Thursday, January 29, 2015


virgin territory, smooth space, untouched, wild, unexplored.

I have just been skimming Sian Bayne's article entitled Smoothness and Striation in Digital Learning Spaces which Dave Cormier shared in the rhizo14 Facebook group.

For reasons beyond me, I am suddenly sitting here writing this.

This is perhaps a nomadic walkabout.
Why would I say such a thing?
I gathered together a few belongings and took flight. 

Where on earth is this heading?

I had better get a quote in here from (on?) Deleuze and Guattari:

"The space of nomad thought is qualitatively different from State space. Air against earth. State space is ‘striated’, or gridded. Movement in it is confined as by gravity to a horizontal plane, and limited by the order of that plane to preset paths between fixed and identifiable points. Nomad 
space is ‘smooth’, or open-ended. One can rise up at any point and move to any other. Its mode of distribution is the nomos: arraying oneself in an open space (hold the street), as opposed to the logos of entrenching oneself in a closed space (hold the fort). (Massumi, 1988, p. xiii)"

Quoted by Sian Bayne.

Phew, that's better, I have something to hang onto.  

I am already reaching out for words, for the words of others? to better express? what? myself?

I am not entirely sure. 

There is a sort of deliberate act here in my refusal at this moment to reread, to capture the structuring of Sian Bayne's thought.  That I am writing now is enough for me.

"We are the measure of all things." 


That is Protagoras, Wikipedia reliably (?) informs me, who said those words.

I am the measure of all things...

Yet, I am at a loss with out language, this is at a loss without Blogger, without wifi, without you. 

Yes, I am at a loss without you.

You are the measure of me.
You are the measure of the thing that is me.
You are the measure of the thing that is me here.

I am here now?

My point here, is dependent on my trajectory. 
My point here, is dependent on your trajectory.

My point here, is that I am not here without you.

"What is important about this conceptualisation of space is not so much the way the two types of space are opposed to each other as their tendency to pervade each other – for striation to appropriate the smooth, and for the smooth to emerge from the striated."


Yes, I am sewing together myself through this exploration, through these words, across this space, framed that it is.

I am supported in my human frame.

I am pointing my finger, I am indicating my presence, I am raising my voice, a cry in a wilderness.

What is this act?

How does it fit into a/the scheme of things?

I know not.

I am heading off into the unknown. 

Only looking back, only retracing my steps will my journey make sense.

I am writing narrative. I am a mapping story.

I return an instant to Sian Bayne's map.

I pick up a tracing of Deleuze and Guattari that she has made of a path across a thousand plateaux

"Of course, smooth spaces are not in themselves liberatory. But the struggle is changed or displaced in them, and life reconstitutes its stakes, confronts new obstacles, invents new paces, switches adversaries. Never believe that a smooth space will suffice to save us." 

Deleuze and Guattari

No, as soon as I am confronted by this space, this void, I scratch my soul on a wall,  I yell my longing.

You are the measure of me.

I catch a flicker of recognition in an eye.

I am still here now.

I am saved.

I mean something now.

Yet that meaning will for ever be elusive.

I have left.

This is my point...

Look, we are beyond.

"to ‘navigate’ a space is, for Deleuze & Guattari, to begin the process of striation"

S. Bayne.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


I am really not sure how this tapestry is going to come out.

I have a whole stack of mixed metaphors floating around on the floor.

It's exhausting trying to untangle it.

Sorry for this ghastly mess!

There are impressions, bits and pieces of life, lying here pêle mêle...

I am doing my best to stitch myself together.

To make things more complex, there are people working on pieces in other rooms, in other countries.

Some of the people, I haven't even met yet, I may never ever meet them.

No idea what bits they are working on...

I know it is all connected, I know that we will have a clearer picture of the overall design in a few years time...

I have been feeling a little overwhelmed by it all over the past month or so, to be honest.

I have sewn together quite a big bit, but it never seems to end.

The more I sew, the smaller the big bit seems.

I am feeling like Alice through the looking glass and I've lost the white rabbit.

I am sorry, this is a real mess.

Renovating houses.

If there is one piece of advice that I would give to anybody on doing major renovation work on houses, it would be not to live in the house at the same time.

I am useless at listening to my own advice.

This is the third house that we have renovated while living in the building site.

I know that it will be sort of finished one of these days.

It's just that I have been feeling a little overwhelmed by it all, over the past month or so, to be honest.

Renovating classes.

I know it is all connected.

In fact this is just like trying to do a total rebuild of an education system while living in the building site.

Somehow, I didn't listen to my advice for having a quiet life.

I seem to be working on all the rooms, on the outside walls, on the roof, on the garden, all at the same time.

I know it will be never finished one of these days.


Fortunately, or as a result of, connecting with a bunch of workers from all around the world, some of the patterns in this developing patchwork are becoming familiar to me.


I am sorry if this design is all a bit abstract.

