So the weeks and months go by and no sign of me here. Is it because I have nothing to say? Is it because I’m consumed by school? Obsessed by gorgeous art and photography? Delving into this and that online and offline? Yes and yes.
Some things still call out and I’m not going to pass up on the opportunity to play with Creatives whose work I follow daily and who feed my need for such things, nurture so many.
And so I spotted Simon’s poem on Twitter. Simon is prolific in thought and deed. I would like to meet him one day.
Not well written but I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter. It’s written. Somehow I’ve stepped into Simon’s hashtag #lesmauxdesmots. I’m not sure what that is about because I haven’t been paying attention although I’ve noticed it.
And now Kevin comes in. Another Creative Prolific. Kevin and Simon never stop. Please don’t stop ever.
I hope that others will join in to remix. It’s one of the most satisfying kinds of online connection – next best thing to being with people face to face only it’s a play date so no small talk is necessary.
PS Of course that wasn’t the end of it. Terry went on a creative rampage, leaving a trail of shimmering images and sounds of nature with a voiceover for technical tips. You really must see it all in his post. Really.
Thanks to Maha Bali for inviting me to take part in a webinar conversation about connected learning and contexts. Maha is one of my first MOOC friends when I jumped in last year, and she is the most generous and wide-reaching person. It was great to meet everyone and chat about contexts in learning – just scratch the surface really – great to meet new people, and talk to people I’ve known from online networks face to face (so to speak) for the first time eg Maha, Simon and Tanya (who’s from Sydney). Together we represented many contexts across geographical, cultural, linguistic and professional borders.
Of course, all participants are part of connected learning networks which can be discovered through their links below:
Maha Bali (host) – Associate Professor of Practice at the Center for Learning & Teaching at the American University in Cairo (AUC), located in Cairo, Egypt
Shyam Sharma (host) – Assistant Professor of writing and rhetoric at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, NY
Asao B. Inoue – Director of University Writing, Associate Professor, Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, University of Washington-Tacoma
Tanya Lau – eLearning Instructional Designer from Sydney, Australia
Tania Sheko – Teacher Librarian at a 9-12 secondary boys’ school in Melbourne, Australia
Simon Ensor – English teacher at the Université Blaise Pascal Clermont Ferrand in France
Lenandlar Singh was unfortunately unable to attend. His list of conference papers indicate he would have been a fantastic addition to the conversation.
Shyam and Maha were hosting and did a great job despite technical issues and Maha’s daughter waking, and thanks to Liana for her excellent support as we all connected to the hangout. I know Terry Elliott was watching and tweeting and I know that others were too, asking questions in the #clmooc and #connectedlearning Twitter spaces.
The video and storify (summary of related tweets) is available on the Connected Learning website as well as additional links and resources shared by participants.
I discovered that one of our French teachers comes from where Simon is located – Clermont Ferrand. She is very excited about that and would like to make contact with him. We are thinking it would be fun to connect our students in way similar to the way he already does through CLAVIER.
There are not assigned readings for Rhizo15 as there were in Connected Courses … and that is totally fine with me. It’s the blogs of the other participants that are really alive and important to me for the purposes of the (un)course experience. Yes, CONTENT IS PEOPLE:
Content for #rhizo15 is people and conversations happening, and learning/understanding being constructed in Twitter chats, blog posts, blog comments,etc.
It’s very rich and it draws its own path just as the unheld garden hose comes alive and is a bit wild.
Here’s an example in the form of a Facebook conversation arising from Simon Ensor’s post ‘Does content need a container?’
For #Rhizo15 the content really is the curriculum. But we are educators. No – we are educators who love to learn. No – we are educators who love to learn with each other. Content is people.
Is content people in secondary school? Definitely no. It is predominantly prescribed content delivered to the student by the teacher or assigned to the students through designated sections of a textbook, practised in homework and tested. It is graded, given a percentage, there is a volume that is known and that is assessed.
