Sunday, November 30, 2014

Cell formating.

Twenty five words, by twenty five words...

He sized up the cell's dimensions...

No, there was no doubt about it.

Writing was the only escape.

Never before, had it been so clear to him; the blank page itself was the plot.

Words slid down its surface like drops of blood.

He laid out the sheet, only to be met with the disturbing presence of eighteen anonymous animals.

He longed for the reassurance of recognisable companions.

Was there no peace here?

Pages turned slowly, fluttering in the wind, affronted, assaulted, apeing sense.

What if the story was cyclical?

Words were sized, seized, surface shrapnel.

They were no more than fragments, cuttings, of broken narrative.

Whose narrative was this?

His eyes struggled for focus, blurred by text and movement.

Numbers, hours, days, weeks, words.

25, 24, 7, 52, 365, 25

Numbers, not random, patterned a narrative flow.

Whose narrative was this?

There was not enough time.

He heard a key-stroke, from outside the margins.

"I never count words, I just write." 

Kevin was there.

Something was transformed.

The story became a foothold...

This was the way out.

A co-authored exploration of digital inarrative 

Twitter hashtag, #25wordstory, 
Google Spreadsheets, 
18 anonymous animals

[click on hidden link]

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Zero visibility.

Nothing could have prepared me for cultural meltdown.

One moment I was dressed in a suit, failing an interview for a secure job in sales.

The next moment, I was standing in a warehouse in North London peopled by androids.

Zero experience.

"Do you have any experience in the music industry?"


"Do you have any experience in the film industry?"


"Do you have any experience in the computer industry?"

After the third question, they were apparently satisfied that I had all the competences required.

I was hired.

I had no idea why.

Do androids dream of electric sheep?

I liked the androids.

Jim Whiting Installation
My friends asked me what job I had found. I didn't know what to answer.

How do you explain to other people what you are doing, when you yourself have not the slightest idea?

How do you plan for new worlds?

I only had plans for a world which no longer existed.

How do you communicate via media that you have never ever imagined?

I was completely in the dark.

I like the dark. 

The dark was intensely stimulating.

I imagined new worlds.
I drew new worlds.
I was living in a new world.

We were creating a 'psycho-sensory experience'.

What does that mean? I can not start to explain.

I found some of the original publicity. I think it is worth quoting.

"We have been asked many questions in the past about what you will be seeing.... Unfortunately, we will be unable to answer your questions."

As I was dialoguing with my friend Kevin Hodgson,  he introduced me to a documentary via Terry Elliott about the writer William Gibson.

I had never heard of him, or at least I don't remember hearing of him.

What I saw seemed all strangely familiar to me.

"No maps for these territories."

Watching the video, I was brought back to a warehouse in North London.

We talked of robots, of mind-expanding culture, of technofear, of networks, of societal change.

I fell upon an interview of a friend of mine from that period, the artist Richard Brown, interviewed here.

Zero visibility

I have no idea where we are heading. 

I have no idea what forms of expression we will experience a century from now.  

What I am sure of is that we have for the moment zero visibility.  

That is a source of hope, a source of fear, a source of excitement. 

For those of us working in education, these are challenging times.

I reckon Eric Hoffer says it better than anyone.

I am not sure past experience is going to be of much use here in these stange landscapes. 

We have no maps, we need to map, to trace our steps...

Friday, November 28, 2014

No maps for these territories.

Even nonsense once expressed is no longer nonsense.

No Maps for These Territories
I remember going by bus from New York to Las Vegas
 I had forgotten I wanted to write.

No Maps for These Territories

 I wanted to write nothing this morning,
  It's been a few days now, 
 I listened again to the remix,
 Words stole away from the page

No Maps for These Territories  

A stream of words spoke to me through the static.
 They needed to be slowed down.
 Then an image came to me...

No Maps for These Territories

They are here in the next room.
I have sort of ignored their call for help

I may or may not bother to go back

Maybe I will ...

I feel there is danger here.
I just have to ignore them.
What do you think?

a irhizo-collage of 
@dogtrax @telliowkuwp @sensor63

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Stolen words.

I don't feel as if the ground is shifting
Here, it is morning. The house is dark. 

The kids are sleeping. 

My older son has friends over, so there are five 16 year old boys in the next room. 

The dog got walked and is now curled up asleep. 

Snow fell all day yesterday, 

The shadows of the moon are flickering across trees weighed down by heavy snow. 

I heard a tree branch crack and fall a few minutes ago.

And I am writing to you, elsewhere in the world...

I feel calm in doing it. 