I shall try and give you a glimpse of what patterns I am seeing.

Patchwork patterns

This week is appearing a typical week in this evolving design.



I arrive early to the learning space, and I write a blog post before the first class.

I have begun to make this a habit.

I like arriving early in the morning to reflect, to write.

In the morning the first group of students turned up in our open space.

They are ready to chat about the weekend.

They appear to have no real intention of doing any work.

Any teacher coming into the space would be shocked at the apparent chaos.

We are used to this, they don't work apparently for quite a while and then suddenly they become active...

After a little while (which seems like ages) one or two of the students amble off to find a computer and start writing a reflective piece on the difficulties associated with freedom in a language class.

This follows a lengthy discussion that we had the week before in the comfy chairs.

They are busy analysing their friends' attitudes and categorising their peers into different groups of more or less motivated students.

They are explaining how different time cycles affect their behaviour.

They are explaining how they see the role of the teachers.

Some of the other students are now getting down to something approaching work (not necessarily anything to do with English).

My colleague and I are much better now at being hands-off and observing.

We observe.

After a while, I am sitting down with a group of students in the comfy chairs.

This was not at all part of any lesson plan.

It developed naturally.

My colleague, I notice,  is talking at length with one or two of the students.


A large group of about 50 or so students turn up with lunch boxes.

We have decided that with their packed timetables, they need to take time in our classes to eat their packed lunches.

This gives us time to eat our lunch. We take our time.

A group of students have taken over the comfy chairs, they are busy discussing their storyboard for a video they are making for their assessment.

I spend some time with some other students to tell them about the organisation of a trip to Poland with some of the students that they are exchanging with online.

I confirm a few more couchsurfer hosts for the visitors  from Poland and from the UK in March.

I send a message to my friend Teresa in the UK.

Students are gradually getting to work on their various projects.

They are self-organising groups, they are choosing which type of assessment they prefer.

Others are working on their portfolios, they didn't do that before I remark...

I send a few tweets to the Maha's in Egypt, Kevin in the USA, Teresa in the UK, Marcin in Poland about a hangout in Cairo.


A bunch of students have turned up about 30 minutes before their class starts, in the open space, to start work.

I find that a bit strange.

I repeat this to myself: "They are actually 30 minutes early to class."

I connect to the hangout in Cairo, two of the other students log in to follow the conference.

One of them enjoys participating with people from Mexico, Venezuela, Egypt, the USA, the UK, the Philippines...

I leave them to it and continue working with some of the other students in the room.

Virtually all the computers in the room have webcams and microphones ready for any more hangouts.



I check my email, my social media streams, and think about blogging.

I notice that there are plans drawn up by two of my colleagues who were in the UK with a group of French students for collaboration between classes.

I am really happy that they are leading things forward.

I have been feeling a little overwhelmed in the past month or so.

Some of the students had never been outside of their country before.

They come back transformed. they are excited about their trip.

The smiles on their faces are communicative.

They give me energy.

Out of the box

The students are strangely excited about boxes.

We will be exchanging parcels full of presents, of culture, of messages for their partners overseas.

The idea of putting little objects in a box excites them in quite a different way than writing or receiving emails.

I think back to how this idea developed.

Everything is connected.

It is a reiteration of Clarissa's tshirt gifts from #rhizo14.

It is a reiteration of Terry's seed gifts from Connected Courses.

My colleagues are exchanging photos taken on their smartphones of the students' gifts for our colleagues in the UK.

Somehow the 'box' image is helpful for me.

I use it to talk to the students about their gap year project.

I sit them down in little groups, offer them coffee, we speak about how their lives are framed by school timetables.

We talk about the meaning of 'gap'.

They are stirred by this idea.

This idea that they can really get out of the boxes that have been made for them.

We talk about the 'successful student' studying to be a teacher.

Education from the age of 3-22, success in a competitive exam, teaching in a classroom until 65, retirement....

They seem to be better understanding the concept 'gap'...

I introduce them to Julien in Peru, Johan in Australia, Evane in the USA, Amelie in Ireland.

They seem to be waking up...

Tuesday afternoon.

One student is asking me a question about the portfolio.

I spend 20 minutes talking with him about art.

We share our interests, I show him my blog.

He appears interested.

He tells me he will bring his drawings into class.

Another student is chatting with Johan on Facebook in Australia, she wants to go to Australia.

Another student asks me if I want a cup of coffee.

He has understood that I am not the only person who has the ability to make coffee.

He makes a coffee for his friends.

I am talking to a group of students about education in Nepal.

I show them Santosh's association.

They appear interested in the holes in the walls of the school.

I talk to them about the question of veils in French schools.

I show them Maha's blog on the hijab.

I show them some of Julien's photos of families who have hosted him around the world.

I speak to them about generosity.

I think of my friend Blaise in Cameroon, and the Skype conversation my kids had with his kids on Christmas day last year.

