A seat at the table?

"If you are not at the table, you are on the menu."
A seating plan. There's Christ in the centre, surrounded by his disciples. Who is to his left? Who is to his right? Whose table are they dining at? Is that important? I wonder who is in charge of the seating plan? I suppose that once a marginal dissident Palestinian preacher is appropriated by the established church, and miscellanious defenders of faith, the seating plan becomes an important issue. Who will get to share the bread? Sometimes, people are easier to invite to dinner when they are dead. Surveillance.
Before Google, (who does no evil), before Apple (who pays no tax), before Facebook (who brings the internet to the poor), before Twitter (and its civic service), before the NSA and GCHQ... GOD. Some of us have a long history of dealing with surveillance. The (dis)advantage of divine surveillance is that we can do little more than pray for benevolence. We are at God's mercy. We must have faith. All of us. We may have some choice of intermediaries. They may not have your best interests at heart. Shouldn't we pretty much all be equal at communion?
"And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body."
I borrow a photo from a Catholic Herald article entitled: "Why it makes no sense for non-catholics to receive communion. Here's why." I wonder who is in charge of the seating plan? Mammon. Before Google, (who does no evil), before Apple (who pays no tax), before Facebook (who brings the internet to the poor), before Twitter (and its civic service), before the NSA and GCHQ... We were (left) alone. We love to be connected. We are useless at resisting temptation.  
Apples are sold seductively. We are willing to believe snakes who speak. They surely mean no evil. Open your homes to them. Surely, we are mistaken. We are their bread, their bodies, their things. We are on their menus, being eaten, bit by bit. Who will defend us? The (dis)advantage of divine surveillance is that we can do little more than pray for benevolence. Defenders of the faith. Let us pray. Here is humble Abe, engraved in stone, magnified in scale and marble.
"Government of the people by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."
Abraham Lincoln.
Abraham Lincoln has values, faith and forboding.
He is eternal (dead).
I wonder who is in charge of the seating plan in the winter White House?
A seat at the table. I was listening to the first #engagemooc hangout and suddenly, quite unexpectedly the word "table" jumped out at me.
"We need to give people access to the table." 7:41 PM Simon Ensor​ Hmmm. Tables of power. What about upending that table?
"And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves;"
I suppose, I am hypersensitive to this idea of tables. I think about sitting at a vast table as a member of the university's board. I was able to vote, to speak even. I learnt that decisions were made, not at the table, but in the closed rooms by those who really held the power. My place at the table was to acquiesce. I was a representative of the diversity allowed by statute. I remember discovering the university's gastronomic restaurant. I was never invited to such a table usually. I remember my feelings about a conference where those in power were all grouped at the top table. There was an unnanounced seating plan for those in the know. I was at a table, not THE TABLE. I wonder who is in charge of the seating plan? I had a voice, apparently not a voice that counted. I wrote about this experience in two previous articles: What are you? R.E.S.P.E.C.T. When we sit at their academic tables, are we still on their menu? The conference closes with the round table. The knowers are known. I wasn't invited. I left the delegates to their tables and went and ate with a homeless person in a Macdonalds. I back reference a blog post of Kay Oddone entitled:
"But it’s not just taking a seat. It’s feeling confident and competent and comfortable enough to join in with the conversation that is happening at that table. And knowing, when the talking stops, and the faces turn expectedly, how to share one’s opinion in a way that
makes it able to be heard."
I note a strong emphasis on the importance of "higher education" in #engagemooc which is not supported by the examples of community learning in the videos brought to the table in topic one.
  • The Highlander centre.
  • The Antigonish movement
  • Black Community Education in Jim Crow South.
I wonder who is in charge of the seating plan?
Table research I thought perhaps, I should research tables. Perhaps, I had misunderstood what was meant by "access to tables." I TOO.
I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,"

