Sunday, March 13, 2016


We go early to the stables, we take out the pony from his box, we get the brushes and start grooming.

The grooming can go on for as much as twenty minutes which is quite a lot of time when one considers that the class will only last one hour.

Then the class lasts for one hour.

At least three times during the class I hear the following instruction:

"Pat your pony now." 

"Pat your pony now."

"Pat you pony now."

If I am thinking about pony grooming...

it's perhaps that Jim Groom left a comment on Alan Levine's recent blog post entitled:

"Open is the porch light being on (and more)"  


it's perhaps because we took one of our daughters riding yesterday (while the other one played with the dog).


it's perhaps because I have just read an article in the New Yorker entitled:

"The limits of friendship."

I recommend those interested in online learning communities to read those two articles.

If you don't know Jim Groom or Alan Levine...well where the hell have you been?

(sorry this is not respectful for the majority of the world's population who have better things to do than mess around online).

(afterthought - if you are not online you will not be reading this so for all the others... where the hell have you been?)

I have been thinking about the limits of online "communities" and asking a number of questions:

  • How big is an effective online learning community?
  • How Massive can an effective open online learning course be?
  • Is "open" always a helpful term to use when one talks of education?
  • Is inclusiveness something we need to worry about?
  • If inclusiveness is something we need to worry about - to what extent?

Thinking makes my brain hurt.

Like Paul Valéry, I prefer messing around and writing and then thinking.

When I share, sometimes others help me to do the thinking which makes my brain hurt much less.

It's more fun thinking together around a campfire.

Back now down to earth..

I was working with a group of five students last week...the others were busy or asleep.

I wondered how many people I may have touched over sixteen years of teaching.

I calculated that it may be 4000 students.

We believe that personal attention is what counts most.

We believe that meaningful moments have great power when networked.

We capture moments in our learning spaces to share openly with others.

We speak together in little groups, we sing, we dance...

Our space is open to others to come to join in.

We invite learners to share our time with us.

Meaningful moments captured may touch others...

We were sitting in those six comfortable chairs that we have in our learning space.

We believe that to have meaningful personal conversations, you must be a small number.

The problem is that we don't only have six students. 

We have forty four students with two teachers. 

So we need "open" resources and meaningful activities for the thirty two other students that we are not speaking with at a particular moment. 

There are times when a video or written instructions or a blog post or having one teacher speak or one artist perform in front of four hundred or 80 thousand students in the Stade de France is absolutely appropriate - Bono does that masterfully.

If that is the case the video or the written instruction or the performance needs to be open to the people - it needs to attract them and it needs to speak to them in some way. (in the meantime one teacher can speak with one person)

In the case of Bono, we feel like he is speaking to us, he is singing for us, his voice, his words, his humanity touches us. 

He is also helped by having a large team of technicians, artists and the Edge, Larry, and the other one who never speaks but plays bass.  

The large screens and the light show blow Bono up to gigantically megalomaniac proportions.  

The Edge becomes Bono's play thing. 

We become Bono's play thing as we become putty in his hands: 

"Bonjour Paris, Je vous aime Paris, Je pleur pour Paris, Voici ma chambre, Voici ma mère qui est disparue comme ceux au Bataclan"

We are in communion with Bono and the Edge and Larry and the one who plays the bass and doesn't say much and the thousands of other people who hold up their smartphones in the dark and we are one.

God, it feels good for once to feel as one. 

How many MOOCs enable us to feel as one?

Alan Levine talks of #ds106, #CLMOOC, #moocmooc and dat #rhizothang. 

They may become for some people like Woodstock or U2 in Paris and go on for ever in their imaginations.

Oh not that one again...

That's it - Jim Groom IS Bono.  

Is Dave Cormier the Edge?

ONE-Bono-Joey-bloody-Ramone-punk-edupunk-Jim Groom-ONE

ONE-Community-Rhizomatic Learning-Dave Cormier-The Edge-Of reasONE

As Alan Levine says in his post these things get tribal....

There are devices online which may accelerate these tribal feeling while not being that effective for conversation - Twitter chats come to mind.  

We are always on the verge of breakdown if we feel obliged to keep up with the stream. 

It is overwhelming if we try to be everywhere at the same time.

I have tried. It's madness.

Much better look for one or two key moments and share them.

I often do this better with pictures than with words like for this #moocmooc chat example.

Some people who become part of these tribes worry about not being open enough. 
They worry about their thang not being inclusive.  

Well I think they worry too much.

Are we Bono? 

Will we perform and share our life stories with millions and make them feel special when our eyes meet on through the big screen? 

I suppose that is the dream of rock-star educators that we will be ONE with them.

We will lift our smartphones up in unison and sing along to biochemistry lectures...for credit.

I am reminded of conversations with Terry Elliott about attention.

We have spent much precious time together with a small group of people creating. 

There are moments of grace which mark us for life.

Here is just one example: Dawn augurs well. 

Nothing can replace quiet, attentive, contemplation.
Nothing can replace close friendship and fellowship.

If we don't want to live in the shallows we need to dig deep and spend time with those who touch us.

That time that we spend creating with our hearts may touch others.

This is open.

Anyone can read it.

Such means of distribution of a personal message were unheard of before the internet.

How many years did Bono spend alone or with a small group of friends writing one?

How many hours did he spend in his bedroom weeping the death of his mother?

Sharing tears and  joy and solitude may touch others.

I sit here with my daughter on the sofa.

We are alone...

We are all one.


  1. I have tried ...
    It is madness ...
    Wandering the edges
    of Open
    in search of an
    Openning ...
    We are not One
    but Many,
    not Bono nor the Edge
    but instead: Larry Mullen,
    keeping rhythm in time
    with the world
    or Adam Clayton,
    keeping us in the groove
    of the conversation.
    Turn down the lights,
    shut off the screen,
    crank up the Muse,
    and connect.

    -- Kevin, lifting a line to make a comment, and not sure what I was trying to achieve in doing so ...

    1. We achieve nothing. All of us. It takes some of us longer that's all.

  2. If we don't want to live in the shallows we need to dig deep and spend time with those who touch us.


    Rhizo is Woodstock. Haha.

  3. There is a lot to reflect on in this article. As an educator are you and island visited by students for a short stay, who then move on to other places? Or are you a star moving through the universe attracting students to your brightness and pulling them through life by the gravity of what you have to offer?

    I've posted several blog articles with Bono included since starting my blog in 2005. You can scroll through them in this link.

    In my role as leader of a tutor/mentor program I was an island, where volunteers and youth landed for one or a few years then moved on. No matter how strong a bond we formed while they were on my island the bond weakend when they left. I was not able to follow and nurture the bond because new students and volunteers were landing. Through the Internet and the Tutor/Mentor Connection I've been trying to find ways to stay connected and to remain an influence in the lives of those who I met in past years so that together we can re-shape the world in future years.