bus along the way.

They look forward to meeting up with the crazy-gang who have promised to join the tour in St Tropez once they have finished their shows in Asia.

They begin to realise that the real interest of the holiday was not the bus, was not the destinations, was not the surf-boards, the bucket and spades and the whole palaver but the shared story.

The man with the umbrella joins them again in St Tropez, they sit down on the beach, they exchange stories around a glowing camp-fire, they laugh about the madness of the venture, the absurd sight of seeing Mildred trying to waterski, they sing songs, they plan new trips.

Finally, those instants spent around the camp-fire make the rest of it all seem worth it.

From afar, young kids hear the laughter, see the glow, and dream.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Order from chaos.

As I walked into the room, I became aware that my appearance was unwelcome.

The hostility was palpable.

There was no suspicion of a smile.

I was greeted with hatred.

While over the months the outright hostility seemed to lessen, my presence was never accepted.

I simply had to accept the fact that as a man, I was the enemy.

We become blind to all possibilities of reconciliation.

At each turn we look for patterns of aggression. 

We become in our turn defensive.
We become in our turn aggressors.

Forbidden fruit?
I see an apple; this is food.
I see an apple; this is temptation.
I see an apple; this is love.
I see an apple; this is poison.

Flailing around in our darkness, we look for security, we look for patterns.

The Red Lion, was just along the road, each time we drove past it was presented as a den of iniquity.

This was something to do with alcohol.  I didn't understand that word.  I wasn't at all sure what it was.

I do remember that I didn't like the smell of beer on my grandfather's breath.  I didn't like beer-smell.

I do remember that his trips down the road to the pub were greeted with scorn.

I had no means of understanding the emotional subplot.

We forget or we are unaware of the reasons for the patterns chosen for us.

We are told stories, we are given histories, which bring some sort of order to our chaos.

 "History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the imperfections of documentation."
Julien Barnes

I have just realised that the multitude of constraints with which I was educated increased the opportunities for me in my life to have adventures.

Going to a pub, normal for many people, for me became a heroic adventure. I was going into a  beast's lair, a mythogical creature's den.

The Red Lion might just have well been Hades.

When we are educated with what for us are an absurd multitude of meaningless constaints it is at times easier to start again from scratch.

Chaos for my parents for me seemed like freedom.

Meaning for me was to go beyond their fearful framing to imagine a new own remix.

I was fortunate, my parents were forgiving, their hope, their love never lessened.

They had faith.

I was able to spare them the gory details of my quest for meaning.

They wouldn't have understood.

It was not their fault.

Veils of freedom, veils of tears.

I am struck with how a veil might be seen by some women as submission but to others a declaration of freedom.  I am struck with how a veil might be seen by some as a weapon.

I met a friend of mine at a conference.

She seemed distracted, like me she was frustrated by the conference.

We agreed we didn't fit in.

We went out to talk.

How can one be scientific when one is confronted by impossible choices?

Her parents had prepared a homecoming for her - an arranged marriage.

Her parents were unaware that she already had a home, a love, a hybrid culture of her own.

She was presented with an impossible dilemna, she was torn apart by love.

An inflexible frame is a corpse.

A religion for some might be seen as a means of self-determination for others as a prison.

I have been thinking about 'objectivity' in 'human sciences', and I am struck at how a 'scientific lens' may be be used as a tool for repression or used as a tool of liberation.   

Seen from afar, people are objectified, they have no means to evidence complexity of their interaction of their behaviour of their belief.

The scientific perspective of the world has risen us, some of us, up onto a/our/their pedestal of 'progress'.

'Progress' is our  apple.

We see a 'truth' we are blind to 'our lies'. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

There are days when...

I have files full of scraps of poems, drawings, mournful pourings of my soul.

I have kept scraps on a shelf from the days I was at school.

There is stuff from the days when I was working in door-to-door sales.

There are scribbles from the moments when I was sitting sadly in a bedsit in Whalley Range.

There is a piece in particular that  I remember which was going to be the start of a book which I have not yet started to write.

I wrote it when I was 19.

If I remember rightly (without opening my secret file) it went something like:

"How does one start a story like this?"

Then followed about seven lines which were all crossed out with blue biro.

I clearly felt that I wanted to write something.

What can explain those lines?

I clearly felt that the scraps would come in useful one day.

What can explain my keeping those lines in a folder for over 30 years?


Why did I keep those particular scraps and not others that ended up in the bin?

I have no idea.

