Friday, February 27, 2015

Distance learning.

'Distance learning' a term which makes me think...

A term which is often used to talk about increasing education opportunities, or more cynically and, no doubt simultaneously, increasing profit opportunities in education for distant capital.

Is 'distance learning' a nonsense? Can we really learn 'at a distance'?

Do we learn in order to distance ourselves?

Does distance between us mean learning with others viewed only as abstract objects, as avatars?

Does historical distance between us and our ancestors disconnect us to the contexts of our present?

If I ask these questions, it is because I watched a film on the flight from New York to London, as I sipped a sickeningly sweet Pepsi.

The film, it has to be said was as harrowing as it was compulsive viewing. I couldn't take my eyes off it. There was one character played by Benedict Cumberbatch (him of Sherlock fame) that I suppose, I uncomfortably felt compelled to identify with.

He was a nice man...

Compulsion, subjection, bondage, these are terms which are troubling me these days.

12 years a slave transports us into a not so distant reality. I implore you to watch it.

As I have been participating on and off with Hybrid Pedagogy's #Moocmooc online course on critical pedagogy, over the past few weeks, the subject of slavery has been framed anew.

I tweeted a photo of a child sitting on a dump of digital waste. I annotated the photo with a question.

I am sitting here typing comfortably on my laptop, having earnest conversation with my fellow critical educators around the globe via Twitter, Facebook, via this blog.

I confess that I am ignorant.  I am ignorant of the deal that I have struck with my fellow learners.

I imagine that there are unknown people unknowingly involved in the creation of this post.

I imagine they never will read it.

They will probably not find the time for something so futile.

They will be no doubt otherwise occupied.

I know nothing of the lives of the people who put this machine together
I know nothing of the people who will deal with its remains.

Do I really care?
Can I really care?

Would I be Benedict Cumberbatch?

He was a nice man...

As I said, this question is troubling me.

How far do we care?
How far can we care?
How far does my responsibility stretch?
What is the place of critical pedagogy in a globalised economy?
What is the place of critical pedagogy in a digitally connected world?

Does my local critical pedagogy deny the rights of others in distant parts to learn?

I remember when I lived in Manchester visiting the cotton mills, going to the Liverpool docks.

I admired the solid Victorian edifices.

I remember now a discussion I had with a student who came from the West Indies. We spoke about genealogy. I love history. We compared family trees. While my great grandparents were propping up the British Empire, his great grandparents were propping up the French colonies.  Many stories converge when we do a little research.

I have just read an article from the New Statesman, its title and a link to it are presented below:

Much of Britain's wealth is built on slavery. 

So why shouldn't it pay reparations?

There is a quote from the article that I shall place here:

"Plantation slavery may no longer be with us in the same form but its founding principle has never really gone away – take as much as you can from the labour of the many and concentrate land and wealth among the few. A debate about reparations – and redressing historical injustice – can help us ask the question more starkly: for all the pious talk about “addressing inequality”, can capitalism really move so far from its beginnings as to be inherently fair? How can a system which won’t acknowledge its origins become “responsible” capitalism?"

Interesting to note that a number of major British banks: Barclays, HSBC built their fortunes on the slave trade...

Learning about that would bring a new twist to the banking concept in education.

I never learnt much about slavery at school, interestingly my student from the West Indies didn't either.

It is interesting how far school history strays from the questions which count.

I suppose we should let the bankers do the counting for us.

Maybe much learning at school is a form of distance learning?

“Looking at the past must only be a means of understanding more clearly what and who they are so that they can more wisely build the future.” 

― Paulo FreirePedagogy of the Oppressed

Thursday, February 26, 2015


'Submission' was the word which came to my mind on reading Frances Bell's and Jenny Mackness's article on Rhizo 14 entitled "Rhizo14: A Rhizomatic Learning cMOOC in Sunlight and Shade."

It is not as if I am unfamiliar with academic writing, I have myself been known to dabble in it. It is just when talking about "Rhizo 14" it seemed to me a strangely incongruous lense.  I can not speak for anybody else.

Even before reading the article, I was mesmerised by the format of the artefact: the tidy text, the journal referencing, the journal logo, the scientific enrobing of the reflection, the distancing language used, the authors' names at the top of the page with their titles in italics, the lack of animations, movement, sound...

Objective reached: objectivity it conjured.

It reminded me of seeing fellow scruffy students trussed up in academic robes for graduation day holding a scroll for the photos.

All those mis-spent hours swigging bottled German lager in a Manchester pub and scoffing pork-scratching. Such life was with one fell click wiped from the record.

No, there is no doubt about it, this was an 'official face' of Rhizo 14.

The semiotics shrieked authority.

We can be serious now.

Submission, I thought, bondage, I imagined, an expression of power, I noted.

I thought of my own feelings concerning academic writing.

I remembered the time spent attempting to fit my reflection to a journal's requirements.

I thought of ticking boxes:

Times Roman ? done
Number of words? counted
References? checked.
Deadline? noted

I paused for a moment.

I went off to New York, I came back.

