Monday, February 29, 2016


"Take it Alice, it's yours now," said the Dodo distinctly.

"But you've given me nothing," retorted Alice, a touch miffed.

"Are you sure?" came the enigmatic reply.

Lewis Carroll. Masquerade. 1872

It was this unlikely reference, from a lesser known work of Carroll which came to my mind.

I had just read Dave Cormier's edited title for his "Rhizomatic Learning Course" on its Facebook group:

"Rhizomatic Learning - designing for people, not content."


Actually it wasn't Carroll's Masquerade which first came to my mind.

It was the story of a hare, a golden hare.

I shall explain.

Kit Williams' Masquerade.

Masquerade was a book by a certain Kit Williams.

It was elaborately drawn, beautifully designed and at its heart was an enigma.

Not only were the readers attracted by the book's artfulness, its killer feature was its promise of a puzzle which might lead the attentive reader to a dream of great riches...

Kit Williams had fashioned a golden, bejeweled hare and had buried it somewhere in the UK.

The whereabouts of the enormously valuable treasure would be revealed to those readers who deciphered the code hidden in the book.

The book became a publishing phenomenon.
Tens of thousands of the books were sold.
It had captured the public's imagination.
It was in phase with the zeitgeist of its epoque.

There were complaints from householders who became fed up with people digging up their gardens, convinced that they had found the hiding place of the Masquerade hare.

Eventually the hare was found in 1982 by a Mr Ken Thomas.

Masquerade and Scandal!

This discovery would be the source of a later scandal.

It was alleged that the winner had cheated!

The finding of the hare did nothing to discourage certain treasure hunters who convinced themselves that there was not a single hare but two, or perhaps three...or more.

The story of the hunt for the hare would be documented by a Mr. Bamber Gascoigne, a popular TV presenter of the period.

 Bamber Gascoigne, having been asked by Williams to witness the burial of the hare and to document the contest from beginning to end, did so in his book Quest for the Golden Hare. Gascoigne summarized his experiences thus:

"Tens of thousands of letters from Masqueraders have convinced me that the human mind has an equal capacity for pattern-matching and self-deception. While some addicts were busy cooking the riddle, others were more single-mindedly continuing their own pursuit of the hare quite regardless of the news that it had been found. Their own theories had come to seem so convincing that no exterior evidence could refute them. These most determined of Masqueraders may grudgingly have accepted that a hare of some sort was dug up at Ampthill, but they believed there would be another hare, or a better solution, awaiting them at their favourite spot. Kit would expect them to continue undismayed by the much publicised diversion at Ampthill and would be looking forward to the day when he would greet them as the real discoverers of the real puzzle of Masquerade. Optimistic expeditions were still setting out, with shovels and maps, throughout the summer of 1982."
Source Wikipedia.

Dave Cormier's Masquerade.

Dave Cormier's "Rhizomatic Learning" is Masquerade I thought...

I think that "Rhizomatic Learning" is a great story for people who enjoy intellectual enigmas and digging around with like and unlike-minded others.

Just find a few fellow learners amongst the throng, wait for them to drop their masks or dance along aside them regardless.

Masks are fun!

Learning is a ball.

Mystery adds spice!

The "Rhizome" can provide a backdrop to any learning treasure hunt you care to engage in, particularly on the web!


Just choose your -cal, the rhizome is unequivocally adaptable.

Deleuze and Guattari's Masquerade.

Deleuze and Guattari, provides boundless territory for the intellectually challenged, over a thousand French plateaus of mindful/less digging.

An ultimate Masquerade!

Yes "Rhizomatic Learning" reminds me of (a) Masquerade.

It captures zeitgeist for postpostmodern, hyperconnected complexity...

We live, we learn, we chatter, we quest for (a) meaning...

We dig here, we dig there.

We find no(some)thing very, very, much.

Lewis Carroll's  Kit Willim's, Deleuze and Guattari's,  Dave Cormier's Masquerade.


A handsome prize awaits for the reader who finds a first edition of Lewis Carroll's version.

I have been looking for it for so long...

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Remember stormier days.

Remember stormier days.
We dare.

You dare too much.

Run along now,
Weather foul or fair,
While strong wind blows.

Waves crash.

Salt stings eyes.

Skin tightens, face reddens.

Remember stormier days.
We dare...

You dare too much.

Tread over pools.
Lost thoughts,head towards the sea.