It is a shame that it took me from 1981 to 2010 to imagine sharing anything that I wrote publicly.

I am sure that I would have benefited greatly from feedback, encouragement.

I am sure that I would have been able to develop my writing if I had regularly posted even half-finished attempts at making meaning.

Blogging didn't exist then...

Aren't all our attempts to make meaning partial?

I have been reading some of Aparna Nagaraj replies to  comments that  I made on her blog "Learning to learn: Playing the Keep up Game - Connected Courses"

She says that she only blogs when she has confidence that what she will say has value.

I replied to her that we are often a very poor judge of what others value.

Sometimes it is necessary to show others that we are struggling.

I am reminded of the excitement of seeing the sketch book of John Constable in the  Louvre.

It was full of scraps of half-finished ideas.
I fully understand this feeling of wanting to self-censor.

It is a natural reaction particulary when we are surrounded by people who we consider have so many expert things to say, or who say things in a way that we could only dream of saying.

We minimise our potential contribution.

We forget that there are many others who are like us, who will benefit from or sharing of our half-formed ideas.

They will be able to  identify with us.

I think of my kids, how I  value their beautiful childish paintings, their flowers, their poems and I feel sad that we are taught or that we learn to censor ourselves.

If that is what education does, that is not an education I want to maintain.

I remember a few years back that I dreamt of myself the adult hugging the scared child that I was, and reassuring him.

It's ok to be you.

Nobody else in the world Aparna will ever be a better you than you ever.

Please share more! The world will be richer for it.

for Aparna

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Russian dolls...

It is an image which keeps coming back to me.

I escape one enclosure to find that I am in another larger enclosure.

It is the image of a Russian doll.

I have been spending much time reflecting on my place on the web, on the earth over the past few years.

I have recently been working my way through issues connected to the 'Reclaim your domain' movement.

I am struck by the 'self-proclaimed' impassioned pleas of Howard Rheingold and Gardner Campbell to build the web that we want to build.

I am convinced that they are putting their fingers on a burning issue which we need to work through.

An immediate reaction to the question of 'Reclaiming your domain' was expressed in my post of the same name. 

Auvergnat dolls.

I feel that we can not divorce our thinking about the 'web' space with our thinking about the physical spaces in which we relate locally.

One lens which has helped me think about role of technology in education has been Puentedura's SAMR model as presented by Doug Belshaw here:

There is a short presentation in this video 

I remark that the narrator in this video talks about 'the classroom' - transformation of the classroom.  

I can't help thinking that the 'classroom' lens is one which stops us thinking through a wider transformation of education.   

There is no question that mobile web-enabled personal devices are disrupting 'classrooms' and 'educational institutions'. 

Of the obstacles to building new models, we can note 'habitus' of teachers, the 'classroom discourse', we can mention 'standardised assessment' amongst others.

The real question is what are these boundaries obstacles to?  

Who or what is protected by boundaries which have been built physically or virtually? 

Who stands to gain from crumbling frontiers, from blurring of boundaries between work and play?

As a child I never imagined seeing the Berlin Wall fall.

I remember witnessing the moments of joy when the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. 

What were we witnessing in these moments? How were once disconnected people connected?

I remember using the image of the Trabant to talk about the contrast between Walled Gardens of the LMS/VLE and the construction of Personal Learning Environments enhanced by Web 2.0 applications and Google cloud computing.  

Institutional enforcement of the use of out-dated communication tools was, I reasoned an obstacle to the learning of the students.   

It wasn't just an obstacle to the learning of students, it was also a means to protect the positions of a technological elite, who had the power to dictate the tools to be used.  

Outsourcing of net hosting and institutional virtual environments would/will inevitably mean de-skilling, cost-cutting measures and dependence on massive corporations.

The Trabant disappeared from production, replaced by Western-made models.  It's disappearance was symbolic of the defeat of a political system and its socio-economic elite.  

A Trabant

There is no doubt that learning spaces in which I am working are being transformed physically and virtually by the possibilities to connect more widely via affinity with people around the world.  

This is exciting, we are moving towards a new era, of that I have no doubt.

I am constantly brought back to my image of Russian dolls.

We can not concentrate our attention simply on education without seeing how it relates to economic, ecological, social, and political contexts. 

One thinker who has helped me reflect more widely on Learning Futures has been Keri Facer.  

'Non-stupid optimism' is an expression which resonates for me and 'educated hope' is what I aspire to. 