My mind and my thoughts are both here with me, there with you...

And falling into this page with very little plan for what I want to write about. 

Yet, I don't feel disjointed by that

We are our Audience. 

We make sense of it, more or less.

Groundshifting written by @dogtrax 

We are our audience.

Blinkers & socks.

All is white.

We wear blinkers to protect our eyes.

Scarlet flows with a cut.

Savage stories survive out there.

There is a pair of Eskimo socks.

I have had them since I was five or six years old.

Where did these socks come from?

Who made them?


I played with a little girl in the sandpit.

She knew where the socks came from.

She lived with her missionary parents.

She lived with the people who made the socks.

She was brought up in a place where all is white.

I look around at my comfortable home. 

I am  surrounded by objects coming from other places.

The objects are made by people whose lives I cannot imagine.

I have been thinking about those Eskimo socks recently.

An eye-opener.

The little girl is long since gone.

She went to India to travel.

It was an eye-opener.

She saw people dying in a street.

Nobody seemed to care.

She cared too much.

She came back home.

She took her life.


I think of the Eskimo socks.

I think of the Eskimo blinkers.

I am glad that I see so little.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

To nobody.

This is a post written to Nobody.

Dear Nobody,

How are you today? 

I am thinking about you. 

I am writing on the internet (sorry it is a bit complicated to explain) on a blog (sorry you don't understand what a blog is but I seem to be spending a lot of time blogging [don't know why]- that's doing a blog).  

I am writing a letter to you. 

Imagine I am writing on a piece of paper, or on a stone. 
Imagine you understand English.  
Imagine you can see this now.

I am sending this to you now, so that you can understand it. 

I am sorry you will never read it. 

I just wanted to know how you are?

I am not sure if you would like internet. 

It's what many people use to communicate with people they don't know.

I know that's crazy. It's like that.

Have you ever heard of Prince?

He sings, and he dances.

He is not on the internet now (sorry you must have no idea of what I am talking about).

(Here is a link.)

I don't know why.

You will never hear his music now.

Oh sorry, I forgot,  you didn't have internet access before so you wouldn't have known his music before anyway. (I mean if you only accessed his music on the internet.)

You will never know what you missed.

Never mind.

Best wishes

Hope you  are having a lovely life


Nobody will not read this.

He is one of the 61% of the world's population who do not have access to the internet.

Sorry to all you other guys who read this. Haven't you got something better to do with your time?


That was a joke.

Worldwide Internet users
2005 2010 2013a
World population[3] 6.5 billion 6.9 billion 7.1 billion
Not using the Internet 84% 70% 61%
Using the Internet 16% 30% 39%
Users in the developing world 8% 21% 31%
Users in the developed world 51% 67% 77%
a Estimate.
Source: International Telecommunications Union.[4

Monday, November 24, 2014


Spices, leatherwork, tea-shops, nargilés, craftsmen working, hand-made carpets, sheep, goats, chicken, camels resting...

the stream of sensory information is positively overwhelming.

We are quite lost in cultural profusion.

A vortex of colour, sound, conversation, commerce and perfume.

There have been times when I have found myself wandering as if through an on-line souk.


It was an image which immediately came to the fore during Dave Cormier's Rhizomatic Learning Course.

There have been times when I suppose I have been responsible for turning courses into a souk.

I have not been alone in this. That is the nature of souks. There is a place, people arrive.

Hanging out

I have hung around for those reasons.

Navigating through formatted academic wasteland where orderly discussion is the order of the day,
I soon start tapping my fingers, looking out of the window, find any distraction from the monotony.

Yes you are right. You are right.

I was reflecting with Kevin Hodgson on what constitutes the specificity of digital writing.

I made a list of points which require further reflection, so what the hell, this is as good place as any to lay out a stall.

I am revelling in the mulitmodal possibilities that these media allow.

Market stalls, tea-shops and conversation

I have a play-space.

The dialogue with Kevin, went from blog, to sound, to sound remixed, to collaborative text editor, to tweet, to animated gifs, to music, to collage, to poetry, to reflection, to multimodal scrap book, to blog post and back again.

This is where the conversation takes us. 

It takes us to a souk.

I am loving the Zeega of Terry Elliot.

I am loving the investigations of Jim Groom, Alan Levine et al combining art, cultural exploration with reflection.

I love the literary, theatrical stimulation of Gardner Campbell's conferences,

I love the constant flow of Kevin Hodgson's music, comic, poetic, output.

How not to be stimulated by all of that?

There is so much to investigate here.

