Monday, October 24, 2016

Finding bearings...

Where am I now?

Here I am mapping again.

I have put a cross on routes which I have taken which lead to blind alleys, are undesirable or are beyond me.

I haven't bothered with other implausible paths.

Shalt nots.

I shall never play rugby for England.

I shall not climb Everest.

I shall not spend my time getting an impressive academic impact rating.

I shall not screw people over for an easy buck.

I shall never be satisfied with material wealth.

I shall not not care about others, even those who do me wrong.


Nothing less than universal world peace, love, empathy, care, social justice, respect for fellow beings, a sustainable mode of exchange for the planet, music, poetry, dance etc etc will suffice.


I am an insignificant signifying speck in the probably ever expanding and uncaring universe.

There are moments when this reality makes me feel much better.

I don't matter much.

I am not doing so much harm on my own...surely?

It won't last (probably) long.

There are moments when the reality of war, hate, ignorance, injustice, disrespect for fellow beings and the environment, Simon Cowell and the X factor get me down.

I have five coping strategies:
  • Sharing my upset with (un)caring others
As here.
  • Bleak humour.

I tell myself:

"There's no point taking life too seriously, nobody gets out alive anyway."

That helps sometimes.

  • Momentary insanity.

I try to avoid being certified and sectioned.

  • Communing with nature

I go for a walk with the dog.

  • Thinking things can also get worse.

I know from experience that things do get worse.

  • Occasional and desperate atheist prayer to whoever might listen. (I am an agnostic atheist).

I admit to that here.

It is pathetic.

  • I imagine my thought has butterfly freedom.

I admit to borderline insanity.

Finding Bearings.

I put a copy of my mapping here.

Others will find it difficult to find their bearings with this map or to follow my thinking....Sorry.


I can
  • speak a couple of languages, 
  • write, 
  • listen, 
  • sing when pressed, 
  • do arty stuff in my own fashion, 
  • am curious and learn, 
  • work with others,
  • do research 
  • network
  • communicate online

I have

  • a little time
  • a little energy
  • a fairly clear idea of who I am/who I am not.
  • a stable job
  • long experience of repetitive failures.
  • little fear of failures.
  • internet access
  • access to people I know
  • the means to find people I don't know.
  • clear values
  • love
  • family
  • friends
  • dog
  • cats (too many)


I have potential desirable directions.

I have potential desirable connections.

I have potential desirable actions.

I have no clearly defined outcomes.

I have allies.

I have potential allies.

I have a lot of fuzzy, messy eventualities.

I am a pessimistic optimist.

“Pessimism is, in brief, playing the sure game. You cannot lose at it; you may gain. It is the only view of life in which you can never be disappointed. Having reckoned what to do in the worst possible circumstances, when better arise, as they may, life becomes child's play.”  

Thomas Hardy.

Failure is the only certainty.

I am good at failure.

I reference Churchill for a rousing quote:

"Success consists in going from failure to failure withou loss of enthusiasm."

I have had outstanding and continual success.

Bravo me!


Fifteen minutes.

Fifteen minutes.

Ditch the post.

Self-satisfied twaddle. 

Ten minutes.

Pitch the sale.

Five minutes.

Found a photo.

No time for fancy.

Self-conscious reflection.

Post it anywhat, anywhereway.

Someone will ask.

Someone will wonder.


Found the hook.

Five minutes.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Sum of our parts (not).

Dead, quite dead, under the earth, boxed, buried, decomposed, yet they are wholly alive.

They have taken on new life, they accompany me, without fail.

We speak all the time.  They come with me to work, on holiday, and are present at special occasions.

Far from mortality being a finality, our relationship had been transformed.

We are bonded by story and soul.

I do a quick search of their presence here.

I (re)connect with family:

Suspend Disbelief.

Life Beyond the Meme.


Band of Hope

I (re)connect with teachers:

Settling old sores.

I (re)connect with friends:

Absent Hands

Joke Candles

Navigating By Stars

Our lives our intertextual.

"People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it's the other way around..."

Terry Pratchett.

He was at least ninety years old.

He had been suffering this way since he was nine.

"My father always said that I was less handsome than my brother."

He was eaten up from the inside by a parental parasite.

Our bodies are fictional.

"Having a body is in itself the greatest threat to the mind....The body encloses the mind in a fortress; before long the mind is besieged on all sides, and in the end the mind has to give itself up."

Marcel Proust.

I looked at myself in the mirror and I said to myself - that can't be me, but it was.

It was a frightful recognition.

I was thinking that there were pages unwritten that I was reluctant to turn.

I don't want this story, I don't want this story.

In writing, I realise that indeed it is the story which is writing me and not the other way round.

I thought of my elders and they offered me a knowing look.

It wasn't much consolation.

I fell upon a passage from Toni Morrison's Beloved.

How can we ever imagine a body free from (his) stories?