Hope and power

As educators we do have real power to enable sustainable change, we must realise together we do have real power, we do have a voice, which can be heard, the young are our hope. 

I come back to 'Reclaiming my domain', again and again.

I am quite happy with the idea of running my own server.

I am quite happy with the idea of building my own WordPress space with a name of my own.  

I would however not want to stop there.  

When I hear, we can build the net together, are we speaking about building our own computers? 

Are we speaking about running our own cables? 

Are we speaking about becoming our own ISP's?  

Building our web is one thing. 

Building relationships locally with those globally is quite another. 

How does all of this relate to the bigger questions of society as evoked by Keri Facer?

How do we react to writers such as Douglas Rushkoff?

“Our enthusiasm for digital technology about which we have little understanding and over which we have little control leads us not toward greater agency, but toward less...We have surrendered the unfolding of a new technological age to a small elite who have seized the capability on offer. But while Renaissance kings maintained their monopoly over the printing press by force, today's elite is depending on little more than our own disinterest.” 
Douglas Rushkoff.

Is this what Howard Rheingold and Gardner Campbell are talking about? 

If this is the case, then we need to start thinking much more widely about the societies in which we are living, and how power is structured.

We need to think through what these Connected Courses are really preparing us for?   

We need to ask our friends:

What it is we are working towards? 

We need to spend much time on this business of building new relationships with ourselves and others. 

We can not expect to embark on new relationships without accepting that our relationships with ourselves will inevitably be transformed.  

New environments require new language.

I can not conceive that this map is 'our territory'.

Do others consider that they own this?  

Might 'owning your own domain' be an outdated metaphor?  

Maybe we need to start thinking over our ideas of what constitutes 'ownership' of what constitutes 'capital'. 

How can 'capital' be other than social?

What are we educating ourselves for? 

I am only too aware of my ignorance, of my inability to find answers for my questions.

We must educate ourselves beyond our 'stupid optimism' to build a web of  'educated hope.'

What will be our legacy my friends?

I am at a loss for words.

And as I ask one question, another appears, incessantly...

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Keeping up. LOL ;-)

I stood in front of the photocopier.

Sorry, I'll start again.

I stood in the queue in front of the photocopier.

Sorry, I'll start again.

I stood in the queue for the photocopier, looking at my watch.

As time goes by.

I might have spent my time learning a new song, practising origami, watching a Humphrey Bogart movie, going for a walk with the kids...

Nope, I was "stuck in a queue" for the photocopier.

With every second passed, my stress level went up.

With every minute passed, my anger level went up.

Hatred is such a destructive emotion.

A triumphant teaching tenant of the photocopier was holding a large ream of copied paper.

The teacher in front of me was also clearly in a hurry

"Do you have many more copies to make? I have a class in five minutes?"

The TTT (triumphant teaching tenant) launched another 40 copies with nonchalance, gave a large smile, waltzed past the desperate queue of professional copiers off into the teacher's room.


As life is short, I made two promises to myself:

  1. Search before death all means to eliminate all aspects of my life which I hated.
  2. Search before death all means to amplify all aspects of my life which I loved.
Photocopying, came pretty high up on my 'hate list'.  I stopped all photocopying in 2009.

Meeting new colleagues with whom I could have fun teaching was high up on my 'would love to' list.


As I worked using these two simple principles, extraordinary things started to happen.

  1. I was loving teaching as never before.
  2. I was experiencing less and less frustration doing what I loved.

At the begining of 2014 things were going too fast. I decided to slow down.

Trying to build a community can take a lot out of you, I decided to concentrate on having fun. 

I joined Dave Cormier's Rhizomatic Learning Course #rhizo14 for fun. 

The irony of what happened has not escaped me. 

Rather than slowing down my learning, my learning accelerated. 

Rather than having less time to do things, I was finding I had more time to do things. 

I joined #clmooc for fun. 

The irony of what happened has not escaped me. 

Rather than blogging, (I was tired with blogging), I spent my time doing drawing. 

Rather than feeling under pressure, I felt rejuvenated.

I joined Connected Courses for fun. 

The irony of what has happened has not escaped me. 

Rather than learning from #ccourses to develop #clavier, I am beginning to understand that #clavier and #ccourses and #ds106 and the whole caboosh is actually the same thing.

(time to go and buy an ice-cream, look out the window, whatever)

Instant Karma

Back to class.

I arrived in class to find our partner librarians ready to teach our students. 