Tuesday evening

I was reading a blog post of Kevin's, a blog post about a hangout that my students attended.

Kevin is in Massachussetts, I am still trying to get the spelling right.

I was reading a blog post of Terry's, a blog post about collaborative fold over audio stories.

I put the idea somewhere in my mind for future reference.

I am writing this and I remember the articles that I was reading just before.

Maybe it was a Steve Wheeler blog post?

I am thinking about blogging, of how to get more of my students blogging.

I find a Steve Wheeler post which I don't remember reading.

I tweet it to friends in Poland, Italy and in the UK.

I remember an expression that came to me, an African expression:

"It takes a village to raise a child."

I think of the friends that I have met, connecting.

I make a mental note of some hashtags:


I am feeling strangely a little less overwhelmed.

I am feeling part and parcel of this patchwork that we are sewing, that is being sewn.

I wonder what patterns we shall see a few years from now?

I remember an expression that came to me, an African expression:

"It takes a village to raise a child."

Image credits



Monday, January 26, 2015

Handle with care.

There were questions my father found hard to answer:

"So God created everything?"
"And God created the Devil?"
"So God is responsible for all the evil in the world?"

I was never terribly convinced by my father's answer concerning God's responsiblility for evil.
I have long played Devil's advocate. 

I much prefer kindness to killing. 

I think it was Terry Elliott (him again) who introduced me to Voltaire.

I really must read Candide if I am going to quote from it. 

Candide, ou l'Optimisme (/ˌkænˈdd/; French: [kɑ̃did]) is a French satire first published in 1759 by Voltaire, a philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment. The novella has been widely translated, with English versions titled Candide: or, All for the Best (1759); Candide: or, The Optimist (1762); and Candide: or, Optimism (1947).[5] It begins with a young man, Candide, who is living a sheltered life in an Edenic paradise and being indoctrinated with Leibnizian optimism (or simply "optimism") by his mentor, Professor Pangloss.[6] The work describes the abrupt cessation of this lifestyle, followed by Candide's slow, painful disillusionment as he witnesses and experiences great hardships in the world. Voltaire concludes with Candide, if not rejecting optimism outright, advocating a deeply practical precept, "we must cultivate our garden", in lieu of the Leibnizian mantra of Pangloss, "all is for the best" in the "best of all possible worlds".

That's it, that's what I believe:

"we must cultivate our garden."

I would say that I am intolerant of intolerance.

An easy catchprase...

An Englishman's garden.

I believe that we must enable people to find their way, to self-actualise...
This is all well and good. 

There is a problem with this.
What must be our response to those who would trample on our garden, on the garden of others?

What must be our response to fascism?

What must be our response to those who have a very particular interpretation of their place in the world which includes a belief that they have the right to carry out acts of violence towards those that they disagree with, or to seize the gardens of others that they envy?
There are those who justify their acts with words from books.

Those acts include horrific, unimaginable acts: execution, torture, rape, infanticide, genocide, surgical strikes...

There are questions that I find hard to answer:
Am I prepared to fight? 
What am I prepared to fight for?
" ..."
In what ways am I prepared to fight? 
" ..."

“any radical pedagogy must insist that everyone’s presence is acknowledged” 
bell hooks

Image credits

Cartoon: David Pope

Friday, January 23, 2015


The morning after, kilometres further on, alone, she stopped to reflect.

Walking could never be enough, in the desert she had lost her bearings.

How many hours had it been?

She had lost all notion of time.

She closed her eyes to see better.

She felt the breeze, the sun beating down, she was elsewhere, far away.

She knew herself to be intensely alive.

In an instant his words made more sense. 

He had opened her eyes.

She was thankful.


Yesterday, I was walking around Freire, trying to breathe some life into a relationship with a distant voice captured in the lines of a paperback.

I had to blow the dust off it.

Today, after reading Keith Hamon's post, Connections, Flows, and Freire in #moocmooc  and returning to Freire, he (Freire that is),  appears to be more alive.

Keith underlines for me the connections of radical pedagogy with Dave Cormier's ideas around Rhizomatic Learning.

Keith emphasies the constant, dynamic, chaotic act of learning, of becoming.

He connects the distributed rhizomatic network with learning, with active community formation.

I quote Keith here talking of Freire,

"His words imply movement: knowledge emerges … restless, impatient continuing … human beings pursue. Inquiry is not passive, cannot be passive, but is active, moving, flowing. It reminds me of Deleuze and Guattari's flows of desire that drive all human activity—and I would say desire drives all natural activity."

Yes, our learning requires movement.

Freire needs no resurrection, but careful reading, walking, reflection, acting...

"Education is constantly remade in the praxis. In order to be it must become."

In dialogue with Pedagogy of the Oppressed through this act of writing, I am becoming aware of the friction, of the texture embedded in its language.