"In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it. They don't love your eyes; they'd just as soon pick em out. No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face 'cause they don't love that either. You got to love, you! And no, they ain't in love with your mouth. Yonder, out there, they will see it broken and break it again. What you say out of it they will not heed. What you scream from it they do not hear. What you put into it to nourish your body they will snatch away and give you leavins instead. No, they don't love your mouth. You got to love it. This is flesh I'm talking about here. Flesh that needs to be loved. Feet that need to rest and to dance; backs that need support; shoulders that need arms, strong arms I'm telling you. And O my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up. and all your inside parts that they'd just as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them. The dark, dark liver - love it, love it and the beat and the beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. This is the prize."

"The me you know."

There was something ironic about the title of Maha's blog post.

I am continuously discovering me's that I didn't know.

Some of those me's...well meh...I would rather not have known.

I click on the link.

"People close to me in person seeing me as something different from how I view myself as a whole person. Because they don’t read me. And that’s a big part of who I am and what I think and how I feel and how I process my life. Do they really know me if they only know my behavior and not my thoughts?"

People read us all the time, not just our words.

How can I even venture to know someone without living, those readings?

I am reminded of reading an article of Dave Snowden

"Humans in effect are able to adopt multiple identities in parallel as well as in sequence. I can be father, brother, husband or son and my behaviour will alter according to the identity that I am assuming. I am increasingly convinced that in a human system it is the identities that are the agents not the individuals"

I suspect that the text is written from the perspective of a man who feels he is able to "assume identities."

We are constantly dressed, trussed up even, with the identities that others thrust upon us.

It strikes me that we are incapable of seeing ourselves as a "whole person".

How on earth can we expect that any other might view us as a "whole person"?

None of us are whole.

"By day each soul must walk within its shadow. Only night can make us whole again..."

Nicolas Gordon

I think of my parents.

At no time would I have been able to know them as "whole persons."

They were my parents.

They were at times wholly present for me.

Any attempt to consider them as "whole persons" is dependent on imagination.

Crisscrossing stories...

I think of the party for the  anniversary of my uncle's passing.

My story was one in a crowd of volumes which crisscrossed.

To each person present the person absent was wholly alive.

To the person absent, each person present must have represented a vital part of his life story.

It is a theme that I realise I visited in a blog post entitled "Story Bound"

I find myself quoting myself.

"Not noise bound, their stories were miscellaneously entangled. Their personal footnotes were hidden and unimportant."

It suddenly occurs to me that even here, in this MY blog I am lost.

I am incapable of keeping the stories in order, under control.

They have ganged up on me.

I can hear them skulking in a corner, complaining how once written they are left to their own devices.

I threaten them with erasure, then realise that will be no guarantee of closure.

They have escaped, gained their independence.

I return to Maha's blog post.

"The me you know"

"It makes me think about how my embodied self could never live up to my (albeit still authentic) digital self."

I find comments that I wrote on Facebook:

"Fortunately your readers can live up and beyond what any embodied self could ever do. Cos we are distributed - always."

"Reckon we need to think about movements more than about bodies."

There was a question from Bonnie Stachowiak:

 "I'm curious about this and wonder if you could share more of what you mean (re: movements).."

Dem bodies

We are not the sum of our parts.

Once born we are never whole.

We are forever seeking our other halves, our lost youths, our salvation.

Once dead we are never soley bones.

While written we are never soley words.

Our bodies, our lives, our identities, our stories escape us.

They become the (be)longings of others who pick them up in bits, to be reused or abused.

Dem bones

Ezekiel connected dem dry bones
Ezekiel connected dem dry bones
Ezekiel connected dem dry bones
Now I hear the word of the Lord.

Well, your toe bone connected ot your foot bone
Your foot bone connected to your heel bone
Your heel bone connected to your ankle bone
Your ankle bone connected to your leg bone
Your leg bone connected to your knee bone
Your knee bone connected to your thigh bone
Your thigh bone connected to your hip bone
Your back bone connected to your shoulder bone
Your shoulder bone connected to your neck bone
Your neck bone connected to your head bone
I hear the word of the Lord!

A dem bones, dem bones, gonna walk around
A dem bones, dem bones, gonna walk around
A dem bones, dem bones, gonna walk around
I hear the word of the Lord!

Disconnect dem bones, dem dry bones
Disconnect dem bones, dem dry bones
Disconnect dem bones, dem dry bones
An' I hear the word of the Lord!

Well, your head bone connected from your neck bone
Your neck bone connected from your shoulder bone
Your back bone connected from your back bone
Your hip bone connected from your thigh bone
Your thigh bone connected from your knee bone
Your knee bone connected from your ankle bone
Your ankle bone connected from your heel bone
Your heel bone connected from your foot bone
Your foot bone connected from your toe bone
An' I hear the word of the Lord! Oh well

A dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones
A dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones
A dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones
An' I hear the word of the Lord! Mmmh

A dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones
A dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones
A dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones
An' I hear the word of the Lord! Mmmh


A final movement catches my attention.

I note it here for further reflection.