Waves break afar.

You disappear.

Remember stormier days.
We dare...

You dare too much.


Hacking 'On the shore', I discover hidden waves, hidden rhythms.

I am swept out far to sea.

I love the sea.

On the shore.

The run along the sea wall, as far as the jetty, in weather foul and fair, was compulsory ritual.

The strong wind blowing off the Irish Sea knocked you off your step.

Here I am sitting here in my living room,, trying to conjure olfactory memory of seaweed, seabreeze...

A stronger smell comes to the fore:
Fylde farmers' manure spreading.

The nose has a fickle memory.

How ironic that I choose to remember what was compulsory.

I work a little to background the ambient sound in the room.

I have spent many years backgrounding, doodling, disappearing.

I suppose this is the most important skill that I developed at school.

I am to their purposes present.
I am to my purposes elsewhere.

"Learning management...ha, ha, bloody ha. Fuck you!"

I learnt to swear at school too...

They, I suppose, thought of that run in athletic terms, or perhaps social control terms.

"You need to tire out teenage boys, to keep them docile..."

I can hear the waves crashing on the parapet.

The salt stings your eyes.

I feel my skin tightening, my face reddening.

We can see no further than a few metres out into the deadening grey-brown.

"Come on let's wave-dodge."

"What's wave-dodging?"

"You'll see."

"Quick, if we get caught, we're in for it."

We dive down the steps ,off the promenade, down onto the sea wall.

We eye up the distance to the next steps.

It looks about a hundred metres.

"Come on. Now."

We sprint along the wall, as close to the  swirling fury as we dare.

We dare too much.

A large wave throws us off our feet.

For a moment we are swallowed up by its rush over the wall.

I hear a shout.

"Fucking hell."

We are dumped just on the edge, soaked to the skin.

For a moment, just for a moment, we were free...

I wasn't sure about being so free...

I was shaken.

"Bloody hell, that was close."

"Did you see where we landed?"

There was terror when we saw the danger.

We got to the top of the steps.

I wonder if those other boysbecomemen think of that moment now, so many years on.

"I was bloody terrified when I saw the wave hit you."

"I thought: now we're in for it."

"What are we supposed to tell the sodding monitors?"

"They'll be furious if we tell them why you've bloody drowned."



We ran back to the school, squelching noisily, grinning.

On the shore.

I walked along the spring shore, treading over the pools.

Far from me, lost in her own thoughts, I saw my daughter heading towards the sea.

I heard the waves breaking from afar, I remembered stormier days.

Runs were compulsory.
Wave-dodging was freedom.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Target practice...

High up above a lark was singing joyfully.

I sat there in the bunker feeling rather smug, smoking.

Not only I had got out of games but I was being paid to do so.

We hardly noticed the 'tac, tac, tac' above our heads.

Suddenly a flag was raised and we raced up the butts to reposition the targets.

The ammunition was live.

The target practice goes on...

In 2001, in the UK,  40,509 kids were receiving military training, including weapons training while at school.

The Ministry of Defence funds a 'youth organisation' whose aim is to:

 "provide a disciplined organisation in a school so that pupils may develop powers of leadership by means of training to promote the qualities of responsibility, self reliance, resourcefulness, endurance and perseverance". 

but it acknowledges that one of its objectives is:

"to encourage those who have an interest in the services to become Officers of the Regular or Reserve Forces"


I remember going to see Peter Brook's film version of Lord of the Flies at school.

How relieved we were to be saved from our own savagery...

Whose targets?

In whose interests are 'our' 'educational targets' set?


Is education preparation for war?

Who are we fighting for?

Whose targets?

In whose interests are 'our' 'education targets' set?






Is education a market for companies to profit from our children?

Who are we endebted to?

Whose targets?

In whose interests are 'our' 'education targets' set?


Is education preparation for performance?

Who are we performing for?

Resetting targets.

What if we were to reset 'our education targets'?

What if we were better informed as to how these 'our education targets' are currently set?

What if we were to do some research...

  • Who actually is in favour of war?
  • Who actually is in favour of standardised testing?
  • Who actually is in favour of massive student debt?
  • Who actually is in favour of massive inequality?

What if we hypothesise that more people are in favour of peace than war?

What if we spent more money on research into solutions for peace rather than on preparations for war?

What if we spent more time encouraging cooperation rather than competition?