I make a mental note of the importance of this reflective writing for the students that I work with.

"The teacher-student and the student-teachers reflect simultaneously on themselves and the world without dichotomizing this reflection from action, and thus establish an authentic form of thought and action."

We must take our time, our time together; no deadlines for this post...

I am conscious of my breathing which is slowing, as I fashion this.

I am beginning to appreciate more and more the militant act of what Terry Elliott calls 'slow reading.'

How unlike traditional timetabled, unit managed, 'education'!

How ironic that they talk of linear on-line courses as 'learning paths'!

Not much scope for wandering off the one true path...



I am beginning to better appreciate how difficult it is for students who are constantly stuffed, who are constantly occupied.

Occupied seems to be the appropriate term.

'Education', if that is what we may call it, occupies as it colonises their time.

They show me their 'busy' time tables.

"I need to get a Master's degree. You need a Master's degree now..."


"The oppressed, having internalized the image of the oppressor and adopted his guidelines, are fearful of freedom."

How alive is that quote??

I hate how they speak about their 'post-education' - 'when I am in 'active life' they say.

How much time must they kill to be able to live actively?

How long will it be before they choose their 'professional occupation'?

I am convinced that we must strive to change that framing of education.

Who says it better than Dewey?

"Education is not a preparation for life, education is life itself."

Who emphasises our task as radical educators better than Freire?

"If the structure does not permit dialogue the structure must be changed."

  • I am beginning to list fellow teachers/fellow learners, with whom I can again engage in dialogue, locally...

I am reminded of a comment of Michael Lewis about English language teaching.

Teachers often conduct 'needs analyses' at the beginning of a course, 'the course', he said 'IS the needs analysis.' I like that formula, I heard so many years ago. I stick it here for future reference....


In my last post was asking myself about Critical Pedagogy in an era of online learning, of distributed networks..

I remember the work of Shyam Sharma, in particular his comments on the absurdity of MOOCx's which are conceived to educate the 'world'.

I make a note to reread, to spend more time with Maha's latest post on Hybrid Pedagogy entitled 'Embodying Openness as Digital Inclusive Praxis'.

"One cannot expect positive results from an educational or political action program which fails to respect the particular view of the world held by the people. Such a program constitutes cultural invasion, good intentions notwithstanding."

Yes, I think to myself, we cannot simply read and then talk Freire.

He leaves us, all of us, each one of us to do our walk/work.


There is no route, there is no Sat Nav, this is our walkabout.

It is our task to accompany and encourage students to embark on their own.

"The teacher is of course an artist, but being an artist does not mean that he or she can make the profiile, can shape the students. What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to become themselves."

Yes, I say to myself, blogging is, or at least has the potential to be more than careless talk...

I am reminded of Dave Cormier's post, 'Learning's first principle' in which he talks of the importance of caring.

Yes, that has resonance for me, I shall remix it: 'Teaching's first principle' is about caring.

I have decided that I am rather enjoying Hybrid Pedagogy's  #moocmooc.

These people care about learning.

refers to a rite of passage during which male Australian Aborigines would undergo a journey during adolescence and live in the wilderness for a period as long as six months.[1][not in citation given]
In this practice they would trace the paths, or "songlines", that their ancestors took, and imitate, in a fashion, their heroic deeds. Merriam-Webster, however, identifies the noun as a 1908 coinage referring to "a short period of wandering bush life engaged in by an Australian Aborigine as an occasional interruption of regular work", with the only mention of "spiritual journey" coming in a usage example from a latter-day travel writer.[2]
To white employers, this urge to depart without notice (and reappear just as suddenly) was seen as something inherent in the Aboriginal nature, but the reasons may be more mundane: workers who wanted or needed to attend a ceremony or visit relatives did not accept employers' control over such matters (especially since permission was generally hard to get).[3]

Image credits

Walkabout image.

Careless talk costs lives.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

On a human scale.

A mass of anonymous humans, they are standing together as one, what does it express?

What does it (such a mass) express objectively?

A mass, a mob, a crowd, a people, a class, a race, a religion, an army, a species?

Are they oppressors or oppressed?

Are they free, are they enslaved?

If I ask such questions it is that I have been rereading Freire today, "Pedagogy of the Oppressed."

If I am rereading Freire, it is because I accidently got drawn into a Twitter chat last night.

It was a Twitter chat for Hybrid Pedagogy's Critical Pedagogy course #moocmooc.

There was one tweet which caught my attention:

There is something about  some of the language in "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" which is raising questions for me.

I suspect that it is a result of my experiences during Dave Cormier's Rhizomatic Learning Course.

I suspect that it is related to deconstructions of identity, of authorship, of community, of knowledge.

I suspect it is related to learning in chaotically, distributed networks.

Pedagogy of freedom

As a language teacher, I have spent a number of years deconstructing classroom approaches to teaching English.  Freire's writing, I came across a few years ago and inspired an earlier post entitled 'Noman's land.'