"What makes us drawn to music is that our whole being is music: our mind and body, the nature in which we live, the nature which has made us, all that is beneath and around us, it is all music."

Hazrat Inayat Khan

Image credits.

Plate found on page 7 of Frankenstein Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley caption:


Monday, October 17, 2016

Anyone for tennis?

"Oh good shot that man!"


"First service."


"First service."

"Oh, an ace!"

"30 all."

"Oh bravo!"

There are times when discussions in education seem like a racket sport.  

For a start, you have to be a member of tennis club in order to be invited to toss up a few balls.

You need time to engage in jolly banter.

You need to be appropriately dressed and to play by the rules.

The ladies and the men are often playing separately.

(Ladies and gentlemen are almost equal now.)

Only men get to play seriously over 5 sets.

Mixed doubles is all very well, but it's reserved to middling players who won't threaten for major titles.

It's all about scoring points.

It's all about major titles.

It's all about grandslams.

The majority of the population is quite unaware of the "enjeux".

The most important thing about tennis is its irrelevance.

One can let off a bit of steam.

One can rage about decisions of the umpire.

One can throw one's racket dramatically to the ground in mock disgust.

Tennis will never do 'out to change the world.

The committee hang their rackets on the clubhouse walls as trophies.

Feedback. Silence(d).

It has always been there.

I feel my foot struggling for purchase in the shale.

I hear the torrent bellowing far below.

I glance up as the crow calls.

It angles its wings and dips behind a copse.

We clasp hands, we move on.


It was there on the space above the fireplace.

It was there on the sandstone wall.

I look at the back of the painting, to find the attached note.

It has always been there.


I listen to the sound of the branch.

It sounds brittle, I move my hand to another.

I remember the sound of the branch which broke.

I remember hitting the ground, the wind crushed from my lungs.

I feel for the solidity of the hold, it brings me reassurance.

I remember sudden imbalance and fear.

"What if I were to...?"

I remember words spoken with care.

I repeat those words.

I repeat those words.

"Breathe deeply, concentrate on the task in hand." 

"That is not a step for me to make."

"This is your path, this is your path." 

I remember gestures of encouragement.

I remember that empathetic silence of anticipation.

A sharp intake of breath.

I feel intuitively that this is my path.

I forget the babble of those who would know better.

"The babble", "the babble", "the babble".

Be silent now.

This is my path.

Judge me if you will.

Footnote on feedback.

I was going to speak of a Twitter conversation concerning feedback, assessment and grades.

Try as I might, I couldn't bring myself to include the "tweet babble".

It seemed an irrelevant footnote to this feedback story.

I came back to this exchange:

On reflection, even "telling" seems superfluous.

We are so much more than words.

I remember moments of grace.

There are no words spoken.

I find another tweet exchange to conclude.

Post Script 

Later on this morning, I fell upon an article entitled:

"4 minutes of silence can boost your empathy for others."  

It featured a video:

The video was accompanied by the following text:

"When talking about the problem of refugees, we use dehumanised language, which reduces human tragedy to numbers and statistics. But this suffering concerns real people, who – just like us - have families, loved ones, friends; their own stories, dreams, goals... Only when you sit down opposite a specific person and look into their eyes, you no longer see an anonymous refugee, one of the migrants, and notice the human before you, just like yourself – loving, suffering, dreaming... 

20 years ago, psychologist Arthur Aron discovered that 4 minutes of looking into each other's eyes can bring people closer. Using this discovery, we decided to carry out a simple experiment, during which refugees and Europeans sat opposite each other and looked into each other's eyes. Clearly, it is most important to give each other time to better understand and get to know each other."

I noted the following:

"we use dehumanised language, which reduces human tragedy to numbers and statistics."

Isn't the tragedy of education the use of  "dehumanised language" which reduces people, all our children to "numbers and statistics" ?

I fell upon the words of Clint Smith.

I looked back at what I had written:  

"telling seems superfluous".  

I felt ashamed.

What is education if it is not about enabling others to tell their truth?

"This is your path, this is your path."  
"Your path is not my path."

Life paths may be limited by words given to us even before our birth.

There are those who are born to be heard, there are those who are born and are silenced.

"There's really no such thing as the 'voiceless'. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard." 

Arundhati Roy.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Know your place.

"You should rejoice that you're in prison. Here you have time to think about your soul." 

Alexandr Solzhenitsyn.

Months of punishment regime gave me a clear idea as to the nature of the institution to which I had been admitted.

This was senior school.

I vowed to fight covertly.

They may have had an apparence of my acquiescence, they wouldn't have my soul.

I was biding my time.

Higher education.

"You should shut up, otherwise...."

I had been educated to recognise this.

I vowed to fight covertly.

They may have an apparence of my acquiescence, they won't have my soul.

I am biding my time.

Prison exercise yard.

Your time they take up with drills.

You get rewards for drilling satisfactorily.

You get threats to ensure compliance.

You learn to know your place in their scheme of things.

Scheme of things.