I definitely want to write about this.

I think back to Rhizo 14, to what extent could such an object illustrate my personal experience, I wondered?

[Of course, I know, I am being silly, that is not its point. I am subsumed in the data.]

I have decided that the answer to this question, as far as I am concerned,  is that it can not.

I look back at blog posts that I have written over the past year, many have been concerned with the question of framing life.

I have struggled with kaleidoscopic complexity, chaos, fragmentation of identity, the limits of language.

How might we fairly represent the messiness of learning?

In whose interests do we reduce such mess into order?

I remember looking up at distant galaxies in a planetarium in New York.

There are words of the commentary which struck a chord for me.

"Wherever you may be in the universe, you will have the impression that you are at the centre of it."

I think of the process of research of dealing with qualitative data.

I think of our determination to seek for legible patterns, to find our bearings in this mess.

I think of our imagined communities, our imagined membership to social groups.

We call out in the wilderness:

"Please give me a sign." "Please give me a form, a place, in a scheme of things."

I return to reading the article.

"We compare the surface view of the MOOC that has been presented in a range of open blog posts and articles with the view from beneath the surface that we have found in data we have collected (some anonymously)"

I wonder what might be my 'surface view' and my 'beneath the surface view' of Rhizo 14.

Of course, being me, I have the impression that I am at the centre of my universe.

I wonder how useful an outside view of my behaviour in and around Rhizo 14 would be to me and my learning?

I hesitate a moment.

In whose interests do we reduce this mess to order?

I return to reading the article.

"Our analysis reveals a positive, even transformative, experience for many participants on the one hand, but some more negative experiences and outcomes for other participants."

I would suspect  that a mixture of positive and negative experiences is par for the course of life.

I return to reading the article.

We are presented with two sides of participant experiences, we have conveniently, 'a dark' and 'a light side' of Rhizo 14:

"There were plenty of learning moments and evidence of joy and creativity, but we also experienced and observed some tensions, clashes and painful interactions, where participants seemed to expect different things from the course and were sometimes disappointed by the actions and behaviours of other participants."

On reading this, it appears that the positive and negative our equally weighted, until we look at the space given to the negative experiences in the quote:

"There were plenty of learning moments and evidence of joy and creativity, but we also experienced and observed some tensions, clashes and painful interactions, where participants seemed to expect different things from the course and were sometimes disappointed by the actions and behaviours of other participants."

Does the above text represent the time spent by participants in joyful creation and the time spent in painful interaction?

Does the text represent the level of pain and tension which resulted from joyful creation?

Pff, whatever, this is being 'objective'. I am being subjective.

I have no answers.

I return to reading the article.

"We therefore initiated a carefully thought through but emergent research process and collected data that, though limited to participants we could find and engage, shows a more complex picture of Rhizo14 than the view presented publicly to date." 

I am not at all sure that 'scientific article' format illustrates the nature of complexity adequately, certainly not mine.

I have presented my view publicly over a series of blog posts of which this is one.

A phrase from the article containing the terms: "dominant and alternative views" stops me in my tracks, my curiosity is aroused.

What views are labelled 'dominant' and what views are labelled 'alternative'?

I bate my breath.

I return to reading the article.

I learn that Dave Cormier in setting up 'pedagogical experimentation' is experimenting on me.

This idea sends shivers down my spine...

"begin to consider the ethical implications of experimenting on MOOC learners"

OMG! Dave Cormier 'experimenting' on me? I find this mildly hilarious.

I return to reading the article.

 "We acknowledge the danger of reduced objectivity and have taken measures to counteract it." 

Hmm, I am suddenly overrun by images of dangerous temptation and painful flagellation, 'Get thee back Satan.'

Maybe we should be looking to 'enhance subjectivity' I write, not really knowing what that might mean.

I shall look at it later.

I return to reading the article.

I am struck by colour.

I am struck by the use of the word 'organic'.

I suddenly have images of a corpse on an African savannah. There is a whole series of creatures involved in this ecosystem moment: hunters, carrion birds, hyenas, bacteria, BBC wildlife cameramen, David Attenborough.

I suppose this is how I feel about Rhizo 14, there is a swirling, mutating complexity of interaction, of creatures operating at different levels, looking for different things in their ecological niche.

I suddenly feel like I am looking at myself, my action here through the eyes of another species.

“It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.” 

― David Attenborough

Suddenly, I find myself quoting a BBC naturalist.  

I think of dominant species, big cats ripping the flesh off antelopes. 

Are they aware of their savagery?

I return to reading the article.

"Given that many MOOCs, particularly cMOOCs, could be regarded as pedagogical experiments, i.e. trying out new approaches on participants, then ethical behaviours in relation to teaching and learning within MOOCs and consideration of ethics in MOOC related research must be part of a rigorous methodological and theoretical approach. With academic freedom comes responsibility (Marshall, 2014). This responsibility relates to both the collection of data from learners (Prinsloo & Slade, 2014) and the tension between innovation/ experimentation and a basic teaching and research principle of “do no harm.” The vulnerability of learners must be recognized by both teachers and researchers (Markham & Buchanan, 2012; Barnett, 2007)." 