I bought into (irony) Freire's pedagogical approach of teacher and student working together to analyse the failure of the system to enable students to develop their voices.

I bought (irony) into his analysis of traditional education's 'banking concept' (amongst other aspects) as being a means of maintaining an elite (oppressors) in power over the 'oppressed'.

On the other hand, there are some of his language that I am beginning to struggle with:

Pedagogy of the oppressed

A quotation from Freire;

"the more the oppressors control the oppressed, the more they change them into apparently inanimate 'things'. This tendency of the oppressor consciousness to 'in-animate' everything and everyone it encounters, in its eagerness to possess, unquestionably corresponds with a tendency to sadism."

I am far from sure that considering people as 'things', as 'objects' is specific to oppressors.

This is a question that I have already blogged about in 'Internet of things.'

Objects of oppression

Is language a means of freedom and/or a means of oppression?

I say 'I', is 'I' not object?

I say 'I', am 'I' colonised?

I see myself in a mirror, is 'I' not  become object?

I dream of myself flying. js 'I' not become object.

In writing this, am I not objectifying myself?

In following people on Twitter am I not objectifying them?

In participating on Twitter am I not objectifying discourse?

"For the oppressors, 'human beings' refers only to themselves; other people are things."

I see a crowd of people from afar alive or dead, how can I not see them as objects?

'I' return to Freire...

Ownership and oppression

"The earth, property, production, the creation of people, people themselves, time - everything is reduced to the status of objects at its disposal."

Here again, I am far from convinced that the idea  that "the earth, property, production, the creation of people..." being reduced to objects is necessarily specific to a relationship of oppression.

"In their unrestrained eagerness to possess, the oppressors develop the conviction that it is possible for them to transform everyting into objects of their purchasing power; hence their strictly materialistic concept of existence. Money is the measure of all things, and profit the primary goal."

I am far from convinced that a 'materialistic concept of existence' is specific to oppression.

Would a Massai's 'ownership' of cattle be considered as an indication of oppression?

Would a house communally built of dried earth, an object of possession,  be a 'reduction'?

Objects and bodies

"the objects which surround me are simply accessible to my consciousness, not located within it. I am aware of them, but they are not inside me."

I am not at all sure that objects which are 'accessible to my consciousness' or even those which are not 'accessible to my consciousness' , of which I am not aware, do not become part of my 'body' and thereby 'inside me'.

This refers me back to my reflection on embodiment of 'classroom ritual' of Nexus Analysis, mentioned in a previous post:

Indeed, for me the analysis and deconstruction of material and emotional space is a major part of becoming critical, of becoming free. This is a subject on which I have already written in a post entitled 'The Doll's house'.

Two is company three is a crowd.  

I return my attention to critical pedagogy and the relationship between teacher and student.

If we are really to work 'with' a learner as a learner/teacher in a new 'authentic' relationship, must such relationships be located in a local community?

I am asking myself the question of the pertinence of binary labels, of dichotomies between 'oppressors' and the 'oppressed' in a world understood as more and more complex and experienced increasingly from a personal and (perhaps potenially alienating) from a global perspective.

To what extent are the social, cultural, and economic 'systems' usefully viewed in simplistic terms of 'exploiters' and 'exploited'?

In a world in which learning may increasingly be experienced in distributed networks, with individuals from distant communities, to what extent will a physical teacher student relationship be able to work towards any significant form of freedom?

Is Twitter a space of liberation, or a space of virtual liberation and distant enslavement?

Freire is dead, we must resurrect him.

While rereading Freire, how can we draw from his ideas and adapt his teaching to our new circumstances?

I am struggling with fleeting thoughts, with fleeting impressions, which fell by accident, the day after an unplanned Twitter chat with a few friends last night...

I shall close with a few words of Freire's

"Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other."

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Saved from the bin.

My precious, my precious, my precious.

Post prologue.

It was lying in a drawer amongst the jumble of other posts. 

It was marked draft. 

I had just deleted two other insignificant (to my eyes) drafts. 

For reasons that remain to be seen, these rough notes remained. 

It was unfinished.

I cut out a bit about Blackpool Tower which had gone on to be another post. 

I cut out bits which made even less sense than the rest. 

It was a curiosity.

It was like an object which I pick up in a tip and put on the window sill.

I thought to myself, 

"Why don't I just publish it and let it fend for itself? Somebody might help me make some sense of it. They might help me remember what it was all about. If it was important enough to start writing about then, it's important enough to save the scraps from the tip now. It will save me time later..."

So here is what was left on the edge of the blog bin:

Property is theft
It suddenly came to me to write this post. 

I claim ownership. 
I claim authorship.

I am the owner, the lone author. 


It all started with a fork...


"A fork?" I hear you say.

Yes I have been hearing a lot about forks recently. 