I had forgotten about the pleasure of this part of our year. 

After the intensity of the start-up for the year, they come into our classes and give us a break and help our students with developing information literacy. 

I was able to take time, to chill out.  

I read Tania Sheko's post 'The art of slowing down.'

I commented leisurely on Tania's post.

I wandered out of the classroom into the nature on the campus. 

I felt the warmth of the Indian Summer on my back, I sat down on the grass.  

My attention was taken by the beauty of the wild flowers and a dandelion swaying in a light breeze. 

I imagined the plateau without the concrete. It must have been a beautiful place for a picnic... before they stuck a concrete university here.

Breakfast with Teresa

Today we were having synchronised breakfast with our partners in Warwick University. 

I chatted with my friend Teresa Mackinnon, that was nice.

It was lovely to smell the toast in a university classroom.  

I love the smell of toast.

Some of the students were busy working out how to extend our CLAVIER networking to all students on the campus. 

I showed them what to do. 

They then went and did a marvellous job, networking for themselves.

As they were busy, I scrolled a little on my Twitter stream for #ccourses,

There was a tweet from Maha Bali about how she wanted to keep up.

There are so many things going on, there is a temptation to feel that one must keep up.

I sent her a gif. 

Go Maha Go!

It helped me to write this post. 

She favourited the tweet. Clarissa favourited the tweet.

Maha replied with a  LOL tweet.

Keeping up.

I remember a few years ago that I had so much energy, I was running up and down mountains. 

I went beyond my physical limits because I had so much energy. 

I was euphoric, I didn't feel the pain.  

The knee injury slowed me down.

There is that adrenaline rush or maybe a dopamine rush which we get when we are caught up in an exciting movement. 

It is rather the opposite of that non-feeling of being undead one can get when one looks at one's watch every two minutes to see when the working day will be finished.


Imagine for a moment all the beautiful people who are doing exciting things at this moment somewhere in the world. 

Imagine for a moment all the sad people who are doing horrible things at this moment somewhere in the world.


There is a beautiful dandelion blowing in the wind.

It is within touching distance. 

Sit down, look, study its complex form.

Seeds in the wind

Each seed may be carried far by the wind.

Each seed may become a beautiful yellow dandelion lighting up a meadow.

Maha, Teresa, Tania and Clarissa et al, you are a beautiful dandelion lighting up a meadow.

Thanks for the inspiration.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Reclaim your domain

 “Our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature.”  
George Lakoff

I have been listening with interest to the #ccourses Webinar for week three here.

I had ten minutes before my next class.

I felt moved to jot down a few lines.

I am reflecting on the question of 'Reclaiming your domain.'

I get a lot of what is being said about the Web. I am not sure that the Web for me is what Connected Learning is really about.

There are times that I fear that an insistence on the Web perhaps takes our attention away from our physical domain, our bodies.

Before being on line, perhaps we might investigate the lines of pathways, doors, buildings, forests, clouds, our clothes?

I remember what my art-teacher used to say:

"There is no point doing the colouring before you've got the drawing right."  

I suppose I come back time and time again to Mike Wesch's work.

I shall repeat these lines from his profile on Connected Courses to remind myself:

"After years of experimenting with social media and praising the learning potential of these tools, Wesch realized that they don’t automatically establish either genuine empathy or meaningful bonds between professors and students. Using social media is but one of the many possible ways to connect, but the message that Wesch’s experimentation brings is that only genuine connections may restore the sense of joy and curiosity that we hope to instill in our students."

Perhaps we might start our empowerment of learners by reflecting on the architecture of concrete or organic learning spaces.

Perhaps we might start the process of reflecting on participating on line by encouraging new forms of participation within these spaces.

Perhaps we might start with taking the time to note our breathing?

Is the Web not a metaphor for how we are embodied in our physical spaces?

This idea has got me thinking, what are our metaphors for the Web, for connected learning?

I fell upon a rich vein of reflection of which here are fragments;

Doesn't the idea of investigating "Crap Detection" start with studying town-planning?

Just wondering...

Note to self.
“You can't understand Twenty-first-Century Politics with an Eighteenth-Century Brain.” 
George Lakoff

Monday, October 13, 2014

Fear of flying.

"When I say you have control, you say 'I have control.'"

OK. Roger.

"You have control."

"I have control."

I was a little heavy-handed on the joy-stick. 

The Chipmunk Trainer took a dramatic dipping turn to the left...

"Errrr, I have control."

OK.  Roger.