They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.
Langston Hughes, 1902 - 1967
The poem, I discover in an article entitled "What Langston Hughes powerful poem I, Too, tells us about America's past and present", is engraved in stone at the entrance of the National Museum of African American History on the National Mall. Does "access to the table" mean acceptance as an American? Is the table American citizenship? What is it about being engraved in stone? I, too, am European.
Pre Brexit, I find myself in limbo in France as a British citizen applying for French nationality. Whatever happened to European ideals? I find an article from 2013 entitled: "The European Dream Is Based On An 'Equals Around The Table' Metaphor." "In between the trade talks European leaders came to see that they had something in common besides the name of the table at which they sat."
On this foundation I propose that ‘equals around a table’ should be the governing analogy and the founding myth behind any new narrative or ‘European Dream’. The slogan of the European Union is ‘united in diversity’ and in the words of Hannah Arendt in The Human Condition:
To live together in the world means essentially that the world of things is between those who have it in common, as a table is located between those who sit around it: the world like every in-between, relates and separates men at the same time.
A ‘table’-metaphor further has a strong mythology in the European context. Jesus sat around a table, predicted his demise and forgave his traitors depicted on ‘The Last Supper’. King Arthur and his ‘Knights of the Round Table’ is a common legend of valour, righteousness and equality. Martin Luther King Jr. might not be European, but his ‘I have a dream’ speech has resonated strongly with many Europeans over the last 50 years. He too talked about ‘the table of brotherhood’ as the central meeting place in his dream about equality and racial justice. Even the idea of a European continent in the very physical and geological sense rests on the idea of a tableau – or table.
Boardroom tables.
I find an exciting article entitled:
"Dutch photographer Jacqueline Hassink has been inside some of the most important and cloistered rooms in the world. But these aren't science labs or political offices—they're the opulent boardrooms of Europe's largest companies, which Hassink photographed as part of a project called The Table of Power."
I find the language intriguing: "the inner sanctum".
I search a definition.
"The most sacred place in a temple or church.
A private or secret place to which few other people are admitted.
‘he walked into the inner sanctum of the editor's office."
I suppose that the most sacred place is that closest to GOD.
Were they talking about "access to tables" such as these in #engagemooc? I immediately remember a cartoon version of Orwell's Animal Farm. The horse and the sheep are looking in through the window as the pigs dine.
"No question now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."
George Orwell, Animal Farm
While billionaires toast their tax breaks, people go hungry.
I find a documentary entitled:
"As of 2012, about 50 million Americans were food insecure. This was approximately 1 in 6 of the overall population, with the proportion of children facing food insecurity even higher at about 1 in 4."
Clean energy...
While billionaire Elon Musk sends surplus Tesla sports cars to Mars, kids are digging cobalt in the Congo for its batteries with their bare hands.
"But the film is a saddening bore
'Cause I wrote it ten times or more
It's about to be writ again."
David Bowie Life on Mars
Are we wanting to replace one exploitative elite with another? The Captain's table. I find importance advice from the Reader's Digest, (Goodness a relic): "How to get invited to the captain's table on your cruise holiday." This is important as: "The captain's table is the best place to eat, and to be seen at during your cruise. But there is a fair bit of mystery about how you can be invited to dine with the captain. As with many cruising enigmas, there is more than one way to get to dine at the top table." Thank Goodness! Google has saved me from social exclusion. A seat at the table. Google works in mysterious ways (but does no evil) I find a brilliant community art experiment "The Community Meal" in an article entitled "A seat at the table". Surely we need to enable our own diverse tables to emerge rather than attempt to be the token invitee in their boredroom?
"The metaphor of the table evokes images of folks coming together to break bread, to discuss personal and political issues, and to cultivate an atmosphere of community. For artists Seitu Jones and Theaster Gates, the table is more than a metaphor; it’s also a medium. In the Twin Cities, their tables are provoking dialogue about systemic reform, in local foodways and cultural institutions. Can these conversations actually effect change? Or is the change the conversation itself?" "With the support of Public Art Saint Paul, Jones staged Create: The Community Meal, a half-mile-long luncheon in the middle of Victoria Street. A host of community partners helped to grow, cook, and choreograph the meal that took 400 volunteers to realize."
I wonder who is in charge of the seating plan? This scheme contrasts with patriotic British street parties which have long been usurped by royalty and the establishment as demonstrations of civic engagement. "Do we have to eat the jelly mum?"
A dinner party. I discover another art installation entitled "The Dinner Party"
"The Dinner Party is an installation artwork by feminist artist Judy Chicago. Widely regarded as the first epic feminist artwork, it functions as a symbolic history of women in Western civilization. There are 39 elaborate place settings arranged along a triangular table for 39 mythical and historical famous women. SacajaweaSojourner TruthEleanor of AquitaineEmpress Theodora of ByzantiumVirginia WoolfSusan B. Anthony, and Georgia O'Keeffe are among the guests."
Should you be accepting invites to their tables or consider designing your own? I find inspiration in a community project entitled: A seat at the table. It is accompanied by a hashtag: #seatatourtable
"A Seat at the Table is a borrowed phrase from Langston Hughes’ iconic poem, I, Too, am America. Words from this poem are carved on the walls of the museum’s history galleries.
At A Seat at the Table audiences are empowered to take their rightful seat at the table over a family-style meal, following critical conversations for social justice, featuring guest speakers whose work and commentary seeks progress for all people of color. Audiences take the lead in sharing critical thinking, problem-solving, and strategies towards a more equitable society.
The program acts as a social justice conversation exploring issues of contemporary importance linked to systemic racism, social inequity, and the black community. This program amplifies an important pillar of the museum’s mission to explore:
  • the American experience through the African American lens
  • what it means to be an American
  • and share how American values such as resilience, optimism, and agency are reflected in the African American community’s past, present, and future"
Should you be accepting invites to their tables or consider designing your own?

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

What shines out.

It has been almost seven years since I first met, on the 24th March 2011, Teresa Mackinnon on Steve Wheeler's blog "learning with e's".

In April 2011 we met up with Claude Tregoat at Warwick to agree to launch a telecollaboration project for 600 students from Warwick and Clermont universities.

We had no idea where this would lead.

We were curious, or foolhardy enough to want to discover.

This would become CLAVIER.

Initially:  Clermont and Warwick Virtual Intercultural Exchange Research.
Afterwards: Connected Learning and Virtual Intercultural Exchange Research.

Retrospectively, what shines out from this meeting are our shared values as educators

It is this which keeps me going.

It is not coincidental that the following quote prefaces a "CLAVIER History" document:

"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

We share, I feel,  a resilient desire, to use the means available to enable people to meet distant peers, to develop communicational skills, to build an awareness of the benefits that openness can bring, to exchange interculturally and to be changed as a result.


Desire, shared values, respect, curiosity, need for learning, hard work, a strongly developed sense of humour, empathy, patience, acceptance of (our) limits, enjoying each others' company, having fun.

Going to the pub.

OMG if we never had any fun....

There have been many times when my/our resilience has been sorely tested.

Failure of communication.

Failure of tech.

Failure of teachers.

Failure of students.

Failure of organisation.

Failure of exchanges.

Blimey, that's a lot of "Failure".

There are times as a "telecollaborative teacher" you wonder whether it is all worth it.

Then you take time to reflect.

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."

Winston Churchill. 

Seven years on.

Where do they speak about the ups and downs of human existence in academic publications?

I couldn't for the life of me write this blog post.

"Oh what's the bloody point of blogging..aagh...blah, blergh."

I couldn't think.

I had no desire to be online.

I could only vegetate.

I have got used to this fallow state.

Oh, this drear.

The nature of things.

I just let things go.

I just let things be.

I just let myself be.

I came back to working on this reflection this week.

One of the posts here on Touches of Sense..., tagged with CLAVIER is called:

"Keeping up. LOL"

Resilience entails acceptance of our limits, listening to oneself.

I just let things be.

I just let myself be.

I find a tweet from Teresa.

Faith. It will get done.

I know not how.

I feel renewed drive to do this.

We will be attending a telecollaboration conference in April 2018 to speak of CLAVIER.