Scheme of objectives for subjects, objects, things...

Grades, marks, brands, certificates of conformity, scientific process....

Don't venture beyond the boundaries of your assigned place.

Know your place.

A sense of security.

"Better a devil that you do know than a devil that you don't." 

Boxes, categories, drills, grades, ranks, rituals gives one a sense of security.


We know our place.

The peers keep us in our place.




They threaten you with solitary.

People like to be 'kapo'.

It is a recognition of sorts.


Know your place.

I have been thinking about viruses.

I have been thinking about how they spread.

It doesn't take long.

One simply must have a host who travels widely and contaminates a critical mass of people.

The result is an epidemic.

Openness can be a virus.

Dreams can be a virus.

Stories can be a virus.

Fear can be a virus.

Hate can be a virus.

Love can be a virus.

Know your place.

I am no longer biding my time.

I shall be host.

I shall carry infection.

I shall travel widely.

No prison resists infection.

Know your place.

“The preachers and lecturers deal with men of straw, as they are men of straw themselves. Why, a free-spoken man, of sound lungs, cannot draw a long breath without causing your rotten institutions to come toppling down by the vacuum he makes. Your church is a baby-house made of blocks, and so of the state.

...The church, the state, the school, the magazine, think they are liberal and free! It is the freedom of a prison-yard.” 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Band of hope.

I couldn't find the photo.

I had already looked.

I didn't have time to fill in the details in the picture.

I wanted to paint (scribble) with broad strokes.

I hope there is enough to make sense for others.

There is a band playing in the circus ring.

You can imagine the music.

Oh I don't know, something contemporarily popular, sufficiently recognisable, all gone brass.

There is the band leader.

You don't really need to know that that is my father.

It could be me, it could be you.

There's that music.

There is an audience, listening.

Perhaps they are tapping their feet.

Perhaps they hate the music.

I did.

I can hear my father practising that bloody cornet in the attic.

You know how you can't wait till something stops, and then when it stops, you miss it?

He is long dead.

The cornet plays silently on (bloody noisily actually) and I smile now.

This story is not about him.

This story is not about me.

This story is about us.

And a circus...

It means nothing much without you.

Over a period of fifty, sixty years my father played all the brass band instruments equally badly.

He never stopped practising.

He loved it.

He was never any good really as a musician.

He was a willing amateur.

He put his hand to all the instruments with equal enthusiasm.

He loved hearing those around him that he had somehow attracted to play (much better than him), with his rubbish jokes, winning smile, undying enthusiasm, and spiritually rooted love.

In every parish he worked, he set up a brass band.

The jokes never changed.

Years later, the bands were still going strong.

I don't know if they remembered the jokes.

One had risen from humble beginnings to win national prizes.

I remember a photo somewhere in a Brass Band magazine.

Many band members never knew how the bands had started.

That doesn't matter.

That didn't matter.

The music plays on.

It gives folk meaning and fellowship and stories and culture to share.

And that popular music.

I have been thinking a lot about culture these days.

I have been thinking a lot about distributed narrative, love, hate, complexity, order and change and my part in these intertwining ecosystems.

I am back taking stock, drawing maps, identifying key nodes, constraints, and all along telling stories.

I wanted to sketch out a few notes here while this is fresh.

I have been thinking again of this intertwining ecosystem with which I am acting.

This particular series of actions this evening were provoked by Sean Michael Morris.

To say that he is responsible for this action would be to deny the complexity of the discourses within which I, er we, are acting.

Nevertheless I can identify a post of his on Facebook which triggered a screen shot and a flurry of tweets.

A flurry of tweets.

So, from an initial post from @slamteacher talking about the need for critical action, an interaction involving him, Daniel Bassill who is involved in community mapping and mentoring networks (@tutormentor), Dave Snowden (@snowded) of Cynefin framework fame, we arrived at distributed ethnography, a scratchy doodle on a piece of A4, and a tweet which connects various others in this dance.

In waltzing - huh?

I note in waltzing that I had also just before been reading a post by Maha Bali (@Bali_Maha) whose tweet introducing a rather marvellous article about action to take to enable different voices to be heard caught my eye and makes me smile after listening to Dave Snowden, an older man than Maha is a woman, speak, in a suit...

Nevertheless the clearly activist tweet from the same article connects with my current state of mind.

Disney interlude.

So here we have: Sean Michael Morris, Daniel Bassill, Maha Bali all speaking about action.

Child's play...

I returned back to an earlier post entitled "Party Management" in which I had Vialogue annotated a previous Dave Snowden video and added for good measure.

Now I am returning to vulture er culture.

This morning with my colleague we were talking about how we are aware of the transformation of culture within the learning ecosystem that we have been successively probing, observing, introducing different attractors, changing spaces, extending boundaries, narrating with the help of colearners, several of whom are noted in this post.

This is what this aforementioned picture is helping me attempt to make sense of.

There were a number of aspects of Dave Snowden's recently shared talk that necessitate that I go back and annotate to really grasp what he is saying.

I was reassured by a number of the remarks that he made.

Small actions...

I now need to spend more time with his work in the light of my own questions as to action.

Distributed cognition - huh?

I know that my co-learners will enable me to see this and other texts with differing,  clearly drawn perspectives.

I am fortunate in my ever evolving, distributed narrative ecosystem.

I am thankful to those with whom I may play, whose opinions I value and whose values I trust.

I think of that sketchy picture of the band playing in a Blackpool circus.

It was for a radio broadcast.

I note for a moment the title of Dave Snowden's conference:

"How leaders change culture through small actions."

In the light of the work of Sean Michael Morris, Daniel Bassill, Maha Bali, et all, it seems important to dwell on what small actions we may now take.

Meanwhile a brass band plays on...something Disney.

My father is every rainbow in the sky.

I can hear his cornet in the attic.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Passing ships.

"Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing, Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness; So on the ocean of life we pass and speak one another, Only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence."

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

A little girl reaches out towards the approaching coast.

Does she sense the tears which well up in my eyes?

She will walk for a first time on the land that her father called home.

I think of the people that lie there she will never know.

A little girl reaches out..

I wonder how far our humanity stretches?

Other journeys cross my mind.

I think of a four-year old child washed up on social media, on international press, on a beach in Greece.  

Two children on average drown in the Mediterrenean Sea every day.  

Without leaving my office chair, I OK Google searched the information.

Had I thought of children drowning in the English Channel?

How far does our humanity stretch?

As far as the keyboard and the mouse?

As far as the screen?

Can we do no more than shed a (virtual) tear?

Hanging out, messing around, geeking out

It was a Virtually Connecting Hangout from the DML conference that got me thinking.

What does empathy really mean in a digitally connected world? 

Can technology enable us to develop empathy more quickly?

Listening takes time.

The Friday before, I had spent over an hour in the company of Terry Elliott in a Kentucky.

I was speaking at lunch time, Terry had gotten up to chat at rooster time (early).

We had organised a hangout, and spoke of many things, some of which I wouldn't share here.

It has taken over two years of blogging, playing, writing poetry, speaking together for me to talk of things with him that I wouldn't share here.  I consider him, a good friend. He is one among a few real friends that I have made online.

It helps us find our place in the world when we find people that we can trust, no matter where they are.

Between humans, sometimes listening is enough.

Sometimes listening is all that we can do.
No short-cuts for empathy.
So, I was watching a VConnecting hangout.

Howard Rheingold turned up wearing a hat.

Sometimes, someone's hat is enough to make you feel happy.

Mia Zamora mentioned the idea that it would be great to have an "empathy hat" so that we could understand other people's stories.

I am not sure that either listening or understanding are always enough.

There is something that Maha Bali said during the VConnecting session that had me nodding:

There are no short-cuts to establishing dialogue with others so as to develop empathy, friendship.  

There is no question that working as a connected educator via blogging and social media has enabled me to gain a broader range of understanding of diverse contexts, diverse world views, diverse life stories.  From this respect technology may indeed help us to widen circles of empathy.

Technology has helped me focus on individual stories through narrative research as a means to identify trends, as a means to broadly modify pedagogical action. 

Nothing replaces the time taken sitting next to a person in dialogue.

Using technology in the classroom has enabled me to concentrate my energy on individual dialogue.

Emotional intelligence.

It is one thing to speak together in a private offline space, it is quite another to do so online.

Who do our data trails, which enable more pertinent "recommendations", belong to?

Is spending time "really getting to know" our students to "personalise" our interactions only postive?

How much do educators need to know about their students?

Who should we trust?

How much should we or our students share of our lives online?

Developing our "emotional intelligence" is all very well but whose intelligence is being developed?

I find an article entitled:

The Dark Side of Emotional Intelligence.

How much data are we aware of giving up?

Love networks powerfully.

It is love (and hate) that networks powerfully. 

I suppose I always return strategically to the gospels for inspiration 

Powerful parables work.

Jesus Christ didn't need empathy bracelets or like buttons to change his world.

No written media and his impact would surely have remained anecdotal.

We must bear witness to our times.

Silence speaks volumes.

There was something that Chris said during the hangout that had me nodding: 

There are things that we don't want other people to know, there are things that we choose not to say.

There are times when we imagine that a website may bring us anonymity to share what we would find difficult to say to others...

I Google the word "verlan a French term for a secret backwards language used to speak privately.

"Many verlan words refer either to sex or drugs, related to the original purpose of keeping communication secret from institutions of social control".

I think of how English, of how the internet, is a means of social control.

While this internet may appear to give us greater reach - informational, relational, commercial, it demands that we question whose reach is most enhanced.

Facebook reveals news feed experiment to control emotions.

Whose language are we speaking?

"Laisse beton."

Visions of Citizenship

I struggle rudely with the term "digital citizen". 
What the fuck does being a "digital citizen" mean?

Do we have "digital democracy"?