Hmm, does nature require a 'rigorous methodological and theoretical approach'?

Do lions bother themselves with ethics?

In whose interests do we reduce this mess to order?

I am intrigued at my vulnerability as a learner.

Who are learners? Who are teachers? Who are researchers? Who are writers? Who am I?

Do lions bother themselves with ethics?

I return to reading the article.

"With respect to learner experiences, Gašević et al. (2014) have highlighted the importance of socialisation in MOOCs."

I am reassured. Maybe we can admit to the pork-scratchings with 'academic freedom'.

"course facilitators should design courses that support a diversity of learners"

Well, you never know who may turn up on the savannah.

A diversity of learners may well lead to tensions and antelope ripping.

I am beginning to think that 'The community as curriculum' is a hopeless simplification of rhizomatic learning.

It is a mess with lions, hyenas, bacteria, and all  and sundry running around in an open ecosystem.

I exaggerate here to make a point.

I return to reading the article.

"Downes (2007) was clear about the difference between groups and networks and why the principles of connectivism were the principles of learning in networks. More recently, in a comment on Tony Bates’ blog, Stephen Downes has written: “the two play different roles: the communities embed knowledge and standardize practice, while the MOOCs disrupt existing patterns of thinking and introduce people to new connections and new ideas” 

I have the impression here that we are at the nub of the tension found in Rhizo 14, emerging communities, confronting pre-existing communities, with open networked disruption to existing patterns of thinking.

I shall think more about that. Whose community do I belong in?

Don't answer that.

Differing species look for different attractors and group in different ways at different times.

I suspect that the fixed format of graphic representation of 'community' grouping does not illustrate the complex dynamic movement of individuals within a ever moving social universe.

I make a note here of the importance to find a dynamic way to illustrate this.

I have the impression that it is rather like looking at stuffed animals or standing on the savannah with David Attenborough.

"If MOOCs are thought of as communities, how do educators position themselves in these learning environments?"

No, I react against this.

MOOCs may but most probably should not be thought of as 'communities' and certainly not as a single 'community.'

"But Ross et al. (2014) point out that what it means to teach and learn is as much a mystery as it ever was, never mind in a MOOC and measuring success in a MOOC remains an elusive endeavour. “There is more complexity and variation in the notion of the teacher than MOOC debates and literature have yet engaged with” 

This is interesting. Isn't this just the problem of dominant views of conducting research into 'learning'?  Can the 'literature' hope to reflect the complexity? Is that its role? Or is the literature there to stuff the learning?

In whose interests do we reduce this mess to order?

I reflect on Rhizo 14.

I consider myself fortunate to have accepted an invitation to converse about the nature of learning and knowledge.

I fail to see how much soul searching anyone should do when they set out to:

 “invite a bunch of people to a conversation about my work to see if they could help me make it better” 

I have been to many parties which turned out to be pretty boring but I wouldn't suggest that the party-convenor was responsible.

I am absolutely convinced that Dave Cormier's invitation was only seen by and very small number of people who chose to turn up.

Some stayed around, some danced, some had deep meaningful conversations into the early hours, some were interested in doing studies on the party, others buzzed off to other priorities after a quick drink.

Some got into arguments about dress-code...

I shall remember to think of writing about some Manchester student parties.

It will be entitled 'Student parties: In Sunlight and Shade."  (sorry this is in jest, please forgive me)

I return to the article.

"The Rhizo14 MOOC was an experiment, an experiment which for some participants was very successful."

No it wasn't.

It was a bunch of people who were invited to a party to converse about Rhizomatic Learning.

"It was innovative and challenged hierarchical and traditional ways of teaching and learning."

No it wasn't.

It was a bunch of interesting people who got together, enriched my life and my conversation and enabled me to learn absolutely naturally, like how I do all the time...even at parties.

"There is a pedagogy of risk associated with treating teaching as an experiment."


Having a conversation with a bunch of people is hardly a 'pedagogy of risk' or 'teaching as an experiment."

It's a.... conversation.

I am reassured that researchers, on my behalf, will be investigating further this 'pedagogy of risk'.


I am only too aware of the peril that I have run over the past year in accepting an invitation to a... conversation.

"At this stage in our research, we can identify that adult learners, already immersed in formal education systems, can benefit from “doing” Rhizomatic Learning, forming community, and creating curriculum in a community setting."

At this stage in my reflection, I can identify that people are interested in different stuff, those immersed in formal education systems may well benefit from learning freely in the company of others that they may identify with, those feeling themselves labby-rats can benefit from doing research for themselves and sharing evidence of the complexity of their learning with others different from them in the form and format that seems appropriate to them.

Their voices, however will probably sadly not be heard by those who concentrate exclusively on   submissions to  academic journals.

I shall defend my singularity.

Read a year's production of blogs here should you dare.

I can speak for noone else.

I am not sure if I be man or beast.

I am surely not an antelope.