Serendipity and flea markets

I am seeing search in a quite different serendipitous way to enhance creativity.

From dawn to dusk

I am continuously jumping, hanging out from time zone to time zone, living simultaneously, it feels, at dawn in Kentucky, in the early morning in Florida,in the afternoon in France and in the evening in Thailand.

Open all hours

This is a souk which is not quite sure of its opening times.

Thanks to my discussions with my friends, I am far less worried about being weird.

Fellow travellers.

OK I am weird but I am not alone.  I had forgotten that feeling.

It's OK to be creative, to doodle, to scribble, to share half-finished ideas.

I  feel at home in this souk.

I shall hang around for a while.

Oasis party

There is one thing which I want to do.

There are places that I want to visit unplugged.

It is what I have done with some of my CLAVIER friends.

I'd like to get these people together sometime in an offline learning party sometime.

It will be a veritable oasis compared to some offline learning deserts I know.


Wings pulse, wings pulse, wings pulse, imperceptibly...


Wings pulse imperceptibly...

Wings beat, Wings beat, Wings beat, Wings beat, Wings beat...

boundless carnival.
vibrating vortex.
volatile creatures,

all amplified


for +Kevin Hodgson

 exploratory musing
inspired by our dialogues. 


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Distant voices.

I am having a slightly weird dialogue with Kevin Hodgson.

It started when he remixed a conversation that I was having with my father.

Suddenly Kevin's guitar and voice appeared in my father's bedroom.

What the hell was he doing there?

[remix of recording which appears in Progressive Lenses Post.]

Context collapse...

It was a lovely surprise to hear him.
It was as if he had suddenly appeared from behind the sofa while I am writing this.

Time collapse...

Oh hello Kevin!

Suddenly I am speaking to Kevin (I mean my father) and he is suddenly able to play the guitar and speak with an American accent. I mean this is seriously weird.

Secret collapse...

I don't know if Kevin somehow picked up on mindwaves, but I have been thinking that I would like to do more voice stuff.

I miss the theatre and I would like to investigate what I can do with the recorded voice as a medium.

Medium collapse...

I suggested to him that we do some sort of dialogue. He immediately responded and set up er..., he set up a Titan Pad.

This was again a surprise because it was quite unlike any dialogue that I had had in mind.

This dialogue is at first sight more like a discussion.

Context collapse...

I was suddenly presented in his writing (speaking?) with a situation that I had never knowingly experienced called a 'teacher gathering'.

I know teacher meetings, conferences but gatherings  - that sounds sort of informal and maybe fun to me.

Nope don't do gatherings. [interesting that I would never say Nope in 'real life'  - that is me acting]

We then started talking about voice.

Medium collapse...

When I say we started talking, well we are writing.
It is not synchronous.

When I was writing the conversation with my father, the dialogue was synchronous.

I was actually speaking with him when I was writing it.

I would stop to hear him speak.  How weird is that?

I wasn't writing, I was speaking.

Now I am not sure if I am writing or speaking?

He (Kevin) wanted to know whether I am the same online as offline.

He (Kevin) wanted to know whether there is one of me?

Distant voices

Well, I am pretty sure that I am the same online and offline.

I am not at all the same as this person who is taking over writing this sentence.
[later editing - this is weird]

I am variously absent and present in my writing.

I am equally variously present and absent when I am speaking.

I am fairly sure that I feel much better when I am absent or at least when I am not aware of my presence.

I suppose this is what they call the flow.

I suppose I am pretty much most the time in a flow.

I suppose this is why I am so annoying to people who imagine that I am actually there.

Presence or absence?

I suppose that when I am absent other people might imagine or say that I have 'presence'.

Well I suppose I have presence in my absence.

I was thinking about this.

I suddenly started thinking of myself when I am acting (hence the photo).

When I am acting, I have been absorbed by a role. I am pretty much absent. I am just lending myself as an instrument.

Writing this at the moment, I am variously aware of presence and absence.

I have a vague awareness that I am watching myself (a self?) writing this.

This is all getting a little confusing.

As I said to Kevin, there are often times when I write that I do not recognise the voice of the person writing.

I recognise the voices of others. I don't recognise these voices which others might call my voice.

That's it, I am completely confused.

What or who am I confused with?

I am lost now. [of course you idiot - you love playing around with roles, you are a (play) actor goddam it]

Yes he is.

Thanks Kevin.

Thanks Kevin.

Good news.

There is no time to... feel. 
There is no time to... think.
There is no time to... act.

The flow of instructions is unremitting. 
The pace is unrelenting. 