Then there was a bunch of people going on about a forking Fedwikihappeningthingy affair.

Back references
[Mike Caulfield]

"A what?" 

Frankly I don't really have a clue about it.

I browsed a post of Alan Levine, then another of John Udell

I clicked around a bit, it looked complicated, I left it in a corner of my head with a large question mark. 

A large question mark?

As usual when I started writing, I didn't have a clue where I was being led.

A fork

Now where will this lead? 

A large question mark?

I read a tweet from my friend Kevin Hodgson.

We had been playing around remixing, rejigging and recording. 

I suddenly felt an urge to speak his words.

I first included words from a comment to the blog post Cub clothing, conjugation, correction and community.

Then I just concentrated on the text of the tweet.

I recorded a first version.

Then I recorded a second version.

Which version of which recording sparked Kevin to respond?

Linguistic Archaelogy.

She was my age. She spoke English like a film-star from the 1950's.

Her cultural references were virtually all Italian.

It was a strange experience.

I suppose she was speaking the language like I would have done if I had never had internet or satellite TV.

Kids Drawing

This post is losing me. I am feeling confused. It is like looking at a child's drawing.

There are identifiable elements but as a whole it doesn't seem to stick together.

I shall take a few steps back to reflect.

How do I react when I am confronted by old drawings of mine or of my children which pop up in a drawer?

What do they mean to me now?

Why do I decide to save the scraps?

What does it mean to finish a drawing?

A few steps back.

I was once asked, "How old are you?"

I replied, "I am 52 and all the ages before."

I throw a few numbers down on the page to give myself some semblance of order.

1) Attribution and Tagging

Attribution and tagging of media elements appears here to be less about giving people recognition for individual creation than giving individuals or individual groups the possibility to identify, repurpose, reinvent, new combinations of elements.

2) Authorship. Ownership.

Why did I write this?

Did I write this?

If I hear Kevin's voice in a tweet and then record it with my voice, who does the voice belong to?

Does belonging count?

3) Confusing diversity

Is this a blog post? Is this a tweet? Is this a podcast?

Does it matter?

Will it make any sense?

Does it matter?

Post Script

Maybe this will prevent me deleting drafts?
When is a draft not a draft?

Image credits:


Kids drawing

Question mark


Monday, January 19, 2015

Shredding tears...

Nothing seemed to matter any more.

There was no light, there was not a glimmer of hope, there was no way out.

Confronted by the enormity of the events, he flailed around for a hold, a resting place, a ledge.

Nothing seemed to offer any respite from the prevailing gloom, from the pain.

Shredding tears...

He picked up a piece of paper.

He looked at its surface.

He took a pen.

He dragged out a line.

"In whose name?"

He looked at it.

There was no answer.

Nothing else followed.

He rewrote the line.

"In whose name?"

There was no answer.

Nothing else followed.


No, he couldn't even remember that bloody verb.

He tossed it into the bin.

He looked down at the bin.

It was full.

None of it made any sense.

He put down the pen.

Wrinkles and scars.

He looked down at his hands.

He studied the wrinkles.

He followed the scar on the palm of his left hand with his index finger.

Nobody could take away that scar.

Nobody would notice that scar.

Nobody would understand the intimacy of that scar.

What does it all mean?

Suddenly he noticed her.

He looked up to meet her eyes.

She spoke.

"I just wanted to say..."  

"Please don't change..."

It wasn't really very much.

It was undeniably cryptic.

Even if she was the only one...

It was enough.

He could go on in that knowledge.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Be careful what you wish for...

It did come as a bit of surprise, but as the saying goes "Miracles do happen".

We witnessed today, the first inkling of a new era, the awakening of "Education Nirvana."

This morning at 10:00 am Greenwich Meantime, the ministers of education of all the countries around the world resigned.

"Hurrah!" I hear you say.

When asked for an explanation for their decision, a spokesman for the outgoing ministers said, and I quote:

"We've realised over the past few hours, that we really haven't got a clue what on earth we are playing at, so we have decided as a group to abandon all pretence at leading policy for world education."

This statement was greeted by a stunned silence by a congregation of education hacks who suddenly were at a loss for questions.

"There is one more thing," the ministers' spokesman added.

"We have over the past few hours found the person who will be replacing us all as world minister for education."

I know that you are going to be interested to know the name of the person.

"He is a Mr Dave Cormier, latterly of Prince Edward Island, in Canada."

"Who?" I hear you say.

Well he is a leading proponent of what will now become official world education policy.

It is an approach which goes by the rather dinky name of...(I have to check my spelling here)

"Rhizomatic learning, or rhizomatic education."

Mr Cormier, it appears, will be giving us a detailed report as to how he intends now to implement this radical educational approach in all educational establishments on and offline around the world starting in 2015.

Teachers, surprised as any of us, are looking forward to working with the new minister for World Education, but with their years of experience of previous ministers are understandably sceptical and a little nervous.