Thank you Dave Cormier.

Thank you Frances Bell.

Thank you Jenny Mackness.

I enjoy your company.

Thank you all.

You make for a great party.

A pork-scratching anyone?

Sorry for being a bit scruffy, I hate formal wear.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

hope remains...

It's hardly alive.

It flickers in the darkness.

It is hope.

It is foreboding.

It is all...

Damn it all!

even ashen, I shall write by this light.

We are hardly alive.

We are monstrous.

We are beauty.

We are all...

Damn it all!

even ashen, I shall write by this light.

You are all...

Damn you!

A whisp of smoke rises.

A feeble glow remains.

It remains only in our eyes.

It glows in the darkness.

It is hardly dead.

Remember this now.

even ashen, you may write by this light.

This is hope.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Pace maker?

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.” 

Watching a Twitter chat.

A question came to me: Is freedom negotiable?

A few lines spun out of my control, I put them here for future reference.

Read, read, read.




Spin, span, spun.




Run, ran, run.

Re Volte Face rising.

Stop, top spinning.

Stop, top spinning.

Stop top spinning.

Assault and Battery.

Ambivalent Silence.

Freedom found?


1. (Film) films television a mask used to blank out part of an image so that another image can be superimposed
2. (Broadcasting) films television a mask used to blank out part of an image so that another image can be superimposed

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

In a cage?

I noticed this tweet.

It made me think.

  • Is being an anarchist pedagogue enabling learners to recognise the bars of the cage?
  • Is being an anarchist pedagogue enabling learners to find the doors out of the cage?
  • Is being an anarchist pedagogue enabling learners to build an explosive device to destroy the cage?
  • Is being an anarchist pedagogue enabling learners to ignore the bars of the cage and talk about other stuff?
  • Is being an anarchist pedagogue enabling learners to design their own alternative cage?
  • Is being an anarchist pedagogue enabling learners to imagine that cages are unnecessary?
  • Is being an anarchist pedagogue resigning from all attempts at pedagogy and walking out of the cage?

Then I started to wonder.

  • Is the cage a country?
  • Is the cage an institution?
  • Is the cage a community?
  • Is the cage a culture?
  • Is the cage a narrative?
  • Is the cage a body?

I am sorry, I have more questions than answers.

I have been watching the #moocmooc hangout, people were popping up and down, in and out in their screened boxes.

I enjoyed it.

They seemed to be having fun.

Some of them didn't turn up.

Some of them were not on time.

Somebody couldn't make it to the hangout.

I was left with the thought that community is hard work.

I was left with the sound of a song.

It authentically popped up here.

My body is a cage.

No body is perfect?

I have been hopping from post to post.
I apologise for this post. I have no idea what its point is. I shall think it over while I hop...

Throw me some seed if you will.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Divine intervention?

"Dear God, who art in heaven, please show me a sign that you exist."

I believe that we are all in for a fall.

I believe that all will end one day.

I was taught to pray very young.
I went to church very young.
I was sent to Sunday School very young.

I was born to be a believer.

I am not.

As a child, I was variously accused of being
  • an 'unbeliever'
  • 'ungracious'
  • 'possessed'

I was left with the impression that I must live on a different planet.

Unfortunately, I have to face facts, we appear to live on the same planet.

I am fortunate that I was able to maintain contact with people who did believe.

I am curious.

It takes all sorts...

I remember a friend of mine who feared to unbelieve as he had been warned that he would be cut off from his family.

That is power for you.

I am not a believer in religion or God or gods.

I admit that talk of

"Divine authority."

makes me very anxious.

"Divine authority" is a short step to "Divine right.'

That is power for you.

Varying interpretations of  "Divine authority" have been used in justifications for all sorts of discrimination, injustice, persecution, massacre.

I don't believe in discrimination, injustice, persecution or massacre.

I believe that people's experience of what they term 'spirituality'  has been constantly hijacked by organised religions which serve the interests of those in power.

Theological discussions are those of communities engaged in a struggle for power.

I believe that it is impossible to separate religion from prevailing forces of authority.

I went to an anarchist meeting once.

I was attracted to anarchy.

I was left with the memory of anarchists struggling for power.

That is power for you.

I am not an anarchist.

I am not sure what I am.

I am not sure that I care.

I don't have many illusions.

I don't have many disillusions.

I believe that people who believe that they know something more than the rest of us are potentially dangerous for the rest of us.

I believe that I know very little.

I do believe that people can learn to behave better to each other.

I believe that education can help.

I don't believe in miracles.

"Maybe God inspired me to write this?"

 Apparently, he/she/it/they works in mysterious ways.

I don't believe that.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Massive attracts...

I always remember seeing the Cerne Giant for the first time.

I can't have been older than 12 years old.

My parents took me to see it while on a caravan holiday in the South West.

"So, there it is, " my father called back to us kids on the back seat, behind.

"Er...." (embarassed silence)

"The er....Cerne Giant...." (coughing)

However hard you look at it, there is one feature which is too big to be ignored.

I am not of course talking about the giant's impressive baseball bat.