[All text in italics is my writing, the rest is from a text book]

Good news. 
[name of text book]

Turn to Page 14.

"What's wrong?"

1) Look and Guess.
2) Listen and understand.
3) Imagine you may be wrong.

Turn to Page 15.

4) Read and correct.
Tell the class what corrections you have made and why.

5) Explain a problem.

You are at school and there's a problem. It's your job to explain the problem.

OK, I shall take the text book instructions seriously.  

There is no time to think or to do anything that we want to do. We are assaulted by a series of instructions, often contradictory which fill up our existence as a teacher and as a pupil.  We are asked to look at decontextualised photos, cartoons, fragments of text, which are given a holy unnecessary importance.

At no moment are we able to connect as people, to learn together, to be left in peace. 

Our colleagues, inspectors, and ministers put pressure on us to conform to this system.

All acts of freedom are viewed as suspect.

Turn to page 10.

Golden rules

Answer the questions honestly. [questions selected from textbook]
The summer holiday is over and you're back at work.

4) Do you speak loudly and clearly?
5) Do you ever chat with your neighbours in French?
8) Are you interested in what everybody says - the students as well as the teachers?
10) Can you keep still and concentrate?
12) Do you listen carefully to all instructions?
14) Do you always have all the things you need (your textbook, your notebook, your workbook, you homework diary?) [I have nothing I need, only what YOU tell me I need.]

Make resolutions. [never accept this can not be changed one day.]

Make resolutions ot improve your attitude and your English. To make sure you succeed, make sure your goals are realistic. [Change the f***ing system. Sorry that is not realistic.]

Compare and report.

Talk to your neighbour about his/her attitude in class.
Report back to the class on your neighbour's attitude during English class.
[Reminds me of totalitarian states]

X never contributes. He doesn't like it.

Teacher must do preparation. Teacher must do corrections. Teacher must not be late. Teacher must keep discipline. Teacher must defend values of the Republic. Teacher must complete marks for the term. Teacher must use official learning management system. Teacher must not use blogs. Teacher must complete appreciations; in this box before this date. Teacher will be inspected. Inspectors will demand contradictory teaching methods. Teacher career will depend on inspector's marks and appreciations. 

This is a true story. 

This is a real text book entitled "Good News." published in 2009.

These views are entirely my own.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Little seeds...little signs...

At first sight, it doesn't look much.

At first sight, it is just some scruffy student bag.

Look closer, there might be a story here worth reflecting on, worth sharing.

Freedom branded

A student has taken a cheap, generic back-pack and spent a fair amount of time tatooing the bag with a brand.

Perhaps he/she didn't have enough money to buy an 'authentic' branded bag?

Perhaps he/she is subverting the brand by copying it freely?

The choice of brand is not anodyne, the person is making an identity statement.

He feels he/she belongs with a group who shares a certain life-style, certain aspirations, a certain vision on life.

It might be just a fashion-statement, it might be just a passing fad. I suspect that it is not.

We might find this story a sad indictment of our consumer culture.

We might also connect consumer culture to school?

Whatever the truth in the matter, the person has taken his own time to painstakingly customise his bag...

He is affirming belonging to surf or skate culture.

What are the dreams that marketers manipulate? 

What are the fears that school sows?

There is somewhere there in Quicksilver marketing: an affirmation of a desire for freedom, a desire to protect our ecosystem...

I have been working on connecting to learner passions for a good number of years now to harness intrinsic motivation for language learning.

It seems to me that this is a no-brainer particularly in a web-connected environment.

We work from the learner outwards, sharing our expertise, our passions, enhancing competences.

In such an exchange we are all learners.

Passion is communicative. 

We gradually connect tribes across boundaries of distance, classroom walls, generations.

I ask learners to leave their mark, to plant a seed, for themselves, for their friends, for future generations.

Such learners are also teachers.

We gradually weave our learning webs.

Yesterday, I was speaking with a student, Arthur Rolle, in the class, about paragliding, he spoke of the freedom of being in the air. He was teaching me.

He spoke of his childhood dreams of flying like those that he saw above the Puy de Dome, of flying like a bird...

As part of our curriculum we ask students to create tutorials on video.

The students have clearly made a big effort to not only demonstrate the task of folding a paraglider, they have also been able to communicate enthusiasm, they have worked on the editing of the video.

Once such passions are identified, a whole series of activities - meaningful for the learner might be imagined with them.

Researching the activity from a professional point of view, connecting with other paragliders around the world, weaving webs, building communities around hashtags...#clavoutdoor

Passion tags are a change from school uniforms.