Controlled Flashbacks

As a classroom teacher, we can rather easily overestimate our power, our control over learning.

I used to plan in microdetail what I, what the students would be doing.

I learnt to get the students to change formation:
mingle, pair, line up in rows, group, circle, back to back, scavenger hunt.

Was I a teacher or a choreographer?

I learnt to get the students to speak on cue:
read text, stop, now you, answer question, ask question, now discuss, now present, now sing, now chorus.

Were they enrolled in the army or a member of a choir?

I learnt to follow teacher book instructions:
first look at picture, then read text, then listen to cassette, then answer questions, now play game, now write paragraph.

Was I a teacher or an operative?

All that technique works. (enough to keep them in order)

(Most) people do what you ask.

They play the game.

Tell them to learn a list of words.

They are (mostly) compliant.

They are trained to be.

They get a mark.

They go off.



So what?

Was that it?


"I am not doing CLAVIER this year, it doesn't work." (anonymous teacher)

Some teachers' patience for what they consider as time-consuming experiment is...limited.

What they want is something that "works".

Then they give them marks.


I look at the photo above, a group of students from different countries, smiles beaming at the top of the Puy de Dôme and I feel some sort of satisfaction...vindication even.

I remember a conversation with the director of my service.

"A lot of people were asking me why I supported that project. They were sceptical. I see now that I was right to have done so. It has brought the service a lot. Thanks to you."


I look at some numbers.

Over 5000 students have participated in CLAVIER over seven years.

Students and teachers from institutions in the UK, France, Poland, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Finland, the USA, Japan, have participated.

Over 30 teachers have been involved.

Over 60 students have visited each other in their respective countries.

I am curious.

"How far can this go?"

"Will this work?"

"How many teachers can I get involved?"

"What happens if we try this?"

"What if we have an open community?"

As an individual teacher, I have been stretched to my limits.

As an individual, and ex-rock-climber, I like being tested to my limits....

As an individual I like being on the edge...until I start telling myself that I hate it.

I am curious.

"Why do these people work but those people don't?"

I suppose I have always been drawn to research  "à ma façon."


I have always been drawn to research.

I have been a reluctant academic.

I have been much more readily drawn to creative writing, to doodled artistic expression.

I have often looked at academics, with their long words, competitive impact ratings and dry prose with circumspection.

Who should we treat with circumspection, with fear, with flattery, to get on...?

OMG, where's the fun?

With experience, a good deal of exchanges, doodling and circumspection my views have become more nuanced.

I look at the exchange between myself, Another and Teresa from Steve Wheeler's blog in March 2011.


"academics have a job to do, part of that involves noticing emerging phenomena and naming them - get over it."


"LOL, thanks for that utterly pointless input Teresa.

You may as well just have said 'Whateva..!' 'Still can't upset the holier-than-thou academic can we...no matter how little some of you may know."


"Thanks to your comments I am getting a bigger picture. As a language teacher, I would like to praise the inventors of new words. It is not because we can't see the subtlety of snow that the Inuit and their expertise should be laughed into demise.  I look to academics to inform my work,  and to help me to think more widely about my work, it's not because I am not a horticulturalist that I can't benefit from their expertise in the garden.  Thanks to this blog post and your comments, I have learnt a lovely new word: Cyberbalkanisation. Let's accept our ignorance. We are all ignorant about something - that's the big picture. Together, if we give ourselves time, we might just learn...respect."


"Thank you Simon, the voice of a fellow linguist brings clarity :-) I didn't even know I could do impressions LOL."

Research Network

Research was always meant to accompany our action within CLAVIER.

Mainly, cos we didn't know what we were doing...much.

I was very fortunate to have been put in contact with Christine Rodrigues at the local research lab who helped me learn Inuit (IOWs wot academics write innit).

An initial adventure in Sweden to Eurocall brought me new contacts.

We set out to work with colleagues in Sweden, Poland, Germany, Japan.

I have learnt that initial promise doesn't always bring fruit even after hard labouring.

"It doesn't (always) work (out)."

I have developed resilience...

I met Marcin Kleban who has become a close colleague as both teacher and researcher and a friend.

I discovered Maritta Riekki, who has become a source of inspiration and a friend.

A second adventure in Portugal to Eurocall reinforced contacts and I met up with my friend Teresa.

Discovering limits.

A third adventure in the Netherlands to Eurocall was cancelled due to lack of funding.

"Where's Simon?" some friends were reported to have asked.

"Discovering how an institution's limits define you, your work, your access to networks."  I might have replied.

Others, less privileged than I, know other(s') limits which define them...and their access.

This thought keeps me going.

Others need superhero levels of resilience to continue their work or just to get the water to survive.

This thought keeps me going.

I have become little by little more integrated within the academic community, for the past four years, an associate member of a research laboratory.

Research, when you have a full-time teaching post, over-time, is at times unfeasible.

It is easy to fall into; "They, those others, have it easy."

It is a waste of energy.

It is to disrespect those who have nothing at all.

You do what you can, with what you have.

Hours spent setting up partnerships with teachers in institutions can result in:
  • no exchange project at all (even after finding partners for 200 students - this has happened twice in seven years) 
  • no activity between students (after setting up synchronous video conferencing with Japan for example)
  • abandoning of partnership due to career change, retirement, change of program, 
  • incompatibility of level (of expectation/of language/of competences) and abandon after a year.
I think back to a conversation with a teacher from Salford University in 2010.

The exchange program was planned to start in September 2010.

Then she changed university.

Back to the drawing board...

I look at an image of CLAVIER exchange partners in 2015

Four of the partnerships have stopped.

One of the partnerships is ongoing but in a different form.

I look at a list of teachers that were key colleagues in CLAVIER development.

Five of the colleagues have either left or are no longer able to invest their time in the same way.

Constraints, and opportunities are constantly fluctuating.

New partners have appeared.

I have become more aware of the complex ephemeral nature of our ever-moving institutional contexts.

Without recognition, without funding, enthusiasm may wither.

On the other hand, a few irrationally determined, connected leaders and you can have whole departments engaged.