It is a remarkable thought that this ancient (though impossible to date accurately beyond the 17th century) turf-cut figure represents the American national sport so early on in Dorset.

Further research no doubt will be necessary.

If I am talking of a giant, it is because I had this blog title: "Massive attracts" hanging out impertinently from my Evernote 'blog title' list for future use.

No time like the present say I!

I am less afraid of exhibitionism since participating in Dave Cormier's Rhizomatic Learning Course.

That is obvious if you peek  at the promiscuous output of my blogging since 2014.

"Go on! I dare you!" say I cheekily.

"Put it away!" I hear you say, unimpressed.

I am afraid it is too late now.

I am being massively OPEN.

I am an educational naturist.

This is a full frontal confession.

So here is another confession:

I confess I have always been suspicious of the term: MASSIVE as used in MOOC's. I feel that it has attracted the wrong sort of attention.

I know that Dave Cormier termed it MASSIVE as a term to stress how MASSIVELY OPEN the first relatively confidential CONNECTIVIST (suspicious of that term) courses were....

It all sounds like a free-sex throwback to Woodstock. (but that would be in Oxfordshire...Er hum).

I shall forgive Dave Cormier for his annoying acronym.

He is a fine figure of an educator, for whom I have the utmost (coughs) respect.

While I am participating in Hybrid Pedagogy's #moocmooc, I just would like to distance myself from the idea that I might be attracted to it for the wrong reasons.

I have joyfully participated on and off now in four or MOOCS.


There is no doubt that the abundance of like-or even un-like minds is attractive.

I have to admit that I am most interested in the intimacy enabled by these MOOCS.

I have met a small group of fellow travellers.

I have been hustled and bustled in Twitter chats.
I have been wowed by fertile blog flows on giant blog hubs. (Awesome)

Frankly, I prefer an intimate picnic to a flashmob, a small market stall to the impersonality of a crowded shopping mall, a local bonfire to the MASSIVE municipal blaze-up for Guy Fawkes' night.

I am very happy to have come to MOOCs, or at least these sorts of MOOCs.

I can talk about them without embarrassment around the massive X (avert your gaze now).

I do think that there is a continuing obsession with SIZE as witnessed in LOG IN statistics.

We shall forgive Dave and crew for this.

We shall avert our eyes...

If you ever go to Cerne Abbas, you can think of me.

This nonsense will never attract a maddening crowd to Thomas Hardy's land.

I can sleep safely, my confidential readers.

There is nothing like being in the company of a few select friends and listening to the sound of sheep bleating on the Dorset hills.


Google: "Did you mean: seduce?"

Aren't stock photo people seductive, or hilarious, according to your point of view? 

They look gorgeous in this blog post: all sparky, well-scrubbed and showing amazing synchronicity in their photogenic grin.  

They look exactly like the students I teach. Sorry, that is not true. It is a lie. The students I have, ask me to keep the lights off in the morning so that I don't wake them up for the first hour.

I am grateful to Alec Couros's humorous use of stock photo people for this inspiration.

I've just opened Henry Giroux's "On Critical Pedagogy" as part of my irregular participation with Hybrid Pedagogy's #moocmooc on critical pedagogy.  I only got as far 'Empl 84 sur 4317' and I am already off and blogging. 

I was thinking about how my pedagogy has changed over the years. 

A recent 'training session' with an EFL teacher reminded me of what used to appear to me as normal. 

It is also illustrated for me how far away from that pedagogical transaction I find myself today.

In the 'training session' we were kept constantly in a state of 'good humour', 'bonhommie', constantly active and totally dependent on the educational magicican's bag of tricks. It was an agreeable moment and a break from routine reality. I enjoyed turning off. 

At the end of the day-long session, I went away with a few sample tricks, and a confirmation that this was not what I wanted any more from my own teaching.  It felt to me a bit like a day out at Blackpool where I remember being wowed by a gyroscope which was being presented by a magician/salesman. It reminded me of some educational exhibition stands...

Thinking again about the training session, I am sure that the pedagogy chosen was not any fault of the teacher, au contraire, I have a lot of respect for his competence and his humanity. It is just that we don't do the same job any more.  

When you have a week, or a short course of evening classes in a language school to sell, you concentrate on enabling the learners to feel good, to gain a bit of confidence to make mistakes, to learn one or two things about the grammar, to listen to a bit of English, and to go away in a positive frame of mind about their new found classmates, the school.  

It is a commercial transaction which is no doubt a big improvement on many school language classrooms where students are made to feel uncomfortable, are scared to appear ridiculous, and who learn not very much about the mass of grammar explanations which are thrown at them. 

There is a contrast in the transactional nature of the two systems.

In the case of the state system, it is not necessarily the fault of the classroom teachers, who are asked to teach a very large group of students, who are demanded to 'cover' a syllabus, who have to work with peer pressure of colleagues and who are inspected to make sure that they are sticking to the latest 'instructions' coming down from the ministry.  

If a teacher wants to be a 'good teacher' with all the preparation and the correction, there is very little time to think, even less freedom to act.