Free models of freedom

I was busy teaching last year, when I suddenly received a message on Facebook from an ex-student, who found himself in Australia.

The message was quite similar to a growing number that I receive.  It went something like as follows:

"Dear Simon, how are you? Do you remember me? I am currently going around the world for 6 years and as you introduced us to people in your network to motivate us to learn English and to help us to learn new skills, I would like to do the same for your current students."

This was Julien Diot, an extraordinary, inspirational globe-trotter who is currently in Thailand, Laos or... I am not sure where he is today.  Here is a photo of a school somewhere.

A photo from Julien's journey

You can follow him as he wanders the world at his website on Google Plus and other social media.

We catch up on news from time to time and he connects with students via video-conference or via social media.

He is a model of freedom for me...

Little seeds which have been planted may remain dormant for years and then flourish unexpectedly.

Connected courses

Connected Courses, one of the videos on Unit 5, has already sparked off reflection of teachers and learners that I work with. It was one of the shortest videos on the site.

As I am working with educators, and trainee educators around the world, little seeds get spread widely.

This video is starting conversation in Poland, in France...

We are working at connecting with educators in CLAVIER (connected learning and virtual intercultural exchange research) #clavedu, starting small, working from their questions, their silence.

It may not look much for the moment....

It is just another generic Google + Community for the moment...

This reminds me of the discussion that I was having the other day with Alan Levine, Jon Becker et al about seeing the participation or the impact of  Connected Courses. It inspired a swarm of a blog post: Little Bird.

They couldn't have seen the conversation that I had yesterday with one of my colleagues, who was really proud to tell me that she was now getting to grips with Google Documents.

This was a major development for her, she added that she was amazed at how her 'digital native' students were much less competent than her.

I suggested to her that such an experience would be great to share with others, maybe via a blog.

I showed her the video from Connected Courses.

Suddenly things seemed to be clicking. She liked the video. She understood that our experiences have resonance for others that can identify with us. A seed has been planted...

I showed her the pictures from Julien Diot of his trip to Australia #clavtravel, she recognised the places - a connection was made. Little signs...

Julien free somewhere

This morning, I received a unexpected tweet from one of my students Maxime Otmani, containing a video he had made. I love surprises.  He didn't have to make the video for a class, he did it for pleasure. He didn't have to write a blog. He chose to write a blog. He wrote a post the other day: "The smallest connections can have the largest impact".

I am writing this while 'teaching a class', or should I say modeling learning? The students are self-organising a choir to sing one of their favourite songs 'Get lucky' #clavmuso. Two students have improvised a percussion section (sorry now there are three or four students doing it).

They are going to share a video of their performance with a group of Italians that we are starting to work with in CLAVIER #clavbus community.
There is a buzz. I like buzzes around a learning space...

Oh they have just changed the song, whatever...

Even if they never make the video that I can share with you, I am capturing the moment.

It may not look much.

It may not look much for the moment...

Little seeds, little signs...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Progressive lenses.

He was sitting  in his
bedroom looking into an ill-defined distance when I arrived.

My presence was greeted by a smile of recognition.

After a little while he turned to me and spoke.

"I am a little disappointed with the Queen, " he said. 

"Why is that?" 

"Well, I was expecting a telegram."

Before I could say anything more, he continued with a gleam of humour in his eye; amused at the Queen's short-comings.

"Well, yes, when you get to the age of 100, the Queen is supposed to send you a telegram to wish you happy birthday."  

He was 95 years old.

In his mind, he had reached his century, he was 100 years old.

It was the Queen's fault that his narrative  had not gone totally as planned.

It was the last 'serious conversation that we had together.  It felt stangely appropriate that I put this here. He would have been interested in seeing my drawings, my pictures.

He would have said:

"That's nice."

He wouldn't have tried to understand, being together was sufficient.

Touches of sense.

I got to 99 posts in this Touches of Sense blog for 2014 and for a reason which I can not really explain, I felt the desire to stop and to take stock.

I wanted to fake a few steps back, to sort, to browse, to reflect, on this frenetic activity.

What is it that I have been doing here?

Why is it that I have been so active?

I jotted down some notes in a Google Doc. I grouped articles by themes. I sorted them into Flipboard magazines. Links you will find hidden in the titles.


I was curious to try to get an overview.

I was curious, amongst all the themes and the forms could I learn something about these voices, these visions, these dreams and nightmares?


At heart this writing is about birth.

It appears that there is an incessant desire here to enable emergence.

Touches of Sense is a place for me to allow things to grow haphazardly.