What if we looked to improve happiness more than to develop performance?

I thought about the United Nations Conference COP 21.

I looked at the list of ongoing conflicts on Wikipedia.

I thought of the massive demonstrations in the streets of Paris

I thought of the work of Daniel Bassill in Chicago.

I thought of Terry Elliott blogging on budget cuts in education in Kentucky.

Targeting Peace.

"Establishing lasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war."
Maria Montessori

It so happens that I fell upon a report on French TV late last night into the concept of Altruism.

It highlighted an educational program which sought to reduce violence between kids at school through mindfulness training.

It featured an American academic Richard Davidson from Wisconsin.

It featured a French academic-become-buddhist-monk Matthieu Ricard.

If education is 'the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world' (Nelson Mandela) it is also a battlefield.

There are forces who have massive financial interests in maintaining education in its present state.

There are forces who have massive financial interests in maintaining violent conflict between people.

How can we counter greed?

How can we strive for peace?

Economists are not all convinced in the sustainability or desirability of current exchange systems.

“To put it bluntly, the discipline of economics has yet to get over its childish passion for mathematics and for purely theoretical and often highly ideological speculation, at the expense of historical research and collaboration with the other social sciences.” 
― Thomas PikettyCapital in the Twenty-First Century

I am convinced that we can not remain indifferent to the use of weapons in our societies...

I hear much talk about 'accountability' in education.

I am not against some form of accountability.

There is 'numeric accountability'.

There is 'moral accountability.'

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Voice incubator

I have a confession to make.

I was scared of letting you read this.

I was my own worst judge.

I am not alone.

There are too many others who are scared of letting others hear their voice.

I have come across others...

Sometimes that makes me angry.

There are days like that.

What the hell is a blog?

I was never quite sure.

It seemed important for me to try to answer the question.

As far as I remember, I started off by reading Stephen Downes' blog.

I suppose it was as good a place as any.

I didn't think that I would ever write a blog.

What the hell was a blog anyway?

So here I am writing this blog.

I can't answer for anybody else but this is my answer to what a blog is. It's this. It's writing when I feel the desire, the need to fling a few words down onto this white space, this comfortable white space.

What the hell was Twitter?

I didn't know.

I spent six months being an egg.

I felt ovally dumb.

I didn't know what Twitter was.

I was an egg.

I took a long time to hatch thus...

I needed an incubator.


The incubator for Touches of Sense...was Learning with E's.

It is a story I tell my students now.

I had read Steve Wheeler's blog for a a fair old time before I thought I might be able to comment.

Like many people I feared that I had nothing to offer to a wider public.

I wasn't quite sure if comments like I might write would be appropriate.

I wrote to Steve asking if it was OK to comment on his blog.

Looking back on it, this seems ridiculous.

It wasn't ridiculous then.

I would read his blog every day.

It made sense to me.

I connected with his willingness to write himself openly.

There was a humanity, a personality expressed which I appreciated.

I was thinking about it the other day (a couple of years back now).

Comments that I wrote on his blog became progressively more like blog posts.

A couple of years ago, I went and found a few comments and saved them in a Google Document.

Yes, looking back the voice is recognisably mine, or at least the voice that I have become familiar with.

A Twitter Chat

I was participating in a Twitter chat yesterday.

I am no longer an egg.

I am a swirl.

It was an #edenchat hosted by Steve Wheeler about "rhizomatic learning".

He announced the theme in his blog: #EDENCHAT Growing Minds.

I got wind of it via my PLN on Facebook.

Autumm Caines did a great job Storifying it here:

I wouldn't have been able to develop the Twitter skills necessary to participate in the chat had I not attended the Learning Without Frontiers Conference in London in 2011.

The photo above that I dug out was from a presentation which Steve Wheeler gave about Edupunk.


Steve Wheeler asked a question:

I suppose this is where I connect those dots...

Rhizomatic Learning

Touches of sense is a space where I connect my learning openly, rhizomatically.

I don't start with a plan and then work backwards.

I don't have a structure in my head before I start writing.

In writing, I am learning.

In writing, I am learning what I will think, not what I think now.

In writing, I am learning to listen to a voice which was silenced for so others, by myself.

Searching for patterns.

I looked for patterns in my titles here in my last post.

I come back and read and read anew.

This is a blog for me. It is a space to pattern search.

This is a mapping of  haphazard rhizomatic learning.