Coming to my current practices, I am very fortunate to have been able to scratch out a large deal of freedom for myself to define syllabus and assessment, to define team-teaching, student-centred, open-spaced, technology enhanced, reflective pedagogy.  

The  more people I meet the more I think that I am extremely fortunate in having such freedom.

There are times when I think that I must be stupid. 

There is personal price to critical pedagogy. 

It is terribly seductive to 'know one's place', or to concentrate on 'edutainment' , to concentrate only on a timetable, to have the students disconnected from their responsibility as individuals for their own learning.  To view one's own responsibility as completing a few hours in a program. 

It is far more challenging for a teacher to open up the pedagogy, the relationships, the space, the way we learn, to criticism from co-learners.  

It is far more challenging to begin to understand our importance and our lack of importance.  

It is in the constant challenge of reinvention, readjustment, reassessment, reorientation, reflection that we become aware of the dynamic complexity of our ever-changing role in an ever-changing learning environment. 

We are suddenly aware of the unnaturally constricting frame of the institution.

It is rather like picking up a brick in the grass to reveal an extraordinary microscopic life which has been unknown to us and is independent of us. 

However hard we try to put the brick back in its place, we never quite manage to do it without showing a sign of our curiosity.

However hard we try, we are unable to remove from our minds an image of chaotic freedom. 

There is no going back. 

I have lost the taste for playing the role of the illusionist. 

I have lost the taste for anonymous, cheerful, unquestioning, collaboration with an anonymous, alienating state.

It can be an arduous and thankless task lifting bricks.

Despite my better judgement, I have not sated my curiosity.

There is a big step from transaction to co-action.

If there may be few immediate rewards for fighting for freedom, to my mind there is no alternative either.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Born idle.




(we have the technology now)

(so no damned excuse)




For, need I remind you all, 

"The devil finds work for idle hands."

(weeping and lamenting of the damned burning in hellfire)

There are those among us, who do not believe that a full timetable, scientifically managed straight and narrow learning paths
a packed diary are our only way to educated salvation 


Indeed a disease is spreading even amongst us the teachers.

There are heretics who would suggest that we give students 
more time to be.

There are heretics who would suggest that we give students 
more time to choose.

There are heretics who would suggest that we give students 
a break for lunch.

there are the true-believers who keep our young and very young
away from temptation.

I have here an example of a holy
(with few holes)
higher education timetable 

My fellow believers in the sacred syllabus,
I show you blasphemy so that you might defend against it.

This sacred syllabus has been defiled, turned into base ridicule

by a, by a********* (he spits) a pirate.

I will name this ********(he spits) pirate by a pseudonym which masks his true identity.

He is the heathen homeschooler ********(he spits) @telliowkwup.*


LOOK, so that you shall know the DEMON. 


******* FREEDOM

(he spits)

image credits

Burning skeleton:

Sacred Timetable a student

Defiled Timetable a pirate.

In a different light.

I love these moments.

I am surrounded by students who are apparently busy working.

I can hear my colleague encouraging them in their research.

I am here early.

I ignore the other people in the room.

I avoid eye-contact.

I sit down.

I tune out.

I am elsewhere.

I am nowhere in particular

I contemplate photos in no particular order.

I am not looking to do anything.

I let myself wander.

I love this feeling of freedom.

Where will I be taken today?

I pick an image out of thousands.

It will be this one.

It catches my imagination.

I reframe it in my blog.

I wait to see if anything comes of it.

I may well have binned this a line downwards.

I enjoy this feeling of being on an edge.

I am writing a fine line between survival and oblivion.

There are no ideas here.

No matter.

It is a doodle.

I identify this as a militant act.

It doesn't answer to any prompt.

It doesn't reply to any request.

It doesn't follow any instructions.

It represents freedom for me.
The image came out of a moment such as this

I have lived with it for over 16 years.

It has become familiar.

Back then, I had a couple of cans of black and gold spray paint.

I don't remember why.

No matter.

I could choose to dive back and explore.

No matter.

I choose to focus on the image.

I had a large piece of paper.

I had some old empty frames.

I had the remains of some Japanese wallpaper that a cat had destroyed.

I had a few bits of wood, a broken hat-stand.

I  had  made three or four images with these materials over one day.

I remember being completely taken up with the creative play.

I am not sure it this is artistic or autistic.

No matter.

I seem to remember having destroyed one I preferred in a fit of nihilism.

I feel an instant of sadness.

This picture remains.

A few weeks ago, it caught my eye again.

It was propped up against a wall.

I messed around with a smartphone, taking photos, playing with my reflection in the glass of the frame.

I mangled it, I cut it up with two or three apps, transforming it, giving it new life.

Somehow, the image has travelled down over the years to reappear here in a different light.

I shall take pleasure in contemplating it here.


Monday, February 2, 2015

In animate.

I am seeing these words emerge across this page.

(I am sorry that you are not here by my side in this instant. 