I have reconnected here to the child that I was, that I have remained to be over the years.

I am 52 years old and all those ages before.

I take great pleasure in opening my mind to these instants conjured from past lives.

I have rediscovered what is was which powered my drawing, my scribbling, my doodling.

I have found a place where I am answerable to nobody including myself.

I have rediscovered the joy of theatrical improvisation, of letting the characters take me over.

I am only too fully aware that there are parts of me in these characters but more often than not I am thrilled to discover people, words that I have never come across before.

As I allow these indistinct, blurred presences to come onto the page they become fixed, captured, captive of this space.

I am amused how little this is thanks to me, I am just an instrument of my senses, my imagination.

The more that I write, that I capture, the more I find echoes of others, of others' visions, caught in this net of narrative.

I am confetti, we are confetti, it is hardly clear where I start and the others end and vice versa.


At heart this writing is about learning.

This is about learning about the limits of our frames.

I am caught between disintegration and reintegration, between culture and chaos, between language and what is beyond language.

I breathe, I breathe out, I am a prisoner of my frame, my attachments,  my culture, my genes.

I am caught up in ritual, in narrative, in history embodied, in family.

Where there might be cloning I am aware there is mutation.

Things can never be quite how they were.  All is fiction. We make do with fiction.

All is transient, all is fluid.

We reach out desperately to achieve, to acquire, to keep, to savour, to project ourselves.

I find this, like my father before me a source of humour, a means to empathise with our fellows.

All must pass.

This construction, this communication, is source of wonder, is source of vanity.

We protect, we secure, we guard against, we watch over.

We watch over.

We reason, we reason, we fail to reason.

Beyond reason is fear, is hope.

This transience, this fludity is source of life, is source of horror.

Connnection, Community, Mob, Massacre. 

My writing is full of nightmarish wolves, wars, willful manipulators...

I am aware of the power that we have, that we might seize.

“Among men, it seems, historically at any rate, the processes of coordination and disintegration follow each other with great regularity, and the index of the coordination is the measure of the disintegration which follows. There is no mob like a group of well-drilled soldiers when they have thrown off their discipline. And there is no lostness like that which comes to a man when a perfect and certain pattern has dissolved about him. There is no hater like one who has greatly loved.”
John Steinbeck



As I have written unthinkingly and reflected, it has become apparent that this writing is much more a practice of research, than what I have written as 'research' more formally.

I am terribly sceptical of those alchemists who would tell us what they know about ourselves.
I am sure that they have impressive tools. I am sure that they have a captive audience, I remain unconvinced at the idea of objective scientific research of learning.

Nevertheless, I remain convinced that I have no choice but to use those same tools in order to subvert them.

I am of the opinion that as new networked culture emerges we will inevitably need to reflect on the lenses which are appropriate.

I am of the opinion that we must avoid the propagation of a dominant narrative.

In a digitally 'enhanced' culture an older dominant culture is at risk of be replaced by what?

I am optimistic that new emerging conditions will enable new lenses which will allow us to reconsider issues of dominance, of transactions between us.

I prefer optimism to pessimism purely out of refusal to accept that we can not do better together.


I started this blog with and image of a path, a journey. I have collected together a number of stories of journeys, often enriched by the company of others.

Whilst Touches of Sense might appear a solitary venture, this is misleading.

It only has any sense in the context of its shared value by people who might read these pages. These people may only ever be imaginary, that is of no importance in my eyes. I am not only writing for myself.

There are people here in these pages who are my family who  have become my friends, who continue to inspire me, to make my life more of an adventure. It is the life that I have chosen, that I am choosing, that I will continue to choose.

It is a life of play, of conversation, of shared narrative, of hope.

I am happy to have taken stock here, to celebrate the 100'th Touches of Sense article in 2014.

There is a very good reason, that I have reached 100 posts, it is the only reason for me to contine on and beyond this full stop.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Give me money.

Am I the fairest of them all?

When shall I be famous?

Who's cute?

Look at me. Don't look at her/him. 

We are all in this together.

Looks aren't important. Money isn't important.

We are the world.  We are working for a better world. We are the Care Bears.



What we need is not competition it is more cooperation.

Oh Ya Right.

Can I win at the cooperation game?

The generation game

We were invited to a barbecue in Manchester.

The family was the most politically right on family one could imagine meeting.

The parents lived in adjoining houses, they had separated harmoniously, they remained closest cosiest neighbours for the kids.

They had opened up a door between the two houses in the attic so that the kids could go from one house to the other seamlessly.