Research interests.

Publication, I have discovered, has more currency for the research laboratory, than it does for me, at least at present.

I write that, then I think about that PHD.

Then there's those funded projects...to apply for.

Where's the time going to come from?

I just let things go.

I just let myself be.

I am getting past worrying.

Funding, funding.

Like much in education, this telecollaborative project and its associated research functions to a great extent on good will and unpaid work.

"Oh that's great, could you help us set up a telecollaborative project?" two heads of department ask me.

I ask for funding to enable me to have my work recognised (IOW to get paid).

"No we don't have the funds...."

I just let things go.

I have reached the limits of what I can do to set up partnerships for now....

It seems.

I hesitate on writing that.  (typical reaction to challenge)

Telecollaboration is an add on, quite nice, but not essential.

Until it is.

And someone (else) finds themself at the right place at the right time.

Recognition for the work which is necessary, to take this to another level.

Research, resilience and me.

Research, I have decided, today, nevertheless, helps one to become more resilient.

Researchers can look at "Failure" and "Success" "Limits" "Constraints" and at "What works" more dispassionately (particularly when it is their job to do so).

Gradually, now, I am beginning to see that this autoethnographic blogging and that academic writing may not be entirely incompatible.

There is an emerging method behind this madness that is "Touches of sense..."

Research dissemination data.

I look at some numbers.

I suppose they count.

15 conference papers which concern CLAVIER.

8 book chapters or articles which concern CLAVIER.

1 European report which uses CLAVIER as a case study.

Behind the numbers, there are stories of  trust, interdependence, friendship, hours of work.

This blog post joins those of my colleagues.

What does CLAVIER mean to us in our different contexts?

I look at one concise academic description of CLAVIER.

"A Moodle course."

I sigh.

What shines out.

Last year, virtually all the 30 students of two classes managed to meet up with their correspondents to interview each other via video conferencing.

The students talked of the interest of the activity.

This year, two hundred students were doing the same professional tasks (of the 800 involved).

I interviewed about 50 of the students, we didn't have the same percentage of successful communication as we had had the year before.

Ask any teacher, if you do the same task with two different groups you can get wildly different results.

Those students who managed to make contact with their partners speak in largely positive terms about the experience.

A number of the students are continuing to communicate with their correspondents after the task.

One student announced that rather than doing one session, she had done six video conferencing sessions of one hour each.

She added that she had organised a visit to the UK in the coming months.

Such results justify largely the investment in the telecollaborative exchange.

It works...

"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

How does one express distinctive personalities, team-work, faith, resilience, desire, joy, fun, life, hope in a research article, I wonder?

I realise that I am coming back here to reflections from a previous article: Insoumis.

How do you represent the hybridity of our digitally saturated environments?

Pictures may speak louder than words.

Neither pictures nor words, nor videos suffice really.

Seven years on, Steve Wheeler has retired from his university but continues working and blogging.
Teresa and I continue to work together on CLAVIER (Connected Learning and Virtual Intercultural Exchange Research Network) and come together via Twitter, video conferencing, conferences (Eurocall, Unicollab), ALT, MOOCs, and Virtually Connecting.

Marcin and I are working on another conference presentation with Christine Rodrigues.

Marcin and students will be going to Warwick University to meet up with Teresa and Claude.

Maritta, Marcin, and I have an project somewhere down the pipeline...

Teresa, Claude, myself and Marcin will be co-presenting findings from our autoethnographic study in April at a telecollaboration conference.

We share, I feel, a resilient desire, to use the means available to enable people to meet distant peers, to develop communicational skills, to build an awareness of the benefits that openness can bring, to exchange interculturally and to be changed as a result.

We have all been changed by these benefits of openness.

In a second blog post, I will look at the complexity of entanglements which constitute CLAVIER.

From one dot to another…

Dear Dot...er dot...er whoever....

I realise that you may not recognise yourself as Dot or dot.

But, whether you do or whether you don't...

I mean.

You mean?

That's already quite a lot...


It will have to do...

I mean.

What are we on the grander scale of things?

Are we anything more than mere specks...dots...star dust?



And he was GOD.

To put an over fine point on it.

Or a comma, a semi fucking colon;



I mean.

You don't understand.

Me neither.

You mean.

We are punctuation to posterity.

(What might it mean? He doesn't know. He leaves it as a véhicule for divertissement.)

Ha ha.

That's French.



Ooh. la. la.



A question mark?


An exclamation mark!

A colon:

A mad dash -



Shh.... (a final acronym...)

Written off, or laid down.



Underscore _


I mean.

“Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” 

Carl Sagan

We are the world.

Well...a bit of it.

Punctuation to posterity.

Beat it...Michael.

Dot to dot.


A dot, I spent hours going dotting a page.


I know not why.

I mean.

That is enough.

But there was something in the dots.

There was a connection.



A hashtag. 

Does that have a dash?



Just a link.

#  (absurd when you think about it...on a grander scale of things)

There was a feeling.

It sparked creativity.

I suspect it is what is essential here.

What did you say Carl?


Carl Sagan

I suppose that is what creativity stems from.

What connects?


What connects? God damn it!



X now?


Love learning or its pendants: 
Love yearning 
Love mourning 

Drives us.


What else is there to do?


So I connect dots.

With a hashtag.


And I groan at Despacito.

And then the dog says...

Out on a limb without a leg to stand on.

It's 9:30 in the morning and this wasn't supposed to be happening.

I had other things planned. 

And yet.

Here I am live-blogging a process with all of it's pauses and....history. 
(he adds as an after-thought at 9:38)

Well I find myself leaving this twine of Ariadne. 

God knows why. I don't believe in God.

I come here and intersperse a line...forgetting why.

I take a few deep breaths. 

Other things jump in via DM.

10:34 I spend forty five minutes speaking with my friend Marcin over in Poland about two conference submissions.

I return to this page...to what had already been written.


I read through it and come back to CFP's (I interpret that as call for publications)

I select "The Scholarly and the Digital." rather gingerly. 