Perhaps, if you were I would not be able to write this. You are clearly fictional. I beg your pardon. No offense meant)

I feel that I am coming to the limits of static text.

(This is a process which is following on from my reflection on Keith Hamon's piece concerning in part at least rhizomatic learning. I am beginning to better understand [perhaps] the issues of 'Books making us stupid' which Dave Cormier initiated maybe a year ago? - this is an afterthought - gradually this writing is densifying as it emerges.)

(I include a Dave Cormier video here as an after-thought)

When you read this you will have the misleading impression that this article is complete.

It is a unit of which I am the author.

This might be convenient.

This might enable this artefact to be more easily tagged, more easily categorised.

You will be missing its essence, the incompleteness driving this writing, of what perhaps is driving your reading.  (this is an after-thought, and has experienced further editing)

You will not be reading what I wrote (I see little interest in writing so literally, so scientifically [ho, ho].) You will be reading what you write from its reading. I am far more interested in opening doors, rather than counting beans. (this is an after-thought).

[Even here, you will be struggling to follow me, because I am adding text here in brackets, I am moving back up the page, from the Soundcloud embed. So while this may give a semblance of linearity, it is a lie. This is a swarm of movement of thought of words, of reflection, after an initial triggering desire.  I wonder if you are beginning to understand how I am attempting to illustrate a passage of time, an irritating cultural myth that writing can depict reality.]

I shall let you into a secret.

I have been doing some research into dynamics, into complexity of symbiotic relationships between climbers and rock.

I am listening to Johhny Dawes vocalise the rhythm of rock.


If you have never listened to a piece of granite sing, then I invite you to listen to Johnny.

I am listening to his investigation of lizard grip.

This is where I pause the interview.

I am on to something.

Johnny suggests that noone else is interested in his experiments with singing rock.

He suggests that he is a 'sad freak'. 

He is wrong.(or maybe on second-thoughts he is right, whatever)

There are other marginals interested in such connections.

He reminds me of a comment of Dave Cormier.

He voiced somewhere, sometime, his relief that he has found other people who share his interest in things rhizome.

I must get in contact with Johnny again.

I haven't had any contact with him for 30 odd years.

It sounds like there are grounds for 'sad freaks' to get together.

I am fascinated in these ideas of illustrating complexity, of presenting life, without putting it in a sad blog box.

I will reflect....

That's enough to be going on with.

I am off to teach.(screams of laugther)

Sunday, February 1, 2015

In Significance.

I have lost all sense of perspective.

I am hanging on here by the grace of...?

My skin is all that counts.

I am in significance.

A fearful drop is shrouded in swirling cloud.

I am thankful for this.

My attention is focussed on this micro-universe of slanting holds, loose bulging rock, dank cracks.

I am hyperaware of my fraility, of my insecurity.

My breathing is drowned out by deadening roar.

What monsters hide in those mountain gulleys?

Time seems to have stopped.

Heroic odyssey.

The line dangling down, is my only connection to my climbing companion.

The distance between us and the noise of the mountain-side, has cut off any reassuring communication.

I try calling out.

I hear my cries swallowed up in the mist.

"Hello! Can you hear me?"


I am effectively alone.

For what seems like hours, I dust grit off potential points of purchase with my finger tips..

I am stretching out blindly above my head, while adjusting balance on my toes.

I feel the gravity of my position, my body-weight pulling me downwards.

"Fucking idiot."

There is nobody here to hear my cursing.

I am my own best and my own worst company.

"Fucking idiot."

There is noone here to hear my cursing.

Time seems to be on pause.

"So, what next?"

I overhear myself discussing aloud my plans of action.

"If I were to put my hand there?"

"No, it's unsafe, there's a loose block."

"If that were to come off, that's a bloody big block."

"What if I moved my foot up a bit."

"Fuck. Fuck. Fuck."


I abandon myself to instinct.

I have somehow moved to a higher position.

"Yes, that seems better."

I am clinging onto what appears to be a solid hold.

I have a future now.

This is some sort of minor triumph.

I am alive.

My story continues...


I am sitting here on a sofa, with a lap-top, a few tabs open on the browser, feeling around for the next move.

It comes from a friend of mine, from back then, at university.

Johnny Dawes was the greatest, bravest, rock-climber of his generation, likely unknown to anyone outside this marginal fraternity.

His first ascent of what he named "The Indian Face", up on  Clogwyn Du'r Arddu in North Wales, was, at the time, the hardest, certainly the riskiest route ever attempted.

I was, and now I am again, struck by the intensity of his description of this climb which concentrates on just a few metres of blank rock.

It owes its existence to his improbable, youthful, sense of survival.