Who wouldn't be?

That just goes to show...

The world is really a mad, mad, mad, and wholly uncertain place..

Never more so than in 2015...

(This is not true, sorry Dave)

Monday, January 5, 2015

The amusing 'problem' of education.

I've just been reading Dave Cormier's post 'Trying to solve the problem of education in 2015' 

There was much too much in it to respond with a short comment.

Indeed, I shall no doubt have to go back and reread it a number of times...

So here is an initial rambling response for me to reread...

I am fairly convinced that there is not, and there has never been 'a problem' of education.  Dave does suggest that is 'a complex problem' here. I agree.

Education...a mish mash

Education and therefore problems (depending on one's view point as to what constitutes education or problems) is a multiple, diverse and complex mish-mash (nexus) of often conflicting discourses.

'Education is a set of social systems developed to encourage learning at scale.' 

Education, viewed from one perspective, is about elites establishing and maintaining social, cultural and economic hegemony, from another perspective it is a business opportunity, a market for selling technology, seen  from another perspective it might be viewed as a question of architecture, seen from another perspective it might be viewed as a leisure might go on.

It strikes me that simplifying 'education' to a question of 'learners' 'learning' masks more than it reveals.

The problem(s) of education(s) in the 19th Century (England)

From a historical perspective, the growth of compulsory education reflected a changing economic landscape and a growing middle class.

So we are not talking about any old learning - we are talking about learning for operating in a specific environment.

General education emphasised teaching or instruction, of distribution of knowledge.

Physical education and team sport emphasised the importance of moulding a fighting force.

Moral education emphasised a religious agenda.

We would need to differentiate how education was conducted for different classes, different regions.

In the 1850's the children of Manchester cotton spinners would have had little real use for learning the classics, its central place on the syllabus expressed more about aspirations to become part of a culturally recognisable elite.

"'Upper middle-classness' came to be more a matter of educational standards and social manners than of family connections...The comradeship of the 'old-school' tie." (Weinberg, 1967)

A quote from 1904 illustrates this:

"The actual education of the boy, the development of his brain power, of his mental faculties, is the last thing the parent has in mind. The training of the boy's character is what he is looking to."

Sporting prowess was for many years seen as much more important in many elite schools than nerdy academic studies. Education here was about learning to be a 'gentleman'.

Basic general education was of use to all in an industrialising economy:

the ability to read, the ability to count, the ability to follow instructions or give instructions.

I would imagine that the most important of all of these would be 'following instructions'.

Rote learning, or memorisation enabled the individual not just to mug up facts, and equations but enabled him to become one of a body of men.

What constitutes learning has been diversified according to the needs of elites.

The education offered in a British elite public school (private school) would bear little ressemblance to what was offered in a school for training kids to be a mechanic.

If we consider Dave's definition of learning 'that mysterious thing that all living things seems to do in adapting to their environment,' education therefore would be more about creating an environment in which kids were to adapt.

We learn to operate in a social environment.

For anyone wanting to teach everybody a foreign language, like Dave's Johann wanting to teach all the Swiss to read, it is very difficult to implant new languages or practices which seem alien to the 'learners.'

Indeed, learning which was social/economically inappropriate may have been/be/would be of little use to the individual however engaged the learner might be...

I ask myself the question of 'knowledge' and the colonisation of folk 'knowledge' by an academic elite...

If an Amazonian tribe have the means to cure certain illnesses with plants, the value of this 'knowledge' requires a sponsor to exploit it in an academic journal, which of course the Amazonian tribe does not have. The same goes for folk tales or music exploited by 'composers' (remixers) and 'authors' who were able to distribute 'their' works to a wealthy audience.

The Film Educating Rita illustrates (amongst other things) the conflict experienced by the individual who finds themselves not in their place.

Elite education or general education in the nineteenth century might be contrasted with non-conformist, cooperative or Quaker movements which encouraged learning and reflection as part of their mission.

Evening classes for the workers, were alternative means for individuals to learn skills which might enable them to progress upwardly socially. With industrialisation came a more diverse range of possibilities.

Education viewed from this perspective was less about teaching and more about learning. Here were upwardly mobile competing groups for new opportunities.

The 'problem(s) of education in 2015'

When I hear 'it is generally accepted that we need to be raising a generation of life-long learners', I fear that what we may be saying is that we need to have a generation who will have to accept geographic mobility, instability, constant retraining, for ever diminishing returns.

If globalisation and a digital economy in 'developed countries' entails more outsourcing of production, centralisation of control, massive concentration of capital, reduction of public services, reduction of value of professions, then what will be the value of 'life-long' learning?

One major advantage for some of 'life-long learning' might be 'life-long testing'...

If we are talking about the most economical way of testing - then surely we are talking about standardised testing?

'Caring about learning' can be seen as caring because I love doing something or caring because I need to do something to make a living.