Rather gingerly? 


The term "Scholarly" is not one that I would associate as one of my preoccupations.

But I suppose it is time to reassess that.


Indeed what does it mean to be "scholarly" in complex digitally saturated times.

How do we pull "this" together?

Who pulls "what" together?

This "pulling together"....

What if it means "pushing apart"?

What it it means "letting it flow"?

What if it means "constantly reassessing" boundaries?

What if "scholarly and the digital" "loosely, momentarily hangs together"?

What if we left the centuries built "church walls  of academia" to rediscover "an ambulatory perhaps heretical oralistic dialogue"?

What if we break down the altar to the written word?

What if truth is negotiable, context bound, often provisional but essentially timeless?

What is truth if more than love?

How can love be anything more than intensely personal?

I find myself returning to Jesse Stommel. 

He was in a sense my starting point here, when reflecting on a slide count: 73 slides for 30 minutes.

I found myself stripping away any hope that I might have had for a comforting, timed, rehearsed, linear script.  

I was out on a limb, without a leg to stand on.

I find myself returning to Jesse Stommel.

I plonk a quote here:

“Digital pedagogy is becoming, for me, coterminous with critical pedagogy, given the degree to which the digital can function both as a tool for and an obstacle to liberation.”
~ Jesse Stommel, “Decoding Digital Pedagogy, pt. 2: (Un)Mapping the Terrain”

Blimey, "(Un)Mapping... [(Un)Mining?] the Terrain?

Where is that link to the page I had?

I end up tweeting the link to myself from my phone.

"To queer Open is to imagine it as an emergent space always in process. Open Education is not confirmed by courses, platforms, syllabi, hierarchies, but exactly resists those containers, imagining a space for marginalized representation — a space that recognizes our unique embodied contexts and offers opportunities for liberation from them."

Jesse's words above will accompany me in my reflection.

Fluidity in thought, in identity, in containers, in dialogue, in contexts, in scholarship.

Fluidity....I find myself connecting to #lesmauxdesmots.

There are those words which, if small, become battlefields.






Fluidity, scholarity, solidity...

I embed Jesse's keynote from Digital Pedagogy Lab's Vancouver 2017 iteration.

I prepare for more close reading, listening, watching and put this on pause to head towards a class. 11:30

Click on more info to see video with all comments, log in to Vialogues to comment.

Flight lines…

It all started out so predictably.

Waiting around for the boarding announcement.

Queueing for boarding by rows.

Showing identity and smartphone with flash-code.

Falling over my sodding suitcase on wheels.

At last, I was walking down the ramp towards the stationary Airbus 320 destination Corsica.

On entering the plane, it was apparent that this was no ordinary flight.

Indeed, this was a very particular flight.

I did notice that the air hostesses and stewards were peculiarly attired.

Regulation uniform had been hidden beneath crudely drawn, hurriedly personalised t shirts.

While their greeting on board was pretty customary, it was clear that their minds just weren't  on the job.

Something bigger than uniform, function and role was visibly bursting out - attachment, nostalgia, thrill, warmth, every day  human emotion.

On sitting down in our under-sized seats, on attaching our seatbelts we were introduced into a pop-up theatre of humanity.

"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, this flight is a very special occasion for our friend and colleague Poppy (we shall call her Poppy...in remembrance)...after 20 years of loyal service she is giving up her job as an air hostess to change her life."

At the end of the announcement quasi-spontaneous (rather forced) applause broke out around the aircraft.

"Hurrah for Poppy."

The air-safety instructions delivered mechanically beneath a silly t shirt, gaudy head-antenna and glitter were an event too exceptional for me not to note.

I took a photo of the steward's performance.

The steward in the steward immediately came towards me, stood over me and demanded that I delete the offending photo.

"Taking photos is against the rules." he said sternly.

I couldn't not agree with him on a number of levels.

First: I was unable to ask permission before hand. He could quite rightly find that a rude imposition.

Second: I was treating him as an object. (actually it was the strange juxtaposition of discourses which fascinated me).

Third: He had no means of knowing whether I might, not only steal his image, but spread it on social media.

Fourth: The celebration for Poppy, the applause, the silly t shirts may not have been officially sanctionned. Any photo of their transgression might have resulted in punnishment for the perpetrators of the celebrations for Poppy's farewell flight.

I deleted the offending photo...sheepishly.

What I didn't mention to the steward was that I hadn't taken one photo....I had taken two.

During the flight, I felt a moral dilemna: I wondered whether I should confess to the man, ask forgiveness (again) and explain what I wanted to do with the photo, ask for assent, or delete it before his eyes, thank him, and wish him well.

There was at no moment any untransactional dialogue between him and I.

During the flight, it was all steward-speak:

"Would you like savoury or sweet snack?"

"No we don't have any tonic water."

"Thank you."

"Bye bye."

He was much too taken up with his "hen-flight" celebrations to be bothered to speak to me when I stepped off the plane.

I decided to keep the photo.

On leaving the plane, there were the air-crew, champagne in hand,  taking selfies of each other in their glitter glasses, and t shirts with red hearts on them.

Was the fancy dress for Poppy or for the passengers?

I struggle to untie the ethics.

  • As passengers, we had no choice but to accept the Poppy theatre.
  • As passengers, we were a captive audience to the aircrew's celebration.
  • As passengers, we were expected to participate more as a back-drop - as  extras to their party, than invitees.

We were being reduced to the role of audience on reality TV.

On arriving the airport, I went to seek a means of escape.

My connecting flight being in a few hours, I walked up and down trailing my baggage, looking for a bus, taxi, pavement (sidewalk).

I was confronted by transport desert.

Et merde.

I resigned myself to a long stay in the airport.

No transport, rubbish souvenir shop, low battery.

It's extraordinary how electric sockets become oasis in transport desert.

I found the shortest charging cable known to modern man or woman or wilerbeast in a combination safe on a wall.

Who invented that beauty?


No movable chairs. None. Only fixed chairs. Only fixed metal uncomfortable chairs.