"I went for the crux, the motion startling me like a car unexpectedly in gear in a crowded parking lot. I swarm through the roundness of the bulge to a crank on a brittle spike for a cluster of three crystals on the right; each finger crucial and separate like the keys for a piano chord. I change feet three times to rest my lower legs, each time having to jump my foot out to put the other in. The finger-holds are too poor to hang on should the toes catch on each other. All those foot-changing mistakes on easy moves by runners come to mind. There is no resting. I must go and climb for the top. I swarm up towards the sunlight, gasping for air. A brittle hold stays under mistreatment and then I really blow it. Fearful of a smear on now-non-sticky boots I use an edge and move up, a fall fatal, but the automaton stabs back through, wobbling, but giving its all and I grasp a large sidepull and tube upward. The ropes dangle uselessly from my waist. Arthur Birtwhistle on Diagonal, I grasp incuts and the tight movement swerves to a glide as gravity swings skyward."

Johnny Dawes 


My desire to write this post, the discovery of the title: "In significance" , my recounting of these moments of life captured on pieces of blank rock came to me on reading a post by Keith Hamon entitled Deleuze, Serres, and the Desires of Prepositions.

In the article he charts his emerging exploration of prepositions in blog posts over a period of a year.

He structures his article as a travelog, following the flow of his reflection, as if it is flowing down the Chattooga river.

There is a moment where he talks of river noise:

"there is no position outside the noise, no objective stance away that says the noise is over there apart from me, and I can assess it and judge it from over here apart from over there. If you've ever run a wild river such as the Chattooga, then you understand noise. On the Chattooga, you are always inside the noise, part of the noise. The noise flows through and around you. There is no transcending the noise of the river, nor is the noise transcendent. The noise is always immanent. Actually, transcendent as something beyond and immanent as something inherent mean nothing in the noise. The noise simply is, and you are simply in it, differentiated more or less at different times, but never distanced. Your own noise is included in the noise but not inclusive of it."

Keith Hamon

It was these lines which brought me back with a jolt to a precarious stance on the South Pillar of the Mont Aiguille which I climbed twenty years ago.

I heard again the noise of the wind blowing through the gulleys, ducked again on hearing the terrifying whoosh of dropping boulders.

I was reminded of Johnny Dawes.  

We are as one, humbled, in our insignificant significance.

"You fucking idiot."
"Fuck, fuck, fuck."

There we are at a crux again.

"My God, oh my God , why have you forsaken me?"

Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34


"I  thirst"

John 19:28

Momentary points of connection...

We, myself, Keith, Johnny..., reach out to tangible features for purchase, engage dialogue with ourselves, with others...

"Dialogue is an open-ended engagement in that zone between order and chaos, and while we want the dialogue to end in order (a meaningful consensus), chaos is always at hand and possible. Dialogue, then, is dynamically poised between promise and terror, meaning and nonsense, consensus and strife, resolution and dissolution." 

Keith Hamon

There are moments where we grasp preposterous solidity.

I am reminded of Keith's description of seizing on prepositions.

I am reminded of Johnny's description of  holding onto 'a cluster of three crystals'.

"I really had no idea how to proceed, but I had an intuition based on Serres' "argument for considering prepositions, rather than the conventionally emphasized verbs and substantives, as the linguistic keys to understanding human interactions." To my mind, "prepositions are the connective, connecting tissue that connects this to that in a pattern that works and makes sense." If I could follow the prepositions in the CAE, then I was certain that they would tell me something I might not otherwise learn."

Keith Hamon 

I am struck by, what I sense instinctively to be, the expression of elemental emotivity, through our relationships with prepositions. 

  • Thirst.
  • Hunger.
  • Longing.
  • Belonging.
  • Curiosity.
  • Self-realisation.
I am not sure how far I will be able to map out these instincts.

Before any act, we are assailed by conflicting desires for sustenance, for security, for movement, for companionship... 

I am struck by Johnny Dawes's description of a survival instinct.

"I swarm up towards the sunlight, gasping for air."

Johnny Dawes

At each crossroads,  at each intersection, dynamic, emotive force becomes multiplied, unitary being disintegrates into swarm, we become irrational automaton.

Individual stories are reduced to a "smear."

We hold out for rational explanation of our acts.

We hold onto a/our?/their? storyline.

There are times when this will suffice.

I return to Keith's descent of the Chattooga:

"At last, I thought I knew what I was doing, and I could get on with the business of doing rather than just surviving. Now I merely had to learn how to follow prepositions and note where they might lead." 

Keith Hamon.

As Keith continues this study of prepositions, he experiences disintegration into "iSwarm."

There appears throughout his reflection a desire for grasping meaning, a frantic attempt to orientate, to map a sure route, to connect. 

I am flung back to either ors, to dichotomies.

I am alive, I am apart, I am found, I am lost, We are together, I am dead.

Desire to be 'one with nature' to be one 'with a crowd', to belong, to be apart, speak to me of survival, of  hearts beating, of lungs breathing, of search for recognisable limits, of struggle for place, of play, of our attempts to define our unique silhouettes in the shadows of others, to make a unique smear.

We are, I sense, touching on the essence of what gives life, what drives life, what contains life. 

We are, indeed, in significance.

We are one, we are all, we are nothing.

We are story.

There is no story.

This makes enough sense to me.

I am content with company.

There is no more to me.

"It is finished."

John 19:29-30

Image credits

Mont Aiguille in Winter Michel

World's busiest intersection.