I learnt that competition in their kids' schooling was  discouraged.

I loved the vegan barbecue.

I have never in my life met a more obnoxiously competitive kid in my life than their elder son.

He refused to lose at cricket, he refused to lose at eye spy with my little eye,.

He refused to be served with quiche, crisps, a cake he didn't want. He hit his little sister.

When I think of the word BRAT he outBRATs John McEnroe hands down in my BRAT pack of BRATicons.


"You can not be serious maan."

Child, teacher, student takes/seizes/grabs [select appropriate term] tennis racket, text book, or other object and slams it down on the table, grass, ground, head of brother.

I just thought that I would play Devil's Advocate for a while. I enjoy that playing Devil's Advocate. It is a fun game.

Co-learning Devil

Kids don't want to learn together, sure they might want to learn on their own in their playing but what they want more than anything is to win love, attention, money.

Most teachers don't become teachers because it is their dream job.

They become teachers because they feel secure in continuing in school, a place where they understand the rules and want to become teacher in a School Pantomime.  They are the ones who stand in front of the classroom and take attendance.

They pretend they are not teaching for the long holidays and to be able to look after the kids.

Most kids don't want to learn at school, they are not curious.

Kids want to be like blasé big brothers/sisters/fathers/mothers/football players/gangsters.

They want to play on their Nintendos and not to tidy their bedrooms.



HA, HA, HA. 


Just give us more play-time and top marks to please the parents.  

Have you seen my cool new ..............................
[complete blank]

I have better marks, a better job, a better life, a better car than .....[you, him, her, them]
[choose appropriate]





Monday, November 17, 2014

Radio silence.

Weakening signal.

Crackly interference.

Do not adjust, 
Do not adjust,

.....your set.

Unplug aerial

Turn knobs

Turn knobs

Replug aerial.

Twiddle thumbs.

Pace up,

Pace down,

Unplug set.

Bang hand on box.

Run fingers through hair.

Slap palm on chest.

Wait, wait, always wait.

Go out for walk.
Go out for air.

Come back.

Plug in.


Signal clear.

No moving picture.


Sign of life.

Bang hand on box.

Shake fist.

Stroke temples.

Clap hands.
Wring hands.

Breathe in.

Sit down on chair.

Gaze at box.

Look up.

Listen. Listen. Listen.
Radio silence.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A little bird.

I can't help myself, for a reason I can't explain I keep hearing the little bird's trill from Peter and the Wolf. 

Can you hear it?

There it goes again.

No doubt about it, it's that trill again.

I didn't listen to all of Peter and the Wolf, there was just that little bird's refrain.

Strange isn't it?

I digress.

To be frank this is a bit of a messy flock of a post.

I apologise.

It all started with a comment on a blog.

Just a moment I shall go and find the link.

Ah yes here it is... on an Alan Levine Blog.  

"It's all about the Do."

Jon Becker says:
I think it’s time for an honest look at participation in cMOOCs. I have a sneaking suspicion that participation wanes in ways that some wouldn’t want to admit, particularly for “courses” where there’s no *real* incentive (e.g. credit, PD points, etc.).
Also… how big is the group that carries on with #etmooc?
And, honestly, how many people really, truly continue to particpate in #ds106?

This got me to comment the following:

(empty comment box)

Oops; the blog or a dog ate my comment in reply to Jon Becker. That is my excuse anyway.

Now for something completely different.

Well actually, that is a lie.

All of this is connected.

I have a thing about statistics.  I worry about them.

Participation statistics make me want to laugh or cry according to the moment.

A particular bug bear is 'Completion Statistics'.

I don't know about you but the word 'completion' worries me.


You only have to say those words and I am a cowering Wreck.

There is a W.... There is a W... There is a Wolf.?

They remind me of Wagner. 

They remind me of a Woody Allen quote.

“I just can't listen to any more Wagner, you know...I'm starting to get the urge to conquer Poland.”

There goes that little bird again.

Irritating isn't it?

We never get the whole piece that Prokofiev wrote, all the Woody Allen films, all the Wagner Opus, just the damned bird.

I am sorry.

Lies statistics.  

I remember a few years ago, working with what was called by some people e-learning or distance learning.

The computer guys spent hours poring over statistics.

They looked very seriously mathematical to me.

God this was power, this was 'learning management'.

To be honest they spent hours poring over clicks, numbers of clicks.

They presented the clicks at conferences.

The clicks looked marvellous on Powerpoint graphs.

The numbers of participants in the e-learning course were massive.

To be honest, and the computer guys were, the statistics couldn't tell the whole story.