A woman helpfully suggested that I might leave my phone in the safe to charge.

She didn't understand my plight.

I wanted to use the bloody phone to release my soul purgatory not lock it up in a box.

I sat uncomfortably, at an angle on my suitcase, my back suffering, my head throbbing at their fucking security messages which were every ten minutes.

"Your suitcase will be taken away and destroyed if left unattended."

I couldn't leave the suitcase unattended cos it was the thing I was sitting on.

As the time ticked by the onslaught of their loudspeakers drove me progressively madder.

Thank God for "Hyperspektiv" app which is a means of expressing dynamic paranoia like no other.

Hyperspektiv, PicPlayPost,  iMovie,  hours of sitting in alienating airport, bored, Audiocopy, Dynamite...BOOM!!!!!

I noted today in the Guardian that the prisoners of Guantanamo have an art exhibition going on in New York.

The article was entitled:


Well fuck yes.

Who buys the ferryman?

Everything was going to plan.

The suitcase was ready, the washbag packed, the papers checked, the boarding card downloaded.

I stepped across the thresh-hold and was hit by a gust of cold air.

The low-slung black-cab drew up, the boot opened...

I stepped down to sit on the leather seats and almost found myself sliding off onto the floor.

It was a new car.

The driver glanced back, checked the final instructions:

"Go to the end of the street, turn hard right, cross the main road, and then continue up there."

After passing the lights halting the absent dawn traffic we arrived in front of the gates.

We waited.
We waited.
We waited.

No colleague.

Telephone call.

"I am still in bed. I am really sorry. What do I do?"

"Try getting up and getting dressed." I offered helpfully...

All of this...this unexpected diversion, the emotion in the air, broke the scripted discourse.

Plan, phone, park, put bags in car, pointless pitiful...patter...paying...parting...(de)parture....

"It's cold, isn't it." "It's early, isn't it." "Can I have a receipt?"  "Thanks." "Have a nice flight." "Bye."

I and Charon (let's call him that) were brought together.

We spoke of how paying passengers abused their roles.

Who buys the ferryman?

"It's cold, turn up the heater. It's too hot now, turn down the heater. Change the music. I hate music."

They would do well to wonder who the driver is.

They would do well to wonder who the driver might be for their last flight.

They might seek more humility.

"People don't understand the work of a taxi driver." he said.

"We are like psychologists." he said.

"People open up to us."

"People tell us all sorts of things."

We spoke of constraint and separation, of birth, life, and death.

We spoke of the desire of the young to depart the home, the desire of parents to maintain control beyond the door.

"I fell out with my parents," he said.

"I found myself sleeping for nights in my car...alone."

We spoke of these liminal spaces....grief...flight...birth...life...taxi rides.

Who pays the ferryman?

I thanked him for the moment that we had spent together.

We shook hands warmly.

There was a feeling of mutual respect.

He disappeared into the night.

Meanwhile, my colleague had arrived.

We spoke on the phone.

Her baggage was oversized for the cabin.

She was terribly apologetic.

They wouldn't let her onto the plane.

"There are a number of ways of seeing it." I said.

"You are upset that you missed the flight."

"If this plane falls out of the sky, you will evoke divine intervention."

 I was caught between facile phrase and anxiety an instant.


I am up too early in the morning, juggling
in my head.

This is what researching complexity does to you  - you find yourself with two many balls spinning around in your brain.

Fuck it.

I dropped an F word.

I have diminished responsibility.


Some of those balls have been thrown into the air by others.

Stop it, stop it, bloody stop it.

There it is.

I dropped a B word.

It's your fault.

There are too many of them now.

All at once.


I dropped a D word.

I keep trying, but I need to practice more to keep it up.


Damn that Nietzshe.

What was it Sarah was saying the other day?

She had dream dialogues with a dead German philosopher.

Well as long as he left her to sleep and he didn't wake her up.

I am beyond dreaming.

I am regretfully awake.

At half past four in the morning.

I woke up to go and paste the juggling photo on a conference presentation.

That's what was keeping me up.

Up till midnight transcribing a conversation with a young teacher in a bar.

What was it that he said at the beginning of the dialogue?


Then the conversation went on for another fifty two minutes.


I have done eleven minutes of transcription.

It took me an hour.


So here I am.

I have all these bloody balls in my head.

Some of them are nodes on networks - people, stories, discourses, smartphones, classrooms.

Others are spread out over time.

Others you need a zoom lens to see and study.

I have turned into some sort of biologist with a microscope.

I have turned into some sort of naturalist in a hide listening to bird song, watching a fox, watching an owl, watching a boar eating acorns, watching me, watching me.

I keep my head low, I wear camouflage for fear that I will disturb the wildlife.

Is this my bloody hide?

It will get me skinned.

Touches of sense?

Touches of madness rather.

It was Waldrop that set it off.

Well he dropped a bloody ball.

Well God...you have to blame somebody.

And muggins here picked it up.

And now it's spinning around in my head.

At dawn.



"The edge of chaos, the constantly shifting battle zone between stagnation and anarchy, the one place where a complex system can be spontaneous, adaptive and alive."
Mitchell Waldrop.

That's where I find myself at four forty eight in the morning.

At the edge of chaos.

I size it up.

I keep my eye on the ball.

I am clearly alive.

This is spontaneous.

I suppose this is some sort of  adaptive action.

I am alive.

But uncomfortably awake.

But, Mitchell did say "battle zone"... 


November 13th 2015.

Some die.

I am missing them.

I am missing them.

I am missing my friends out there.

In no particular order.

They keep popping up in my head.

Where's that juggling gif that I made?

There it is.

I thought it would come in some day.

It's a bit rough.

It will do.

Blimey, why did I choose those pictures?

I can't remember.

I am missing my friends out there.

In no particular order.

Terry, Kevin, Sarah, Wendy, Maha, Mia, Ken, Keith, Ron, Alan....uncle Tom Cobbley et al.

I could go on.

I'll be back.