Is it created? No. Is it constructed? No. Is it shared? Not really, it is given to the teacher to check.
That is sad.
I tried to create an online community for my writing interest group. This is something the students choose to join. It’s not curriculum although the students can get diploma points.
Boys are like ‘how many blog posts do we need to do to get diploma points?’
I’m like ‘are you here for the diploma points?’
So the Facebook group is supposed to be a caring and sharing space far away from the bustle of the bright school lights. I’m thinking my students know how to be on Facebook. In meetings I’m like ‘so feel free to share what you write, something you’ve read that resonates with you in the Facebook group’.
(On Facebook) They’re like: silence (invisible).
I try not to go on about it. I share stuff, all sorts of stuff, hoping to show them how to do it, trying to be unschooly.
Some of them will ‘like’ but many of those I can see have read (or visited) will not offer any response.
Yes, I know they’re busy but sheesh.
I don’t know what to do. I can’t say ‘every term you must share 3 somethings in the Facebook group or else you don’t get diploma points. You understand why I can’t, yes? But what can I do?
How can I transform content from something cold, solitary and unhuman to something which is embodied?
I’ve written about this before. You can see I’m obsessed with it. Making the shift for these students to the kind of learning they construct together is important, more important than giving them content in a textbook-shaped container.
Content is a shifty word. It can mean different things to different people.
Here’s the final version of the play (although I wouldn’t be surprised if the Google doc version continues to evolve).
My THANK YOU: My original story, Mr X loses his battle for objectivity, has been stormed, hacked and now exists as an evolved creation belonging to those playing and learning in the rhizome (#rhizo15). It is no longer mine and that’s a fantastic thing, something I’m excited about. Thank you, everyone, for the experience – in particular to Kevin for putting together the audio files – but also to those contributing voices, to the voices in the chat comments for the evolving Google doc, to those on Twitter and other social media platforms, to the creative people designing promos, and anyone else I’ve forgotten. I know it sounds as if I’m accepting an Oscar (haha) but I really do want to thank all of you for the fun we’ve had together.
#Rhizoradio presents a radio play courtesy of the #rhizo15 community:
Ms Y1: Good afternoon. Please take a seat. Mr Arborescent will be with you shortly.
Me0: Thank you.
Inner Voice1: I take a seat and settle into the chair which is terribly uncomfortable. I am too large for the chair and always have been, but I’ve accepted it with the appropriate …
Ms Y2: So, Mr Arborescent will see you now. I assume you’ve brought your papers.
Me1: Er – papers?
Ms Y3: Yes, your CV, your references, your learning objectives.
Ms Y4:Never mind. Please go down the corridor. It’s the first red door after blue one…
Me3: Er – thank you.
Inner Voice2: I walk until I find the door. I knock twice.)
Me4: (mumbling to self, wandering hallways) How come there are so many doors here?
(knock on the door followed by sound of door squeaking open)
Mr Arborescent1: Come in, please. I would like to introduce you to Dr. Certain and Ms. KnowItAll
Inner Voice3: I enter the room. Mr Arborescent is sitting behind a large wooden desk, studying me. The two other committee members on either side of him.
Mr Arborescent2: Please, sit down.
Inner Voice4 My Thoughts (in my head)Narrator: I do.
Mr Arborescent3: So, you’re applying for the rest of your life, are you?
Ms. KnowItAll1: (interrupting) She IS.
Mr Arborescent4: You realise that you’re one of many millions of applicants – all wanting to keep learning for the rest of their lives, don’t you?
Me6: Yes. I understand. But you know, I myself am multiple…
Mr Arborescent5: (interrupts) Show me your learning objectives, please.
Me7: Well…I – um…
Dr. Certain1: This is outrageous!
Mr Arborescent6: (sighs) You do have learning objectives, don’t you? I hope you are not wasting my time.
Me8: N-not exactly.