Do we have a "digital constitution"?

Not all "digital citizens" are created equal.  

Are we a "digital citizen"  if we are engaged in the manufacture of digital devices?

Are we a "digital citizen" if we live in a country where access to the wider internet is  restricted?

Here I am,  a "digitally engaged citizen", I scroll, I click, I type, I make bold.

I share a video of a little girl in tears.

What the fuck do I do else?

I look at the statistics for a Google Search:

[girl charlotte city council tears 650,000 results]

It doesn't stop another bloody killing.

What is the internet really doing to increase empathy?

Beware America's shocking loss of empathy.

Hate networks powerfully...

Troll di laa, troll di dee

This is fucking poetry.

I feel helplessly angry.

It doesn't help.

I think of Howard Rheingold's feelings of cynicism towards the web being a means to develop civic, civil argumentation, and social progress.

Walk the talk...

I struggle to find a needle of hope in a haystack of populist kitty crap.

I think of how social media facilitates assembly, demonstration, action.

Yes, finding empathy with others online can enable us to act locally.

Enough is enough: How Polish Women's Black Protest Defeated Abortion Ban.

I am so fortunate with my internet connected Polish friends.

I immediately feel an increased identification with distant people.

This is progress.

I got to visit Auschwitz with my students.

It reeks of the death of empathy.

“We walked inside and saw these skinny people who were still living, and one of my enlisted men who walked in with me realized they were starving. We had nothing but some candy bars, which we got in a ration, and one of my men gave the candy bar to one of these people who grabbed it and ran away and gulped it down so fast that he became unconscious and probably choked on it when he tried to swallow it before someone took it away from him. These Jewish people and these Polish people were like animals. They were so degraded, there was no goodness, no kindness, nothing of that nature, there was no sharing. If they got a piece of something to eat, they grabbed it and ran away in a corner and fought off anyone who came near them.”

Samuel Glasshow, liberator of Woebbelin

How far does our inhumanity stretch?

Most of the time our global media glut does little more than render us desensitised.

We see pictures of dead children, under heaps of rubble, washed up on the shore.

So many people, so many corpses, so many untold stories, not enough tears.

So what the fuck?

Passage to India.

I gawp with my children at yachts on the Cannes seafront.

Which celebrity will we spot?

We don't take a selfie.

There's a couple of elderly people drinking tea on a Bermudan boat.

Surely British...Ceylon Tea, far away from Frinton-on-Sea.

A swarm of red-tshirted lackeys are polishing the brass and scrubbing the deck.

It is coming up all ship-shape.

I make a note that many of the yachts at the quay are flying a red British Ensign.

What stories do these boats tell about our globalised economy?

It is a real struggle not to feel some sort of patriotic (jingoistic) pride.

What does this say about me?

What did my mother tell me about the flag waving at the Last Night of the Proms?

I think a moment about Britannia ruling the seas.

That imagined British community is beginning to make me feel sea-sick.

Whose passage paid for that Bermudan yacht?

I think a moment about the USA ruling the waves.

“The middle-class standard of the independent self has increasingly become the default American standard for how to think, feel and act in the world…this middle class self is not just a matter of individual attitudes or beliefs; it is an understanding of what it means to be a person that is built into and promoted by the social machinery – law, politics, education, employment, media, and health care of mainstream American society. Although the independent self is widely accepted as the cultural standard, it is not the natural, normal, neutral or even the most effective way of being a person. Instead, it is a privileged and culture-specific understanding of what it means to be a person that flows seamlessly from the resources, opportunities, and experiences linked with middle-class American standing in society.”

What does it mean to develop a "digital identity", find your "voice"?

Who are we developing it for?

Whose stories are we to tell?

Who is paying for it?

"My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together."

Desmond Tutu.


Thursday, October 6, 2016



A crudely drawn scribble, frankly I have never quite given up on the child who would spend hours making bold statements on a page. 

Strange really, I could easily find the means to make clear lines, to adhere to the suprareal. I could just take a bloody photo, and retouch it with an application, to smooth away the wrinkles. 

No! I refuse to give up on the child - even to my children.   

I found a moment between things and started scratching away on the Paper 53 application on my iPhone. My fingers were too large for the screen, I felt like Gulliver in Liliput. After a short while,  I was rather surprised to find myself confronted by a brute in armour. He was staring out at something in the distance. 

Is he a Saracen, a Crusader? 

I know not.  I am not quite sure if the castle behind is on fire or set in colourful forest, either. 

No matter. It is the ambiguity which gives me space to dream.  

However dense the scribble, clear forms emerge.  

I have found a new restrictive playground, for all our playgrounds have their limits...

I messed around with the possibility to combine drawing and photo. 

These are early days, I have no idea where that game might lead.

I played around for about three quarters of an hour and put the sketchy results in a Steller folder.

The images inspired me to play with sound. 

I hopped off to one of my new favourite activities, Thumbjamming. 

I shall continue with this toing and froing from image to music and back.