Online....Offline, I have been juggling.


Concentrating on getting those balls up.

I have been juggling.

Stop throwing me bloody balls!

I already have too many.

I know they are juggling too.

My friends...that is.

I have been juggling.

But not here.

Not visibly.

I am juggling now.

On paper.

In my head.


I am looking forward to having more play time.

No. I am looking forward to less solitary games.

Too many balls in my head.

I have been quiet quite a while.

The conference presentation is almost ready.

I am almost ready.

Learning on the edge of chaos...

Trying to map a route with/through complexity ain't easy.

It ain't easy.

It won't go in straight lines.

There are too many curve balls to catch.

Sod it.

That's my limit.

There's those students to throw a few balls to.

They can juggle too.

For me, for them, for you.

We all drop off eventually.

I am hoping this will help me drop off.

For an hour and forty minutes.

What was it that Nietzsche was saying?

Speaking in tongues.

Glossolalia or speaking in tongues 
is a phenomenon in which people appear to speak in languages unknown to them. 
One definition used by linguists is the fluid vocalizing of speech-like syllables 
that lack any readily comprehended meaning,

“In order to manifest Aiki principle you must first have connectivity throughout your own body. This is the result of developing your ki or intent. Secondly your movement must be a balance of yin and yang so that there is no pressure into the point of meeting with your partner. In the Chinese Classics it states,”To yield is to adhere, to adhere is to yield.” This doesn’t mean giving up space but rather using the point of contact as a pivot point. On one side yielding (yin) to your partner’s force and on the other side entering (yang) into his space. In this way your partner is stuck to you and you are free to move in any way that you choose. This requires a great deal of sensitivity. It is a simple thing but very hard to master.”

Sensei Gleason.


Moving had become akin to crucifixion.

Hands raised.

Eyes closed. 

Peace appeared a rite.

It was an unsolicited gift, now given freely.

 "Eli Eli lama sabachthani?"

Nietzsche's ghost.

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. 
And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” 

He appears, disembodied in her dreams.

Proto-fascist apparition, speaking Aramaic?

He sighs with a heavy heart.

He wails, he shakes his fist.

"Eli Eli lama sabachthani?"

The death of Nietzsche.

“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” 

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

Speaking in tongues.


All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
 At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms;

And then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school.
 And then the lover,

Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow.
 Then a soldier,

Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part.
 The sixth age shifts

Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank;
 and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound.
 Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,

Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Forsaken, forgiven?

He was a self-engineered man.

"One should not understand this compulsion to construct concepts, species, forms, purposes, laws ('a world of identical cases') as if they enabled us to fix the real world; but as a compulsion to arrange a world for ourselves in which our existence is made possible:-we thereby create a world which is calculable, simplified, comprehensible, etc., for us."

Friedrich Nietzsche

His body was results driven.

Material success brought little succour for his soul.

Respect, he owned, respect, he forced.

Love, his own, love, he yearned.

No gain without pain.

Self-possessed pain.

Self-dispossesed pain.

His was an American dream.

He lived it, he breathed it.

His was an American fallacy.

He avoided an outstretched hand.

Only twice, he wept.

Once at her funeral.

Once at his funeral.

Mama, Dada 

"Eli Eli lama sabachthani?"


I am reflecting on my practice through aikido, how can we retain/attain unity in our connections?
To what extent is this patchwork of a piece an expression of mine?
To what extent is a domain of one's own a source of slavery?
To what extent can there be a commons if there is no property?
Is commons what is left after those with power have staken their claims?

Term “connection” in Aikido is often used inter changeably with “unity”. Both of them relate to Japanese words “Aiki” and “Musubi”.  They describe the quality of being in one’s body and interaction between partners that allows them to move together as one.  Although these terms are somewhat similar, they do have slightly different meaning.  For example, the word “connection” implies two separate entities meeting and forming “unity”.  Japanese term “Aiki” describes unity of energy, while “Musubi” means “tying together, or connecting two things or people”. Despite the subtle differences, all these terms will be used here as describing the same idea.


I mean what are we paying attention to?

I was quite proud of my newly acquired skill of focussed listening.

I sat quietly, I turn my head to the group to my left.

One is speaking French.

"Oh your French is excellent."

I compliment.

The student smiles.

He speaks English.

He notices my attention elsewhere, he speaks French.

I turn my head to the group on the right.

"I did went to the park."

"I'm sorry, what did you say?"

The student looks confused.

"Er.....you er....to the park? 
(teacherly rising intonation)"

The student looks even more confused.

"Er....to the park?"

"I go to the park."

"Yes, you.....to the park" 
(accompanied by hand gesture to indicate past.

The student looks even more bloody confused.

He is now concentrating on interpreting my illegible hand gesture.

The other students are getting frustrated, tapping their fingers.

Three minutes of embarassed silence.

I give up.

This elicitation nonsense is lost in the park.

"You went to the park."

"Yes, I went to the park."

The student looks non-plussed.

I feel him shrugging his shoulders.

He continues trying to perform.

Who is he performing for?

Taking off the blinkers.

What was I trained to do?

How are we having our attention directed?

Who is directing our attention thus, for what, and for whose purposes?

How is such training making teachers ignorant of what is essential?


"He is dead," said Boxer sorrowfully. "I had no intention of doing that. I forgot that I was wearing iron shoes. Who will believe that I did not do this on purpose?"

George Orwell.

"He's so lazy," my colleague said to me of one student.

"He's so lazy," I said to myself of another student.

How do we know what harm we do with our iron shoes?

This year, I decided to reassess all my previous judgements.

Those students are not "lazy" this year.

They may not have done any "observable work" or shown any "observable learning" but "lazy" is not a useful lens through which to view people.

I thought I might question my judgements, my practices, my certainties, my perceptions.

I thought I might learn, really learn.

I thought I might go about analysing things more systematically.

What does learning really look like?

What does learning really feel like?

Where do we really need to be directing our attention, our efforts?

Seeing with new eyes.

I had to open my eyes differently, I had to experiment with shifting my attention.