I look at the people that I have had the pleasure to learn from and with.

How can you not learn from people who wear shoes like Howard Rheingold's, or paint in pink like Amy Burvall?

Search for Steve Wheeler in this blog's search box, you will see how often his ideas connect here.

Search for Dave Cormier in this blog's search box, you will see how often his story of rhizomes connects here.

Knitting strands...

We are all so densely complex to unravel.

How I feel of what I know changes constantly.

There is no knowledge without emotion.

There is no network without nuture.

Nature, nurture, network

Learning with e's.

I posted a link to an old post about anger to #edenchat.

I noticed a kind comment of Steve Wheeler's

Thank you Steve for your voice.

It touched me.

Here are some Touches of Sense:

Learning without emotion is nothing.

Our role is to enable each learner to listen to the sense their patterns make.

Here are some of my patterns.

This is my story.

This is my voice.

Thank for your part in its incubation.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Bric à Brac.


I was reading a post of Kevin Hodgson which explained why he blogs. 

There was a line which resonanted: "I let myself surprise myself."

I thought that I might want to write a "why do I blog article" but I soon got bored with the idea.

That probably says something about why I blog...or how I blog.

I was curious how a mashup of past blog titles might turn out, particularly if I kept the links.

I was curious how this web of links might connect themes/formats through the titles.

I wonder what a mashup of other bloggers' titles would reveal...

I wonder what posts people would write if they stole these lines...titles.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Before our maker space...

"Subjectivity is objective." 
Woody Allen.

I am stepping perilously close to the edge of reason.

What have I gone and done now?

"I have only gone and made an object of myself."

As soon as I give a sign of existence.

Nay, before I give a sign, I am already objectified.

  • the one so hoped for.
  • the vermin.
  • the Prince 
  • the heir.
  • the mistake.
  • the loved one.

Darn! It's too late.

I am here now.

"I have gone and made an object of myself!"

You'll forgive me but it ain't all my own doing.

You are responsible for my disappearance.

You are killing me while giving this IT life.

As soon as I get this down on the page, I go and disappear.

You can't know me.

I hastily reread all that I have written.

I no longer recognise myself.

Who is this writer and why won't the bastard leave me alone?

"He's only gone and made an object of me."

So while I may object, I am now a subject of my own study.

I go back and read what I have written.

I don't recognise myself.

I never used to write like this.

No this is a lie.

I never used to write so much like this.

I blame tragedy.

I blame sadness.

I blame the others.

I retraced my step this morning.

It was Jesse Stommel's fault.

Though I admit that he was not at fault.

He left an object lying around.

How careless of him!


It is my fault.

How was he to know that I would read the bloody tweet.

It is not my fault.

How was I to know that it would somehow make me bloody think.

So I thought, stupidly aloud.

"I went and made an object of myself...again...twice..."Nay! Three times!"

That really set the cat amongst the pigeons.

Jesse Stommel replied...more than once.

Darn him!

 Then Sarah Honeychurch ploughed in...twice!



I wake up this morning with matter to make my head ache.

I retrace steps and tweet what seems relevant back to Jesse and the others.

All of this is Beyond Me.

All of this is Beyond the MeMe.

All of this is Beyond Us.

I note with surprise the books that I am reading at the moment:

Thomas Picketty. Capital in the 21st Century.

Bell Hooks. All about Love

How did that come about?

Surely those are not the sort of books I read!

I don't recognise myself.

I note an article to return to:

Carl Ratner. Subjectivity and Objectivity in Qualitative Methodology

All this, I suspect, is about love (to write on), and the poetry of our futile science.

A final note perhaps?

Sunday, February 14, 2016


Sì perché l'autorità dell'opinione di mille nelle scienze non val per una scintilla di ragione di un solo, sì perché le presenti osservazioni spogliano d'autorità i decreti de' passati scrittori, i quali se vedute l'avessero, avrebbono diversamente determinato."


I have been reflecting on relationships between learning, power, wisdom, patronage, and education.

I observed a heated discussion on Twitter the other day between Matt Gold, Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel.  On the surface it concerned the question of sponsorship of an academic journal.


There seemed to be an argument going on about appropriate disclosure of funding sources.

As a contributor to Hybrid Pedagogy, I confess that I didn't see any mention of sponsorship. I didn't expect any payment.

