Sunday, February 11, 2018

Defining CLAVIER.

"I am by nature uncomfortable with definitions: I tend to prefer contextual conversations with permeable "working" definitions and shades of gray. I think openness has many shades of gray."

Bonnie Stewart.

"This time of walls and travel bans demands conviction and ingenuity from critical digital educators concerned with gestures of openness and hospitality. To change the landscape on both sides of the walls that are being built to keep us apart, we need to show up and collaborate wherever we can."

Maha Bali and Kate Bowles.


was the working title for our conference submission for the Unicollab conference in Krakow.

In an attempt to define this acronym from my perspective I brought together blog-posts, photos, presentations, quotes et al.

It is a challenge to make sense of it.  


One has to start somewhere so I started with the acronym's constitutive words:

CLAVIER: Clermont and Warwick Virtual Intercultural Exchange Research.

CLAVIER: Connected Learning and Virtual Intercultural Exchange Research Network.

CLAVIER: "a Moodle course." I found this in a document and smiled.

CLAVIER Network: "a large-scale exchange that puts emphasis on informal interaction with minimal intervention from instructors. In this network, students can determine the nature of the activities that they would like to be engaged in and choose communication channels to blur the boundaries between formal and informal learning."

This attempt is already much more explicit and closer to what I would consider the truth, maybe it was written by my friend Teresa Mackinnon :-).

One cannot disassociate intercultural online/offline practice from research in CLAVIER.


"blur the boundaries between formal and informal learning."

One might add: "blur the boundaries between online and offline."

One might add: "blur the boundaries between institional partnerships and online communities and affinity groups"

One might add: "blur the boundaries between disciplines."

One might add: "blur the boundaries between practice and research."


One might emphasise pragmatic and critical use of technology: if formal platforms were the initial starting point for the Warwick and Clermont exchange, they were not used at all for other partnerships or exchanges.

Tools used have depended on the types of exchange and its objectives and on the personal choice of the participants. A suggested Facebook group creation, for example, was rejected by students this year who preferred to rely on Facebook group messaging. One or two students have refused to use internet and have preferred to exchange letters. Student or teacher choices are discussed and respected.


CLAVIER: Moodle, Blackboard IM, Blackboard Collaborate, Skype, Google Documents, Google Hang-outs,Google Plus Communities, Youtube, Blogger, Storify, Wordpress, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, What's App, email, snailmail.

CLAVIER: "A Moodle Course" er not really.


Over seven years,a diverse range of activities has been used, depending on the exchange, on the moment.

Activities can be long-term or pop-up, teacher or student led.

CLAVIER: Information exchange, intercultural exchange, Cultura questionaires, surveys, collaborative story-telling, collaborative project development, video creation, blogging, tweeting, pod-casting, chat, email, video-conferencing, visit organisation, visit coordination, travel, professional interview simulation, gifting, conferences, teaching practice, teaching observation, research, teacher training.


The multiple partnerships and communities which have constituted CLAVIER have been identified with acronyms, some of which have become used as searchable hashtags on social media.


A key term for CLAVIER is affinity

Networks have developed via academic, professional or personal affinity.

Such personal affinity networks have also been identified with hashtags. These are some examples:



"Learning is the formation of connections in a network." 
Stephen Downes

I take a look at the top tags on Touches of Sense...

CONNECTION is first, then C(onnnected)Courses, then #rhizo14 (Rhizomatic Learning), Education, Learning, Freedom, then, #rhizo15 (Rhizomatic Learning), then C(onnected)L(earning)MOOC, then Creativity, Meaning, and Complexity.

CLAVIER: Connected Learning and Virtual Intercultural Exchange Research.

Blog post titles tagged CLAVIER express connection...repetitively:

Connecting Desire(s)
Pinball Machine

A closer look at these posts' associated tags, and the multiple connections are evident.


Ad infinitum.


"criss-crossing verb gerund or present participle: criss-crossing.

form a pattern of intersecting lines or paths on (a place).

"the green hill was criss-crossed with a network of sheep tracks"

Move around or travel around (a place) by going back and forth repeatedly."

"It was the third and fourth time that we had physical exchanges with students from Poland and the UK. It is these criss-crossing of paths with enable us to learn deeply and gradually to change together. It is a slow at times pain-staking process."

Over a period of seven years, I have connected and reconnected with people in different contexts online, people in #rhizo14 pop up and connect in #clmooc, in @vconnecting, in #digiwrimo, in #digped.  Inevitably highly connected educators like myself or Teresa act as bridging nodes between vast numbers of people who may be offline or online.

I am constantly meeting people who I have only known online in offline contexts.

My personal/professional/academic learning networks inevitably blur boundaries of what constitutes CLAVIER. 

My personal/professional/academic interests are already blurred

One or two photos, one or two activities can help demonstrate this.

"It is when those distant voices come to people our little boxes an instant and change them for ever that we realise that we do indeed share common and for ever shifting ground."

This photo is from what I have decided is a "CLAVIER" album. 

CLAVIER connects people - teachers, learners, professionals, singers, dancers...whoever.

We have a class which I am teaching in Clermont Ferrand on the campus. Terry over in Kentucky is speaking about education (he took the decision not to school his kids) in a hangout with the teachers in a classroom via a smartphone which is being passed around a huddle of teachers. 

I met Terry online, during the rhizo14 MOOC. We have become very good friends, working together on poetry, meeting for intermittent pop-up hangouts called "CLAVPICNICS". On the bottom left is Marcin, my colleague and friend in Poland, next to him is Maritta, my colleague and friend in Finland, then we have a teacher in the classroom, and on the far right we have Teresa, my colleague and friend in the UK.  

You can see a similar scene in this photo, with students and my laptop.

“Happy Birthday
Then it was Maha's Birthday, why don't we sing 'Happy Birthday' I thought, - well why not?

In thirty seconds, their singing was on the internet winging its way to Egypt, and the USA, and Brazil, and Australia...well wherever.

Pretty quickly, Kevin had remixed their song, Terry had Zeega'ed the birthday meme in Arabic, Maha had blogged on it and sent back a sung response to my students (they are unaware of that for the moment unless the one Tweep has done his job for the masses and sent it viral in Clermont Ferrand STAPS)”

"Road Trip

...they had actually written a song in English - entitled...Road Trip. I took a photo of their manuscipt:

I then got another student to capture their performance to post to Youtube.
At 12:00 I tweeted the following message:

Three hours later, a tweet arrived from Egypt...

This regular and insistant and long-term criss-crossing of boundaries, and ties between people for me is what really constitutes INTERCULTURAL learning. 

One can not learn to know (people) without this constant, long-term criss-crossing and  deliberate reflective questioning.

"The only way to make borders meaningless is to keep insisting on crossing them: like a refugee, without papers, without waiting to be given permission, without regard for what might be waiting on the other side. For when you cross a border, you are not only affirming its permeability, but also changing the landscape on both sides. You cross carrying what you can carry, you cross bearing witness, you cross knowing that you are damageable, that you are mortal and finite, but that language is memory, and memory lives on."

Lina Mounzer

It is the moments when we experience discomfort, dissonance, conflict even, that we learn the most.

Little by little I note a change in the landscape of the environment in which I am working.

Little by litle I note a change in my own perceptions as to what "open" is limited by, as to what freedom might be, as to the limits of empathy in understanding the lives of others, as to what my own privilege blinds me to, as to what my own criss-crossing identities are.


One cannot disconnect CLAVIER from a context of long-term pedagogical research which seeks to discover how to teach in a digitally connected environment.

CLAVIER, from my perspective is an integral part of this, my personal development as a teacher. 

It is also why,I have sought to extend connections across my institution not only with language teachers but with those in other disciplines.

I make no distinction between distant and local digitally-enabled connections.

If an offline context/event/action might benefit other people then I document it and teach/encourage students to do so and share with appropriate people or communities.

A video of a meeting enables others to watch it at a later date.

A photo of an activity enables others to see it and experiment.

Affinity groups have popped up from student desires.

This year we have had a Facebook messenger enabled local rock-climbing group and a Facebook group enabled "run in English group". The students have expressed a desire to combine their passions with English practice and meeting new people and I have facilitated their development by acting as a bridging node between them and existing local communities online. 

I have also been working with distant humanitarian associations, for example, in Nepal to enable students to engage their energies in such actions.

A quick look at my Facebook messenger account and I have numerous ongoing conversations which vary from students from Krakow and Clermont Ferrand discussing an upcoming visit to France to a multi-national group talking about Humanitarian missions.


I suppose this  behaviour of connecting and sharing is at the heart of "Open education" or open practices in business like the "Working Out Loud" movement.

I look at other CLAVIER tagged posts on Touches of Sense....

Reaching out.
Out of the box.
Lines of flight.

[For myself, I am driven by wanting to know what lies on the other side, on the outside. 

The thought of going through the motions in a closed box defined by others is an anathema. 

Education, conceived as the following of pre-conceived, closely monitored, continuously measured and institutionally badged "learning paths" is some sort of vision of hell.

I will fight to open the door. 

Maybe I have been fighting to open the door to Corporate America?

I am constantly troubled by this "digital" "freedom", this opening of our lives our education systems to corporate surveillance and profit.

I sign up to "engagemooc" via Twitter.

It is not much resistance to this dystopian "future".  

I wonder to what extent I am designing my own echoing digital prison. 

Out of an institutional box into a corporate box. 

Deleuze and Guattari reference: 

Capitalism and Schizoprenia. 

I am uncomfortably aware of my own schizoprenia...]

Digital literacies: critical media literacy, video creation, collaborative writing, graphic creation, is embedded into our pedagogy in Clermont.

Active, collaborative project-based pedagogy is a major part of how we work. 

Portfolio assessment developed in both Clermont and Warwick reflects a common desire to bring together formal and informal learning, online and offline communication.

One cannot disassociate easily personal/professional/academic spheres.

Academics or professionals are often at ease with formal tasks and language but insist on the importance of "small talk" and general conversation.

Our multiple identities demand that our complexity be taken into account by teachers. 

This recent research presentation from a conference in Corsica seeks to map complexity informed practices and identify bridges or barriers to future development.

It was accompanied with a Virtually Connecting hangout facilitated by Teresa to enable distant particpants to access the conference and to contribute to discussions.  Unfortunately lack of reliable wifi disconnected us but didn't prevent a valuable discussion to be recorded between Teresa and Martina Emke of the Open University.

Our work with CLAVIER demands transcultural, transmedia, and transdisciplinary connection and collaboration.

Our work on open learning spaces and our documenting of our experiences has also influenced and led to Clermont language teachers being associated with the development of a transdisciplinary open learning space (later aborted).


In conversations with Teresa in particular, we have always associated CLAVIER with unpredictable rhizomatic development. Depending on who you speak with, it has different forms, and for some people they wouldn't associate CLAVIER with their exchange activity at all. 

  • Le « principe de connexion et d'hétérogénéité » implique que le rhizome se forme par liaisons d'éléments hétérogènes sans qu'un ordre préalable assigne des places à chaque élément : « [...] n'importe quel point d'un rhizome peut être connecté à un autre, et doit l'être »6.

Marcin tells me he is going to be in Warwick in February with a group of students.

A student asks me if he can include his ongoing video-conferencing with a Warwick correspondent he met the year before in this year's portfolios.

A student tweets me a photo of his weekend with a Warwick student he met two years before.

I am witness to a Facebook conversation concerning a reunion between students who have met in Krakow three years before.

  • Le « principe de multiplicité » : la multiplicité est « [...] l'organisation propre du multiple en tant que tel, qui n'a nullement besoin de l'unité pour former un système »7, c'est-à-dire que la multiplicité ne peut être artificiellement unifiée et totalisée par une forme surplombante. la multiplicité est une forme de prolifération immanente et autonome.

CLAVIER undoubtedly demonstrates multiplicity in its organisation, it has no unity, there is no central organisation. Its development is unhierarchical and non-centralised. I can see a fair amount of its emerging features but nobody would be able to have a reliable overview of any outline.

  • Le « principe de rupture assignifiante » qui caractérise l'absence d'ordre, de hiérarchie entre les éléments et surtout l'absence positive d'articulations prédéfinies, contrairement aux arborescences ou systèmes organiques qui prévoient et localisent leurs faiblesses afin d'organiser les ruptures possibles : « un rhizome peut être rompu, brisé en un endroit quelconque »8.

CLAVIER as exemplified by stories of student exchanges popping up after years of dormancy can be ruptured and then reconnect in different forms.

I am contacted by Marcin to meet up with a group of Polish students for the New Year, two of them are with Marcin in Krakow a third is in Canada. They have left the university. I met up with them the last time I was in Krakow for and Erasmus trip. They have become friends.

  • Le « principe de cartographie et de décalcomanie », c'est-à-dire que la carte s'oppose ici au calque, en ce que le calque est reproduction d'un état de chose bien identifié qu'il suffit de représenter. Au contraire, la carte est un tracé original qui rend un aspect du réel que nous ne connaissions pas encore (une carte peut présenter des entrées multiples et un même espace peut être symbolisé par un grand nombre de cartes différentes).

You couldn't reproduce CLAVIER it has no unified plan, it is for ever changing.

It may/must/can only be represented by multiple maps.

Maps fixed like this blog post are only ever incomplete and related to a particular moment.

I am writing to map meaning.

A search of blog post titles here on Touches of Sense and Teresa's conference presentations express the organic and rhizomatic nature of this network.

A search of images which illustrate the blog posts reinforce this insistance on complex perspectives.

CLAVIERFlower Vases and IrisesGrowing like Topsy, Sowing seeds, Little seeds little signs,

“Things are going haywire”
“As another term starts, after only one week, things are going haywire. First day in class, we had students chatting with a friend of mine working on a Ski Resort in Australia, during the week we had students reading my blog, seeing their snow hat from last winter being commented on by people all around the world and retweeted by Rihanna (a robot - I kept that quiet not to spoil the effect) on Twitter.”


I find a presentation given to a group of Marcin's students in Krakow about rhizomatic learning for an Erasmus Teaching Staff Mission.

Is this Rhizo14?

It is connected learning in a digitally networked environment.


CLAVIERBuilding Bridges...

We are forever building bridges...making connections.

I find another CLAVIER tagged post here:

"Vectors of virus." 

"I'm a rat."

I said to the teacher between classes.

It had suddenly occurred to me that I had identified my role.

It is an image that has crossed my mind over the past few days.

I get into places where I shouldn't.

I am a carrier of  viruses.

There are positive viruses, there are negative viruses.

Those judgements depend on your values.


It is becoming increasingly apparent that both 

Touches of sense...


RESEARCH or MAPPING adventures.

“Writing has nothing to do with meaning. It has to do with landsurveying and cartography, including the mapping of countries yet to come.” 
Gilles Deleuze

Mapping strategy

Mapping Touches of Sense...

CLAVIER is some sort of attempt to map countries yet to come.

"It is because modern education is so seldom inspired by a great hope that it so seldom achieves great results. The wish to preserve the past rather than the hope of creating the future dominates the minds of those who control the teaching of the young"

Bertand Russell


  1. As I read this I'm aware that what you are sharing is just what's visible when one looks at an iceberg. Much more must be stored in your archives and those of other participants.

    I liked what Lina Mounzer wrote: "The only way to make borders meaningless is to keep insisting on crossing them..."

    Looks like CLAVIER is helping this happen.

  2. Or maybe CLAVIER is a keyboard? ~ Charlene