I am beginning to really enjoy it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


I had absolutely no memory of having created the image. Suddenly, my eye was attracted to it. It took on new meaning here. It is not so much the form of the figure which counts for me, nor even the colour, it is the memory of freedom in the gesture. There was no preconception, no cahier de charges, nothing more than a gesture.

I suppose it was the term "vagabondage" which connected.

"Un droit que bien peu d'intellectuels se soucient de revendiquer, c'est le droit à l'errance, au vagabondage. Et pourtant, le vagabondage, c'est l'affranchissement, et la vie le long des routes, c'est le liberté."

 Ecrits sur le sable 1988, Isabelle Eberhardt

I need those stolen moments of peace, where my mind is free to wander.

I find a quote of Baudelaire:

"Glorifier le vagabondage et ce qu'on peut appeler le Bohémianisme, culte de la sensation multipliée, s'exprimant par la musique." 
Journaux intimes, 1887, Mon coeur mis à nu, Charles Baudelaire.

I still see the fields racing by, I struggle to hold onto the beauty in the light, there was too much to take in. I had had just enough presence of mind to point my smartphone at the window, to capture what I might.  It was only later that I started to really look and breathe in those fields racing by.

"How might those racing fields talk with other images?" I mused.  I scanned the images on my phone and then came to a halt. Two leapt out. I suppose it was the architectural quality which I liked, to contrast with racing nature.

I fused the images together, played with various versions and put them together in a Steller collection.

On looking at the images, I moved to Thumbjam. What sounds would tie together the images? After a few experiments, I kept coming back to the harmonica. It was that sound which would tell the story. Playing as simply as possible with the sound, I settled on some sort of melody.  I took it with me to iMovie and started editing. There is so much to  learn messing with sound, image, darkness, silence.

        "All human beings are also dream beings. Dreaming ties all mankind together."

Jack Kerouac

Sunday, October 2, 2016

An indian summer.

"Do you want to stay here, or would you prefer to go outside over there?" I asked them.

"I'll follow you." I heard myself saying.

It was a beautiful afternoon of an "Indian Summer" on a grassy plateau in the Massif Central.

The people (students) sat down together in groups of various sizes and configurations and started to exchange.

A pair of them had come with food that they had prepared for the occasion, they shared their offerings with the newcomers.

I (an English teacher) moved from group to group stopping to listen and to speak with some of the people I knew (students) and with the newcomers who were from Nigeria, Columbia, Senegal, Finland, the USA, Ghana, China.

Dancing in the wild.

The newcomers, I had learnt the week before, had come from all around the world to study dance and anthropology together. I thought that the opportunity for an informal meeting of the minds would be mutually beneficial to everybody.

English would be the lingua franca for the might also be a useful means of communication and reflection, I thought to myself.

The people were all engaged in different conversations, some sitting, some standing, some speaking, some listening, some kneeling, some lying down.

None of the conversations were scripted, programmed or determined by myself (the teacher).

I pointed out that they might find some things in common...

As the afternoon went on the people moved changing the group compositions, changing the conversations.

Stories of resilience.

I spoke to a guy from Ghana and another from Senegal or Nigeria (I am not sure now) about their learning stories. They spoke to me of the difficulties they had had navigating classical expectations of parents or institutions to focus their attention on what some might consider a marginal activity - dance choreography and anthropology.

They spoke of the thousands of students in amphitheatres...

One spoke to me of trying to take law classes to dissimulate what he was really doing which was to follow dance anthropology classes at the university.

They had showed remarkable resilience in their desire to follow paths which they felt were essential to them.  I made a mental note of their stories for future reflection.

Emergent learning.

After a little while, the interaction in one group had mutated from conversation to a break dance battle.

On hearing the music, which was coming from someone's portable wireless speaker connected to a smartphone, all the other groups stopped conversing and stood up on the slopes to become an audience within an emergent, natural auditorium.

The dance had changed the nature of the space, the nature of the ritual.

There were whoops of delight, expressions of encouragement, cheers and clapping as the pair of dancers showed their moves.

After what seemed a good few minutes, the dancers stopped, some people grouped in pairs and started taking contact information, others were attracted by drumming coming from across the plateau, others went off to retrieve their belongings.

Massively Open Offline Class.

I moved with some of the people over to the other side of the plateau, passing a couple of girls with hijab attempting to walk across a slack line, a boy that I knew from one of my classes hanging upside down from a trapeze, a group of jugglers.

I stopped to speak with them and was greeted with a smile.

The activities had been organised as part of a festival to welcome new students to the university.

I overheard one student say to another:

"Why don't you tell your friends to tell the teacher that you had to miss class, this is much more interesting."

I looked back at concrete boxed classrooms and thought of those that they contained.

Once at the other side of the plateau, I was met with a group of African dancers in traditional dress who were acting as a magnet, attracting others to dance with them.

I recognised one or two of the dancers as those who had been with the class of students in the "English" class just before.

I spoke with the students watching the now active dancers of their meeting.