People are more likely to care about 'learning' or anything else if it enables them to achieve what for them are primary objectives (generally, initially at least, financial).

A major challenge for reforming educators is to show that education is no longer simply about preparing people to be fit for jobs or social classes but is also about creating new activities and new sources of wealth or well-being.

Or maybe we need to see it more  from a non-conformist, Illichesque learning web perspective?

Dave asks how do we 'teach learning'?

Well I have the impression that we are beginning to see small steps in that direction.  I hear now of courses in 'creativity', in multiple digital literacies...

I am not sure that I go along with the 'inevitability' of bureaucratisation of 'new means of enabling learning', of education?..

It seems to me again, that we are in the realms here, of non-conformist, reading groups outside of existing elites which grow up from the base...(still problems of finance...?)

I have a feeling that the rhizome is model for competing knowledge creation communities.

I suspect that it might enable us to better understand the complexity of the mish-mash of discourses which are underpinning apparently fixed systems.

I am far from sure that you can or that should attempt to 'roll out rhizomatic education' anymore than you can or should attempt to roll out non-conformism...

I am fairly sure that rolling out 'uncertainty of knowing' rather than 'knowledge' is a hard sell...(unless you can show positive after-effects).

I am fairly convinced that the rhizomatic learning that I experienced with 'rhizo14' revealed the same powerful discourses which underpin higher education: research agendas, academic discourses, senior life-long there were intertwining and competing communities...

I think 'rhizomatic learning' is NOT how I think of education, it might be a model for the complexity of society, it might be a model of knowledge development.

One might replace 'school' with 'internet' and remix Illich:

the internet 'is the advertising agency which makes you believe that you need the society as it is.'

If this is the case, is the society we are being sold one in which life-long learning is rather like life-long pornography or life-long football, about amusing ourselves to death (Postman)?

Is the problem today of education, spending our time asking ourselves what the problem of education is?

Are we learning to ask ever more unanswerable, unGoogleable questions, while trapped into seeing simple exploitation as complex?

Are we forever publicly challenging intellectually a system but never actually doing anything to change it?

Ultimately with the complexity of the systems in which we are entangled, perhaps the only sensible response possible is to stop caring...(too much)?

Friday, January 2, 2015

A child's sighs.

Brownish greyish Irish sea, empty beach, deserted pier, assorted amusement arcades, John Lewis's department store...

Mrs Scottner's 360° view from her house at the top of Blackpool Tower is exceptional if somewhat mundane.

Despite the undoubted inconveniences: high heating bills, lack of garden, mass of tourists in high season, the long lift-ride to pick up the milk and the Blackpool Herald, Mrs Scottner would never imagine living elsewhere.

Mrs Scottner and Blackpool Tower go together like cheese and crackers, cockles and mussels.

Don't try to Google her.

You will most probably not get any hits.

Invisible to anyone who might search for her, Mrs Scottner has now been Blackpool Tower's sole resident for the past forty seven years or so.

Mrs Scottner has been extraordinarily resilient...

A child's eyes. 

I can still remember the early designs for her house.

I could probably still rebuild her house with the same Lego bricks that I used when I was a child of five.

I remember pretty much the assembly of the framework, the windows and the flat roof.

If I think back, I can still remember that Mrs Scottner and I had long conversations.

"Who are you speaking with Simon?"

"I am speaking with Mrs Scottner."

"Who is Mrs Scottner?"

A child of five sighs. 

"She's the lady that lives at the top of Blackpool Tower."

"But nobody lives at the top of Blackpool Tower."

A child of five sighs.

Adults are so literal.

I was reading an adult article yesterday.

It was entitled : 2014: The Death of the Postmodern Novel and the Rise of Autofiction.

As I was reading, a few lines caught my attention. They were written by Ben Lerner in an interview in The Believer,

"My concern is how we live fictions, how fictions have real effects, become facts in that sense, and how our experience of the world changes depending on its arrangement into one narrative or another."

A little further on Jonathan Sturgeon, the article's author writes:

"All of these novels point to a new future wherein the self is considered a living thing composed of fictions. Although critics will endlessly retread tired discussions concerning fiction vs. reality (and therefore the exhausted conversation about “realism”), that isn’t really what’s at stake here. What’s happening is that new novels — like the abovementioned 10:04The Wallcreeper, and My Struggle — are redistributing the relation between the self and fiction. Fiction is no longer seen as “false” or “lies” or “make-believe.” Instead it is more like Kenneth Burke’s definition of literature as “equipment for living.” Fiction includes the narratives we tell ourselves, and the stories we’re told, on the path between birth and death."

Is Mrs Scottner less real than I?

It has been a long time that I have known her.

I am struggling to hear her voice now.

Give me a little time...

Image credits:

Blackpool Tower at Top facing Pleasure Beach
View of Central pier from the Top of Blackpool Tower
© Copyright Eddie Reed and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence