Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Nature, nurture, network.

It was at this moment that Amy Burvall's iconic network illustration came into my mind. 

I looked for it on the #blimage pinterest board

but found no sign of it. 

I doubled back to Steve Wheeler's blog. 

Yes there it was. 

Then there was a spark.


I suddenly remembered Dave Cormier's seed box photos that I had seen on Facebook.

Rhizo14 proved to be an ideal seed box for me. 

How was Dave Cormier to know?


Of course, as he wrote in his post after the end of rhizo15, he couldn't have known what might happen. 

He could only hope.

Amy and Steve couldn't have known what might happen with #blimage...


Plants do grow from scattered seeds.

How many seeds never develop?


With time one learns which type of soil, what levels of humidity and sunshine suits which seed.


Joy is nurtured via an attachment to the fate of the 'little guy'.


Regular watering, a few well-chosen words of encouragement and the 'little guy' is one among many.

As 'the little guy' grows he and his box-mates will give seed.

We need to collect seed as it is precious.


We can share seed with others. 

Nature is generative.

I think my educational world changed when I started viewing myself and my fellow learners as one of these 'little guys', part of a wilder, wider learning ecology.


If one tends one's garden, with love over a life time, over generations, it can inspire others. 

I am reminded of Simon Finch's #blimage post: 'A human writes.' 

For me, education is not about stuff, it's about sharing curiosity, observation, faith, hope, joy, charity, love and nurturing the little guy.

Garden image: Sissinghurst

Monday, July 20, 2015

Let them eat (binned) cake.

I came out of the local Intermarche to be met with a scene from Zola.

A horde of poor people were disemboweling an enormous wheely bin belonging to the supemarket.

One guy was shaking the contents of boxes onto the pavement. 

A woman, holding an infant, was piling up half-rotten provisions onto the child's push chair.

A group of women were squabbling over their spoils. 

Cost-cutting, ´low-cost',  'no-cost' come together around a car-park in central France.

We are talking about the nourishment of children in Clermont Ferrand in 2015.

Educational problems.

I don't know about you but all of this appears to me like a problem.

At school, kids study  hypothetical problems.

We then complain that they lack responsibility.

At universities, scholars study possessive pronouns or sport sociology.

They then complain that they are not valued by the wider community.

There are moments when I have the impression that education is rather 'hors-sujet' (off its rocker, irrelevant) 

Why do we bother with made-up problems when our neighbourhoods provide plenty of scope for useful study? 

A few example problems 

Why is it that French people confuse Roumanian with Rom and then are obnoxious with them?

What is the point of European Union for those who democratically vote as European citizens?

What simple gestures might help people to smile more about being in the same super-market car park as those who shop in wheely bins?

The problems are so complex that kids would gain enormously from studying, speaking with those concerned or elaborating schemes to help their 'foreign' peers.

Education might not just be about the reproduction of existing unworkable systems it might also be conceived as a means of working for a less unbearable system.

I insert, as footnote, data which would suggest that we are going in a rather different direction.

Image: Steve Wheeler for #blimage

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A bridge too far.

The cost of education

Is unsinkable not unthinkable?

The terrible thing about maritime experiential learning is that people may realise at their peril why worse things tend to happen at sea.

Unsaved souls may or may not take solace in the fact that thanks to them there are now sufficient life-boats.

We think of those at peril on the sea.

Learning is limited by interests.

Theoretical learning.

Is theoretical learning for those who live on higher land?

Reduced ice-berg counts are no compensation for the potentially dire consequences of global warming on countries situated on land lower than sea-level.

We think of those at peril from the sea.

Bangladesh seems like a long way away.

Learning is limited by interests.

Statistics, damned statistics and lies.

Statistics which demonstrate that road accidents may well be more probable than bridge accidents are of little comfort to those unfortunate casualties of 'freak' navigation errors.

Costa cruises may still be profitable?

Crew from Bangladesh still have safe (badly paid) employment and a better chance than their compatriots of keeping their feet dry.

Is theoretical learning for those who live on higher land?

Secrets of 'defence' may prevent Breton trawlermen discovering when they catch a Royal Navy submarine...

Such secrecy limits victims' learning outcomes and enables easier 'legal' defence.

Must the Navy not protect Britain's fishy business?

Nelson defeats the French (again).

Learning is limited by interests.

Bridges to learning.

The Forth Bridge still takes too long to paint. 

Was the Fifth Bridge built in concrete?

The Severn Bridge is not spelt wrong.

Is learning correct spelling not in the nation's interests?

Learning is limited by interests.

This short shipwreck of a blog was inspired by @nomadwarmachine, @timbuckteeth and @amyburvall.

Puzzling memory loss?

Piece 1. 

I read a blog post about True openness in education here:

It mentioned blog posts of @timbuckteeth

I commented.

Piece 2.

I went and investigated the idea of being a "global educator" here:

Piece 3.

I wondered what @timbuckteeth had been writing about recently. 

I found this here: 

It was a blog post in reply to a challenge to @amyburvall to blog from her picture prompt.

Piece 4.

I posted a comment and a photo to challenge @timbuckteeth to write a blog post via Twitter

Piece 5.

@timbuckteeth responded to challenge with new blog post here:

Piece 6.

(I respond to piece 5)

It's been about two jours...

(blimey I wrote unintended French!)

that I have been trying to find the (imaginary, intended, trashed?) blog post which was (wholly, partly, indirectly??) inspired by the photo above.


I can't find it and my patience is not greater than my desire to write something here.

 (Oh dear...never mind)

You see I know the context within which this photo was taken. 

It's recognizable.

It's close to home.

It has (our) history.

Rule Britannia. 

Britannia rules the waves...

That lost (or can't be bothered to find blog post) included my youngest daughter and by way of association myself at a similar age.

I had not tried to piece together this puzzle for over 45 years or so. 

I can assure you 

(because I have the privilege of experience) 

that it is a puzzling but rather satisfyingly simplified representation of Britain and its major sights and traditions. 

It dates. 

Er...(me) from the sixties.

If I remember rightly, there are various examples of nineteenth century interpretations of regional attire. 

There are monuments - the Forth Bridge, Caernarvon Castle, Bath baths and rather satisfying oval place names for important towns.

There are the island boundaries - 

The rugged coastline and blue patches of sea give it a feeling of uniqueness...

This 'sceptred isle' (Bloody Shakespeare reverence) is asail, triumphantly on the (coughs) bright blue sea.

It is topographically remarkably discernible from the blank (blue) sea.

The continent, Greece, the euro is nowhere to be seen.

It is an 'isle' nobly united (before those Scots let the side down). 

It was meant to be together. 

When you get all the pieces to fit together, one feels a sense of triumph. 

You look at the model, you look at the picture on the front of the box and they match.


Nobody ever gave me a puzzle of India or  Egypt (why would they?) and certainly not the Artic (not enough distinguishing features and too much white).

A world map would have been no doubt too complicated to complete.

I would've got stuck in the Balkans or South East Asia. 

Where the hell is the border between Russia and the Ukraine?

Now all of this has me thinking that any number of educators and associated parasitic politicians have these fixed pictures in their heads of how they would like to fit pieces together.  

The politicians don't care that their picture doesn't correspond to the pieces that the poor educators are trying to fit together.

The educators stick bits hurriedly together to correspond. 

The bits (the students) yell or silently moan that they don't fit in the scheme of things but feel that they should just get on with it.

Maybe we need to allow that learners might be allowed to puzzle out their own maps which may not correspond to existing pictures of territory??

I am thinking that I have adopted a chuck all the pieces on the table approach to blogging. 

This writing is typical of my disjointed strategy.

I shall go back and sort through the pieces and see what shapes appear when I have a moment.

I am faily sure that noone else is qualified (or payed enough) to make sense of this jumble. 

Wow did you get as far as reading that?

Piece 7.

I like learning when it doesn't fit into preconceived models or plans.

I invariably learn much more.

I think you can imagine new uses, new combinations for bits and pieces of ancient puzzles. 

I decided to share the challenge to blog from the prompt of a puzzle picture. 

As the evening continued (to Storify) a hashtag emerged: #blimage.

Piece 8.


All this will give me some time to find that bloody blog post which was inspired from the above photo. 

I wonder what it was about? 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Dancing in the open

A few years ago, I asked myself : "How can a teacher change an education system?"  

The answer, of course, is that a teacher alone can not change an education system.  

A system is not one teacher.

After feeling a little less weighed down, I decided to investigate how I might play my part in such a systemic change...

I went out and did some research...

I went out and met people...

This is part of an ongoing investigation...

Dancing in the open
A teacher can learn how to dance publicly and let others join him or her.

A teacher can document the dance steps so that others may follow long after he or she is gone. 

Here I am dancing openly again in this blog.

I am way past feeling ridiculous sharing my steps...

A teacher may understand that a single choreography can become a dance phenomenon. 

It doesn't need to be classical dance.

Anybody for the Harlem Shake?

About a year ago, I was documenting some of the change which had been enabled from working as a connected educator.  

CLMOOC is part of a wider internationally connected dance.

A few days ago, I witnessed a virus unpredictably and rapidly spreading and mutating again.

Space for change.

It reminded me again of the importance of space for change.

You need space to dance.

Colleagues from completely different disciplines were using photos from our Nomad's Land Album which we had taken to document our learning journey to illustrate the repurposing of an ex-university library into a new open, modular, connected learning space.

I remembered the inspirational work of Stephen Heppell on Super Classes and Learning Spaces. 

I remembered reading the book of Diane Oblinger on Learning Spaces. 

I found it hard to believe what I was witnessing.

This space would bring the community into the institution and involve learners in redesigning their own learning space.

I remembered the work of Juliet Heppell's students in designing their own learning space.

I remembered the talk and book of Keri Facer on Learning Futures. 

A few days before that, I had been visiting a fablab maker space in an art school, this is to become one element of this new learning space. Strange how maker space connects to CLMOOC...

A few days later, I was sitting discussing the importance of open connected, social media enhanced, reflective learning for an international dance class. 

Last night, I was working on translating an article for an ex-student become athletics coach/international social entrepreneur.

I invited him to work with us as a co-teacher/learner in the new open learning space.

He seemed happy to contribute. 

He is one of a growing number of people helping us out.

As they say in Africa; 

"It takes a village to educate a child."

This morning, I am thinking again about changing systems.

Change seems so impossible at times.

We can feel like we are just a helpless cog in a machine.

I don't believe that we are cogs...

I am reviewing the dancing man video on Youtube.

The dancing man remains for me the simplest model of how to transform a system.

The most important person in the system is not the one who leads but the one who follows.

Piles of stuff.

These sentences in the CLMOOC make 4 introduction caught my attention:

" A pile of bicycle tires is not a system. If you remove one tire from the pile, you still have a pile of tires and nothing more. However, if you put that tire on a bicycle, the tire becomes part of the system and all of the parts of the bicycle, including the tire, work together to make the system function. If the tire gets a flat, the system cannot function until the flat is repaired."

1. A pile of tyres

I still remember the pile of tyres used by a farmer to weigh down a silage tip.

Every week, I would run along the path enjoying the view and speed up as I came to the ugly pile of tyres.

Funny how these tyres should pop up here.

Is the memory of this pile of tyres (long since removed) a system or part of a system?

Is the pile of tyres itself a system or part of a system?

On one level, the pile has become part of CLMOOC's system.

It will perhaps become part of a system of reflective learning.

I am beginning to think that the pile of tires is a system of itself.

I quickly jump to another pile.

2. A pile of photos

I have piles of photos in Google.

What system are they part of?

I think the answer must be that they are part of multiple systems.

3. A pile of empty tin cans.  

On the face of it there is little interest to be had in this photo.

If one looks carefully one can see that the tin cans are not abandoned;  they are an exhibit behind glass.

Reflected in the glass are the shadows of people who are gazing intently at the pile of tin cans.

One of the people thus reflected is myself.

This pile of tin cans is a system.

It is part of a terrifying system.

It is part of a terrifying spectacle...

4. A pile of spectacles

Looking at this through its glass darkly one becomes aware of the enormity of a system.

Seeing maybe believing; it is surely not understanding.

One cannot disconnect the tin cans from the spectacles, or for that matter from the other exhibits.

5. A pile of pots.

These cooking pots seen individually have little apparent intrinsic value other than as part of a holocaust exhibit.

6. A pile of photocopies

Pile upon pile of photocopied paper, left on shelves.

There are cupboards which I dare not open for fear of being submerged by reams of ancient photocopies.

Hour upon hours of mechanical reproduction.
Hour upon hours of comprehension exercises.
Hour upon hours of educational waste.

I remember people long-since retired who are still present through their stacks of photocopies.

An empty space, a warehouse, a noman's land.

When we first ventured out of the over-constraining classrooms, we started to see disused space with new eyes.

7. A stack of tables

The stacks of tables and chairs indicated that nobody had really thought much about this space which wasn't really a corridor and wasn't really a classroom.

"What shall we do with these old chairs and tables?" 

'"Let's leave them here."

Four years on, and the space where we found the stacks of tables and chairs has been repurposed as an open learning space.

Now, I come to think about it, this post is full of repurposing of objects, repurposing of spaces, or reimagining systems...

8. A stack of soup cans

9. A pile of blog posts

10. A pile Facebook posts

11. A pile of Google + posts

12. A pile of bricks

A pile of bricks is just a pile of bricks?

I suggest that you try removing one of the bricks from the Carl André sculpture in the Tate Gallery in London to test the veracity of this statement.

13. A pile of electronic waste.

A pile of stuff is never just a pile of stuff...

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Wasting time with Warhol.

At the back of the cupboard lay a muddle  of Dinky toys, a bundle of ancient felt-tip markers and a set of cards kept together with an elastic band. 

What were these strangely faded picture cards? 

I picked them up and studied them.

Each card seemed to have a pair of identical blurred landscapes printed side by side.

As I was about to lose patience with the cards, I came across a pair of flimsy beige plastic glasses held together with Sellotape. 

I put on the glasses to see what I might see and then realised that they were connected to the faded cards.

On moving the double image of the Grand Canyon, it suddenly clicked.

These were 3d glasses. 

I viewed the whole set of cards, travelling to the Taj Mahal, past plains Indians, all the way to Hong Kong harbour. 

I haven't looked at those cards for 48 years but somehow they left a lasting impression...

I was reading Susan Watson's though-provoking post 'Randomness of video apps'

And then proceeded to uncover Terry Elliott's linked comment (blog post) 'The Comment No One Will Ever See Because It Requires You to Leave the Site'

Now all of this got me thinking. 

Susan was talking about the randomness of some apps which basically hijack your photos or videos, doll them up fancy-like and leave you dumbstruck at 'your' artiness. 

We could add any number of photo-tweaking apps which keep you sweet and engage friends and various Facebook friends or Twitter followers at 'your' technoarty prowess. 

Its all painting by numbers gone crazy. 

Click, click, click, I'm a bloody genius!

Click, click, click, I'm bloody Warhol!

Click, click, click, I'm bloody Warhollow!!!

Click, click, click, I'm bloody click-bait!!!!

I have been feeling rather uneasy with all of this digital 'making' lark, like, liking.

What is it we are really sharing?

Our need for love?

Our need for fellowship?

Our need for recognition for our heart-felt endeavours?

spent hours on that drawing. 

It was black and white on A4 sketch pad.

It was all that my soul could muster. 

It was met with a beautifully gloved hand and an embarrassed smile. 

I was devastated. 

It wasn't bloody brilliant.

It was mine.

I am often disappointed by my intentions.

I am often astonished by what is unintended.

I have largely given up intending.

I am crap at intending.

I am more 'skilled' at unintentional.

The photomontage above came from messin' with apps. 

I am good at messin' with.

I didn't code the bloody app.

I am a slave to its genius.

I juxta-posed a video I took today of a river with an iconic image of cinema-goers wearing 3d glasses. 

I fed the video through a 5sec gif app. 

I mixed and tweaked all of it with Fused app. 

This image has a resonance for me here.

Those 3d glasses helped me to contemplate an unknown world with different eyes. 

I didn't create anything.

I was a captive audience.

I spent a few hours playing. 

Those hours are reappearing here.

They were not wasted. 

I spend hours wasting time like this.

I waste hours thinking about randomness, intentionality, creativity, frames...

I wasted a few more minutes here thanks to Susan Watson and Terry Elliott. 

I hope they will appreciate their role in my  time wasting. 

Andy Warhol gets in here as a footnote.