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...


  1. Now *this* is connected learning- not drawing attention to itself, not "massive", not on stage at TED, just micro-connections at the neural level. Stuff that never lands in neat columns of a database that can thus be charted.

    I forgot about the Amazing / Obvious video; it's genius and is at the core of the way I think about this work we are trying to do. It's not as much about having the big ideas, but how we share how we got there.

    By showing how we show you how to fold parachutes or let a teacher know where in the world some amount of their experience with you has taken them (I believe that the end of course evaluation is WAY to earlier to gauge learning).

    Why would your students show their outtakes at the end of their video? Does one ever publish a paper or an essay and include in the closing all of their mistakes? They do it because they are not aiming at the pure perfect message, but sharing their love of their topic. When we wordsmith and polish our words to the nth degree I bet we lose a lot of that passion, once we are again checking semi-colons and dangling modifiers and formatting of citations. All of the joy sucked out of the pursuit by formatting.

    You are totally doing connected learning, without a fancy web site or Big Platform. Keep doing it.

    1. Hi Alan. Thanks for your comment. I am beginning to reflect (again) on this Massive aspect of Moocs, on the use of institutional hubs/publishing platforms, on how to enhance learning as small as possible - which in effect is what happened with rhizo14, and what happens with ccourses. G20 is already a crowd - small i am begińning to think can be (more) beautiful. Shall reflect and blog on that. Widely connectable, small fertile entities- learning start-ups. OMG someone will do a TED conf on that now :-)