Mr Arborescent7: Well how exactly do you intend to get through life without objectives? How will you know where you are going? How will you know when you get there? What data will you use?
Dr. Certain2: One cannot get through life without knowing where one is going. Where one is going is far more important than where one is. I certainly know where I’m going, where I came from, where my children will go.
Inner Voice5: Arborescent’s brow is seriously furrowed.
Me9: Actually – I don’t have objectives but –
Mr Arborescent8: You realise that we are talking about the rest of your life, don’t you? This is no laughing matter.
Me10: Well – if I could explain. I don’t, as you’ve said, have learning objectives for the rest of my life but what I do have is learning subjectives.
Inner Voice6: The room is silent. Uncomfortably silent.
Mr Arborescent9: I’m not sure what you’re playing at, but as I’ve already said, there are millions of people applying for this privilege. You’ve come here completely unprepared.
Me11: If I could just explain – I think you will understand that it’s possible to continue learning through life with learning subjectives in place of objectives.
Inner Voice7: Mr Arborescent lowered his thick rimmed glasses and peered intensely and unpleasantly at me.
Inner Voice8: I continued before he could speak.
Me12: You see, subjectives are a type of objective … only seen from a different perspective.
Mr Arborescent10: A different perspective! Please explain. (eye rolling) (to himself): Oh, you educators and your theories of learning …
Dr. Certain3: There is only one perspective: the RIGHT one!
Me13 (ignoring Dr. Certain): Well, with objectives you start from the end and work backwards whereas with subjectives you are free to move any which way and even simultaneously. Subjectives are based on learners’ needs, not dictated as in the objectives… There’s freedom in the journey.
Inner Voice9: Their looks of contempt did not deter me. In fact, they spurred me on. I realized, I had to make them understand.
Me14: You see, I’ve developed an allergy to things which support objectives. Things like preconceived ideas, data entered carefully into spreadsheets, dot points, meta-metrics, the narrow suffocating strangulation of finite theories, that sort of thing. I have an aversion to these things and I become so ill that I am unable to function.
Mr Arborescent11: I’m not sure our health insurance policy covers such sickness. The government plan only goes so far.
(Ms. KnowItAll adds over Arborescent: Oh, it won’t cover this, I can tell you!)
However, Go on… How would you measure, report your learning? Reveal your rubrics! What kind of standards are you following? Aversion is no justification…
Me15: Neither is measurement! We need to put learning at the center of our…er learning, not measurement and accountability you know. It’s my own learning here and i reserve the right to direct it however I see fit! It is my human right…
Dr. Certain4: Impossible! We will tell you what you need to know! Learning must be visible!
Inner Voice10: Arborescent’s eyes narrowed, and he started tapping a pencil on his desk. he seemed sort of annoyed at me.
Mr. Arborescent12: go on…
Inner Voice11: I swallowed.
Me16: (whispering in Egyptian Arabic: w ba3dein ba2aaa)
Me17: I need to approach life in a less organised, predetermined way. I need to include the way I feel, for example, in the way I understand life. I need to include questions and doubts in the way I make sense of things, I need mood changes and I also need to be able to synthesize seemingly illogical things into a new way of seeing. I need to follow – what I refer to as learning subjectives.
Mr Arborescent13 (all simultaneously): Preposterous! Absolutely preposterous. We need data! Not whimsy feelings! What is this? Some kind of therapy session?
Ms. KnowItAll2: She is completely unsuitable! No idea what she needs to learn.
Dr. Certain5: If we allow this, we invite chaos. Then where will we be? People learning anything?!! Outrageous! There are things everyone MUST know!
Inner Voice12: Their outbursts moved the large desk forward and Arborescent’s four generation family photos fell down with a crash.
Mr. Arborescent14: Now look what you’ve done!
Dr. Certain6: I saw this coming. Chaos, I tell you.
Me18: you do know that by accepting me, you are accepting multiples, right?