I had to deliberately and continuously test my assumptions even more often than usual.

To what extent are we basing our judgements, our attitudes, our behaviour from positions of ignorance?


"Our sense of how the world works is often vastly cruder than we think."  Keil

(quoted from "Want a Deep Understanding? First, Know How Little You Know." Winston Sieck).

A student is holding his head in his hands.

"Is he disinterested?"

"Is he bored?"

"Are you OK?" I ask.

"How do you say malade?" He asks.

"Er ill or sick."

"I am sick." He says.

He goes on holding his head in his hands.

Taking off the blinkers.

I started writing this having just read Terry Elliott's piece entitled:

Epiphany: C. Wright Mills Sociological Imagination Is Also a Pedagogical One

In it he writes:

"More and more I feel like an anthropologist in my classroom.
For example, having read 54 summaries over a very challenging article by Jonathan Haidt, I had one extremely powerful insight.  And I only had that insight because I had a set of 30 minute conferences as well.
I am so lacking in sociological and pedagogical imagination that it only became clear to me after the dust settled that students ignore what they don’t understand."
This reflection connects with my current research.
I could echo Terry:
"More and more I feel like an anthropologist in my classroom.

Taking off the blinkers.

This reflection reminds me of conversations with Terry about grass...of how he, as a farmer with a close relationship with sheep, is able to read stories in grass which appear here in "Spring Flowers."

I am grass illiterate.

This reflection reminds me of the work of Gee and his "Critique of Traditional Schooling." and a quote of Kramsch:

"Context is not a backdrop to learning the language, it is the very object of learning. Thus we need to study context itself and its relation to the texts that both structure and are structured by it." 

It is only through ongoing dialogue that one can hope to partially understand what is going on within the boundaries of the class.

It is only through ongoing questioning of the structure of the boundaries which give context to our activities that we can begin to understand what is going on within our classes.

I notice a major difference between a group of students being integrated by teachers into a professional community of ergonomists, whose work uses scientific articles as support to their work, and students of teachers in other disciplines who use academic texts as hammers to beat the students into submission to underline power differentials.

Are we reading so as not to understand or so as to understand?


"Have you read Foucault?" I asked enthusistically.

My question was met with disgust from a student whose teacher had had her read Foucault.

Should I be surprised?

"Context is not a backdrop to learning the language, it is the very object of learning." Kramsch

Taking off the blinkers.

Asking the students to systematically provide language learning biographies has given me the means to focus my attention on certain students who were simply lacking attention, to help them analyse their own stories in relation to others and to question a system which leaves young adults feeling like failures.

Asking the students to systematically share their interests, passions, ambitions, opens up opportunities to connect them to documents, people, communities with whom they may be able to relate.

If I am doing such a bad job, maybe others younger than myself, closer to the students can be enlisted to act as more effective mediators?

I start to see the class not as a homogenous group but as an ecology of inter-twining networks with potential for more imaginative, perhaps more distant connections.

I have to get the students to share their own visions, their own feelings, their own perceptions of what is happening in the classroom and outside it.

In this way we can gain an insight into what is not observable.

One pair of eyes and ears become twenty pairs of eyes and ears.

At the same time I am looking to associate them to, or to co-imagine research projects concerning their own learning.

Student ergonomists' analysis of work situations becomes transferrable to our English classroom situation which has moved outdoors for the day.

Transferring a blackboard from the classroom to the space outside the building becomes an opportunity for these ergonomists to put into practice their developing competences.

How do they feel in this new environment?

Is their attention awakened?

Is their attention distracted? (interesting idea in itself)

Is this an "official" or an "unofficial" class?

Where are the boundaries?

Where are the emergent boundaries which shift according the ambient noise level with people having to move closer to be heard or closer to the board to read?

What happens when other people join the group sitting in the grass?

How does it affect relationships between the students and between the students and the teacher.

Do they feel more able to be themselves, or more at ease?

How does a passing plane or ambient nature affect their focus?

What happens when one student isolates himself from the class because he is suffering from allergies to the newly cut grass?

Should one simply exclude the student, go back in the classroom, ignore the student?

What should we think about "democratic" decisions when the majority decides that the minority should shut up and suffer?

I pick up the "grass" identifying three sorts of unnameable (by me) green plants and we speak about how blinkered we are when it comes to knowledge.

We think about how the green green grass of our home is a threat to others.

Indeed what is knowledge if it is not associated to our context...to our community?

This becomes a source for a discussion with students who take on different identities those of co-learners.

How does a classroom box induce ritual, learnt behaviour, phobic behaviour?

How does the conversation or the learning or the relationships become...in the words of the students:

"real conversation, real language, real learning."?

I am multiplying my efforts to enable student led activities to emerge in the classroom.

Whether that be training session led my students in adapted physical activity.

Or reflections on our own cultural barriers to eating insects.

Or the art of the artisan chocolate maker.

Or the relationship between the cocoa and the colony....

I am multiplying my efforts to enable student led activities to emerge outside the classroom.

A group of students link up with a foreign student to go rock-climbing in English.

Another Facebook group emerges around the idea of running in English.

Another ex-student pops up on a smartphone from Lima in Peru to speak to students inside the classroom about concepts and experiences of freedom.

Another musician pops up from the ranks of the unknown.

Another ex-student friend pops up to animate a personal development session with those wanting to understand the nature of travel.

I take a photograph of them to see what attentive learning looks like.

I see them stretching forward to listen.

I find myself being aware that my position of teacher has become that of the observer, the witness.

I come back to Terry's thoughts

"More and more I feel like an anthropologist in my classroom.

I find myself sharing a quote of Proust again.

“Le véritable voyage de découverte ne consiste pas à chercher de nouveaux paysages, mais à avoir de nouveaux yeux. ”

I share with the students the joy for me of teaching through learning, of learning through dialogue.

I spend some time after the lesson talking with the students about the importance for me of their observations, their analysis of the moments that we have spent together so that I may, with their help learn to read this our context(s).