"Had that been a valuable learning experience?" I asked them.

The expression on their faces was eloquent, they all noted that it had indeed been both memorable and of interest to them.

I noted that some of them had been taking contact information from their new friends, had started organising times to meet.

They had at first oriented themselves.

They had shared declarations.

They had networked with these strangers.

Weak ties were being strengthened.

Now, they were clustering.

There had been clear focus on the spontaneous break-dance battle.

I shall remember this class as one with many connections from which to learn, an open space within which to roam. I thought of how this connected to my own experiences of (rhizomatic) learning online and offline.

Education for community

I thought of the street festival that had been organised by students I teach the weekend before.

I thought of the connections being made between them and the local community.

I thought of the wealth of the learning ecosystem within which they had been the actors.

I am fortunate working with people whose sporting, academic and professional activity takes them into so many diverse spaces.

Learner Resilience

I am wondering now about learner resilience.

Not all the students that I meet demonstrate the same determination as those African dancers.

Many need time to orient themselves.

Many have been so institutionalised that they are looking only to go through the minimal motions to get a grade.

Many classes, many spaces, many rituals, relations, reinforce such minimal transactions.

Strategies of school and deschooling.

Opening them up to imagining different relations, different activities or means to learn within the institution or outside of the institution is not straightforward - particularly when the institutional culture itself is the major obstacle.

I am now faced with two quandaries,which in effect are similar:

How do I go about facilitating the development of resilient learning networks and communites from within an institution in the most effective way?

How do I go about enabling learners to view the people around them - classmates, people in the street, in the town, on the internet as potential members of their learning networks?

How do I go about enabling learners to benefit from paths trodden and links made (online or offline)without overwhelming them with my own paths, links, conclusions, beliefs, culture?

One problem for me concerns digital literacies, the need (or not) to develop the desire/skills/competences necessary to be able to learn effectively. In order to do this, it is essential that I build alliances and find convergences with my colleagues who may not necessarily see the interest themselves in developing those digital literacies which I would consider essential for some if not all of the students that I work with. I am thinking of the work of Ken Bauer, Gardner Campbell, Alan Levine and Jim Groom here...

I shall follow my curiosity...
Another problem concerns the visual organisation of existing learning opportunities, activities offline and online.  It is essential to use learner generated 'slug trails' to point to new possibilities within those over familiar boxes.

Photos, videos, personal testimonies, stories, demonstrations, all must play their part, I have been curating those over the past few years.

I have been teaching students how to create digitally, to research critically, to curate, and share, to network offline and online with CLAVIER.

I suppose what is essential now is to make those connections with other colleagues to enable that ecosystem to really weave deeper and wider. I am seeing more and more convergences in ways of thinking, and ways of teaching.

I must invest time on key nodes.

I must map, I think of Daniel Bassill.

I suppose that is what I have been doing with my research.

(idiot - you have been mapping continuously for bloody years - he says to himself).

I am collecting the bits, now I need to find the most effective ways to enable learners to access them.

I must find time, I must find time.

I think of Daniel Bassill.

It's not that I must.

It's that I want to.

I want to.

I have for some time been working towards setting up some sort of "learning bank/make bank".

I must develop connections further. I must map.  I must map.

Priorities, priorities.

Time is precious, my resources and influence are limited, the pressure to fit students, teachers and learning into 'managed paths' and standardised outcomes, in predictable rectangular boxes, with interchangeable teacher operatives is considerable.

I have already seen promising projects killed this year through lack of support...

It is no time to be a nobody.

Fuck that.

I shall enjoy my time as this nobody.

I am heartened by the idea that for the moment at least, in France, university is seen as a public service where students are not to be endebted for years thereafter.

How long will this last?

Fuck that.

We can only do what we can do, with our feeble means...

Learning in an age of abundance?

I think for a -moment of the term: "learning in an age of abundance".

I think we need to reassess what we mean by abundance.

I think of the term 'Indian Summer'.

I make a few mental notes to address

  • the idea of learning, the idea of colonisation in "the wild" and the notion of "wilderness"
  • conflicting notions of enlightenment and transcendence. (Note to self: Les Maux Des Mots.)
  • conflict between capitalism and sustainable ecosystems.

What is it that Dave Cormier says?

Content is people?

I can never remember.

An age of abundance can surely not be reduced to people, even less to bloody information, or data.

I rather hope now that he is thinking of inviting people to reflect on learning/learner resilience now.

I rather suspect that I am ready for that now.

He probably isn't.


Looking back, looking around, looking forward, looking around.

I look at the presentations that I was doing earlier in the year when I was in Poland.

Suddenly, they take on renewed importance.

I shall study them again.

I shall reorient.

Well that was an  unexpected flurry of typing.


Special note: Terry Elliott's recent posts sparked enthusiasm to review this post and to extend it.

Fuck knows why.

Footnote to self.

Note Cynefin Framework and Dave Snowden's Party Organisation. 

How not to manage complexity.