I don't feel sorry for myself contributing to Hybrid Pedagogy now that I know that they get money from Canvas.  I hope that I might contribute in some way in the future.

I would like to reassure Matt Gold. He needs to have no sympathy for me.

If Canvas finances the journal, it certainly hasn't made me want to invest in an LMS...
(if I had the funds)

It appears, as far as I can see that Canvas does not have a great deal of influence over the editorial line of the journal...

The funding that I receive from the French State enables me to work pretty freely.

I am happy to work for a public university.  I hope to use my voice to influence education.

I believe that it is very important to question what is considered 'standard academic practise'.

I was happy to read the second tweet here from Matt Gold.

Nothing that I have read or seen changes my support for the work of this contraire.

I have accepted money to write for a French educational magazine whose publisher is part of a group that produces text books.

I wrote articles which I was happy to write which question the standard practices of educational publishers.

When they asked me to write an article about a subject which I did not want to write about, I refused.

I have had no news since...

I would like to thank Matt Gold for asking Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel questions about funding even if the dialogue at times went Twitter crazy.

I was pleased to read that Matt Gold apologised for going Twitter crazy.

I was pleased to read the open letter which Sean Michael Morris wrote to clarify the issue of Hybrid Pedagogy's funding.


There are vital questions to be asked about academic freedom, funding, democracy and the role of education in society.

I agree with Matt Gold that we must challenge the role of corporate funding in academia. We need to extend these questions to education and government...indeed all aspect of our societies.

Google Scholar.

We need to deeply question the role of corporations in our relational/informational/attentional/reputational/educational environments/economies/lives.

Learning is not education.

The 'free market' is no guarantee of our freedom, of our lives.

Science offers no guarantee to our well-being.

League tables for schools and universities, results-based pay for teachers, publication-based pay for academics, PISA, Pearson, Elsevier, standards did that happen?

Who asked us for our opinions?

I would suggest that we need to be concerned...actively.

What is the difference today in a 'State-less' society between Corporations and Government?

What is justice if it can be bought?


Hybrid Pedagogy questions whose voices should be heard and what constitutes scholarship.

I am not sure that I would call myself a writer, an academic, a scholar, I suppose I can accept to be called a teacher.

What is a scholar anyway and who decides?
Shall I let Matt Gold decide?

The definition of scholarship seems to be open to negotiation.

I prefer to be called Simon anyway.

If that name gives me no authority to be curious and to be heard...why?

Wasn't that the idea of democracy?

Whose authority should we respect?

Learned enclosure.

I return to reflecting on learning, on scholarship.

I think of Galileo.

I suspect we respect his authority as a scholar today.

His ideas weren't always accepted by those 'in authority.'

He had a poor peer review by some...

I think of an ongoing discussion with Dave Cormier about knowledge being negotiable.

Let's remember that knowledge is only ever negotiable. There is not one truth.

There are powerful corporations who would like us to believe otherwise...

For in the sciences the authority of thousands of opinions is not worth as much as one tiny spark of reason in an individual man. Besides, the modern observations deprive all former writers of any authority, since if they had seen what we see, they would have judged as we judge.” 

In 1632 Galileo published his Dialogues on the Two Chief Systems of the World and immediately found himself in trouble with the Catholic Church. Summoned to Rome by the Inquisition on September 23 1632, he was put on trial and following the verdict of the Inquisition was forced to renounce his beliefs in Copernican theory and the motion of the earth. The original verdict condemned him to life in prison, but was amended the following day to house arrest, a sentence that remained in force until his death. His book (Dialogues) was banned by the Catholic Church and only in the 1990s did the Church recant its condemnation of Galileo.

Certainty is absolutely terrifying...

Thank God we can laugh about it...about ourselves.

We can can't we?

Learning enclosure.

Who are we learning for? Whose patronage will we accept? How shall we judge them?

How shall we look on Leondardo da Vinci's terrifying military schemes?

Leonardo da Vinci had a number of powerful patrons, including the King of France. He had, over the years, a large number of followers and pupils. His patrons included the Medici, Ludovico Sforza and Cesare Borgia, in whose service he spent the years 1502 and 1503, and King Francis I of France.

Love, faith, hope, charity.

How shall we judge our actions and those of others? Which patrons will we accept to deal with?

How shall we allow ourselves to be judged?

Is there any escape from 'our freedom'?

Or are we lost on the road to nowhere?

Or worse...on the road to hell?