If a 'learner' had clicked to log in and then spent nine hours watching trash on TV, we were lulled into the possible  and erroneous impression that they had spent nine hours working on English grammar.

We all know the limits of the stats, but what the hell, they sure look good at a conference.

Massive numbers speak.

People looking for justification to invest heavily in computer engineers, recording studios, and the whole e-learning kaboosh had all they needed to get financial investment.

So they did, the story clicked with people who were looking for 'learning management', hurrah!!

Massive Open Online Courses

Having followed Stephen Downes and crew since about 2007, I was aware that MOOC's or at least Connectivist courses were going on.

If I remember rightly, I signed onto a first MOOC CCKO8 , a second PLENK10, a third Change11, hovered around ETMOOC, and then landed in Rhizo14, before continuing with CLMOOC, and CCourses.

I logged in, I lurked, I pecked, I picked, I reflected, I lurked, I pecked, I picked and put stuff in my nest for another day.

Darn there goes that little bird again.

All of this brings me to school, Greek Mythology and Jesus Christ!  Jesus Christ?

How many people sailed in the Argonaut, hid in the horse of Troy?

How many people followed Jesus Christ around to all his parable gigs?

How many details of what you learnt at school (which you 'completed') do you remember?

How many people do you need connected to spread a virus?

How do social networks influence behaviour and to what extent are people aware of their connections?

To what extent are people aware of how a piece of a MOOC affects people outside a MOOC?

This is all brings me back to a book of Nicolas Christakis. There is a conference of his here.

Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives -- How Your Friends' Friends' Friends Affect Everything You Feel, Think, and Do

Sorry I digress.

Massive Open Online Courses

It appears that the story of Massive had resonance for some people who envisioned Massive profits or at least Massive investment in their start ups.

You only need to sell a cool story and you get a rush of investor adrenaline.



I love a good X,  it hides forbidden, sexy, fatal, treasure, or a target.


Of course to make MASSIVE profits you need a big CHEST. A Coursera chest will do lovely.

Pesky completion statistics....

I digress.

Where was I? 

I have been learning much over the past few years online even when this is invisible.

What is completion of learning?

Ah yes completion of Learning is like when I get a driving licence - I am recognised as having the ability to drive.  I have to go to a recognised driving school for a set number of lessons before I can go to take a driving test.

It makes L profits for people who are RECOGNISED to be able to give you a CERTIFICATE.

Where am I?

I am in France, I miraculously speak and write and understand French.

I work for the French National Education system. HO HO.

I never took a course. I have no certification in French.

When I first started 'reading' French, I looked at the pictures. I recognised the pictures. If a text was too difficult I found one with pictures. Gradually I was able to see words and expressions and gestures repeated in a variety of different contexts.

The blur, the din became comprehensible to me.

I can clearly hear a little bird singing.

A course would have been completely inefficient for me because in a course they give you one text to concentrate on while the 'teacher' dissects it and gives you lists of words to learn.

That would have been hopeless for me.

I would have perhaps in the eyes of the teacher 'completed the text, the course'.

I have not completed my French learning...or my English learning for that matter.
I have not completed my learning about or in connectivist MOOC's.

Those two learning situations are connected...

I pick different things which interest me I turn them around, I connect them, I stock them for another day.

I speak with people, I map connections, I gradually get a clearer picture of networks in which I am living.

If we go back and read this blog post over, maybe we will get a clearer picture of how it is connected.

Franky writing it at the moment it feels a bit of a jumble.

Brilliant idea. Why didn't I think about it before? I shall run courses to understand this shifting network of nodes to reduce it down to one singular, standard, officially stampted interpretation and make money.

I could even train people to write this crap. (No that is a bad idea.)

Chicken Tikka Massala

Did you know this is the most popular dish in Britain today?

It is an adaptation of Indian cuisine to British tastes. It is in no way authentic Indian cuisine.  The British have picked one dish among thousands to cherish. They have not taken a complete course in Indian cuisine tasting to choose one that they identify with.

Chicken Tikka Massala tells a story about the transformation of British culture.
Maybe the image below tells a different story?

There has been a narrative shift. One little dish says much about the multi-ethnic melting pot that is Britain today.

Thank God that I am er completely English...

There is a X which says so.

A little bird is singing, warning us about a wolf.

Statistics generally nourish someone's story.

Massive movements, odds, heroic deeds.

A chirp, a click, a cross, a slash, a smash, a yell, a shot, a word, a splash of an oar, a mouthful.

How did I write this swarming mess of a story?

A little bird told me to...