The instructor, audibly shaken, resumed a normal flight angle.

Fear of flying 

There is something unnatural about sitting in an aeroplane and knowing that you are about to fly over high mountain ranges, zoom across wide oceans to most probably arrive in some distant destination.

I am always brought back to footage of early attempts to take to the air.  

Man will never fly.

I can only imagine the hours of imagining, designing and building what now appear naive death-traps.

Of course, the machines invariably either stay land-locked or drop like bricks.  

I am somewhat reassured that repeated testing of materials, engines, pilots, makes an Air France journey less of an adventure - give or take one or two strikes. 

"Oh what's the point? I shall never be an artist." 

I was always pretty fed up with my mother's defeatist attitude to her art-work. I loved her 'naive' drawings, her delicate touch.  Of course an art-critic might not have seen genius but wasn't that missing the point?

"Je suis nul. Je ne vais jamais parler anglais."

I am always pretty fed up with my students' negative attitudes to their English abilities.  

They have been told that they are useless for so many years that I spend much time explaining to them why it is that they are not incapable of learning a language. 

We speak about the difficulty for an adult of accepting a loss of communicational competence, the need to learn to play with the language. 

We try to find ways that they can assess their progress rather than concentrate on their 'mistakes'. 

Little by little, they discover their voices, they gain confidence, they make large leaps. 

Of course an examiner for a certification may not take into account their transformation but isn't that missing the point?

"I am useless, I shall never find a job."

I typed and retyped the CV, over and over and over. 

Having convinced myself that I was useless, I tossed version 12 into the waste-paper basket.  

Months later, I plucked up courage to send one perfect CV, waited for three weeks for an answer. 

My hands were trembling as I opened the envelope. 

It was what is termed a 'rejection', I was devastated. 

Mulling it over.

As I dealt with the idea that my career had finished before it had started, I spent some time reading about the early 'careers' of brilliantly successful advertising executives.  

Far from demonstrating immediate genius, they often had spent years being apparent failures. A penny started to drop. Not knowing what direction to take was perhaps OK. 

Looking back, I am sort of amazed at how naive I was. 

Looking back, I am sort of amazed at how useless the experienced, sensible 'adults' appeared to be in encouraging discovery, how reluctant they appeared to be to admit their own vulnerability, their own doubts.

Mulling it over

I was reading a few comments on a #ccourses Twitter stream this evening.  

Here is one which caught my eye:

“If you’re not falling off it, you’re not really exploring the edge.”

I like taking risks - that is why I love acting, adventure, rock-climbing.  

I love learning.

I am not sure that I would be a great 'climbing instructor'.

I am brought back to a near death experience at school. 

The teacher didn't check the descender was attached to the rope.

I saw the problem. 

If I had been too trusting, I would have had a nasty fall...

I would prefer rock-climbing instructors to be properly qualified.

Here is another one that caught my eye:

I don't want my doctor exploring the edge.

Yes, I would prefer the doctors who are called to operate on me, to have practised their delicate gestures repeatedly, to have sensitive hands.  

I would also like them to be able to recognise that my body parts are connected together to constitute a person, namely me.  

We can speak together. 

I would like them to be able to speak with me with sensitivity.

Fears of success and fears of failure

I am brought back to the ideas of success and failure.

I remember the hours and hours that we spent at school making paper aeroplanes, testing their flight, whooping with delight as the various designs nose-dived, glided, loop the looped.  

How are we to judge the success or failure of these childish test-flights? 

I would suggest that the real success lay in the community of play.

I remember the hours and hours that we spent at school doing exercises on paper, testing our grammar, irregular verbs and what have you.  

I remember little of the successful answers or the failed answers.

I would suggest that real success of education does not lie in getting the largest numbers of correct crosses on an answer sheet.

There are good reasons for enabling students to become qualified pilots, rock-climbing instructors, surgeons, aviation engineers.  

I don't believe that we can learn without making mistakes.  

I don't believe that it is a good idea to compare oneself with inaccessible models. 

I do believe that we can only progress through repeated and reflective work.

I do believe that we can waste hours arguing about completely different contexts as if they were comparable.

I don't believe that we can progress as communities, as societies, without play, without taking risks.

I don't belive that we can work with people as if they were disconnected parts to be machined.

I believe that we are in the dark ages of human social development. 

I believe we all must take  leaps of faith to reach out to distant destinations.

I am not convinced that our current instructors know how to avoid a nasty crash.