Mr. Arborescent15: Who said we were accepting you?
Ms. KnowItAll3: Certainly not I!
Me19: Although I appear as one person to you, I am a multiplicity. Because I am embracing my subjectivity, you will have access to all of the open aspects of my identity and influences beyond my person. Didn’t you notice the different voices, accents and languages used throughout this discussion?
MrA – What you are telling me is that you are rejecting MY good common sense and traditional values and insisting on this groundless faith in what can only be described as blasphemous nonsense. This is a NON-SENSE! Do you hear me?! You will not be able to go through lifelong learning clinging to these asinine beliefs. Get out! All of you!
Inner Voice13: There was only one thing to do. I wasted no time. In my mind I drew a cage around this dreadful man and his colleagues and locked them in. Tossed the key. Walked away. Their ranting and raving were repulsive. I transformed it into the sound of crashing waves and let it wash away from me, to become nothing in the infinite sea. I left them there in their salt water turbulence, thrashing at the iron bars. They were now but molluscs, doomed to forage in the mud amongst rhizomatic sea grasses for eternity. I had more important things to do. I had a subjective life to lead and I was quite willing and even pleased to not know exactly where I was going.
Inner Voice14: So I started talking to my multiple selves.
MeA: we don’t need them! We don’t need no certified learning! We don’t need no thought control! They don’t even get our weltanschauung. We will continue without them.
MeB: or interdependently! Let’s make our own organization. Our own rhizome. Divide & conquer!
MeC: and wait, to have impact, we need to challenge authority, to break down the institutional structures so more people can benefit from our idea of subjectives and so we can liberate them from these neoliberal chains. This is idtihad. That’s oppression in Arabic. It is zulm. Injustice in Arabic, though it has a much stronger connotation in Arabic.
MeD: i don’t know what you’re talking about, I just wanna have fun with my learning. Let’s write a song or write a play…
Me20: or we could just lead our subjective life, create our own space… We might need to wander a bit to find it.
MeB: exactly! I guess it can be a space not an organization… I don’t think we can convert him. He is too far gone … (sounds of ranting still in the background)
Me21: Learning is natural and intrinsic… Like a rhizome, like a phoenix.. Her defasında küllerimden doğarım… learning is actually rising from the ashes… I don’t need any objectives, I only need my subjectives to reborn and start a new cycle of learning…
MeC: and we need to think of ways of liberating the oppressor. We need to fight for other people’s rights… Subvert the system, cause a revolution, plant the seed, nurture the ideas, rewild ourselves without becoming the next oppressors!
MeF: yeah right, like that worked for Egypt…
MeB: Tell me why we wanted that job again?
MeC: I don’t even remember anymore. What a learning experience this has been!
MeG: Hey! You lot are so noisy! I am trying to sleep here! Jeesh. Haud yer wheesht!
MeH: (tentative hesitant self) 爸爸常说 忍一时风平浪静，退一步海阔天空. 怎么办?Should I try to negotiate in this potential zone of change? But these folks are resistant to any new ideas …
MeI: Ils refusent de comprendre! Les abandonner déjà!
Inner Voice15: And so from that moment it continued, with A caged and continuing to splutter in the sea, in a mind, I stood up, breathed deeply, and turned to leave those four walls and walk into the rest of my life. I moved out of the room, slammed the door behind and me and the company sign fell to the floor with a crash. I picked it up and read “Peachson Advanced Testing Systems” and tossed the sign into the trash can. I had better things to do with my life, anyway.
Me22: I did get that job, and I get it again and again every day. It’s only when I forget the contract I made with myself that day – the subjectives, and get mixed up with too many objectives – that I sometimes see Arborescence rear its head (still in the cage though – haha!). Fortunately I have some pretty good friends and co-learners who remind me that the book hasn’t been written yet; we just keep writing.
After writing Mr X loses his battle for objectivity I was overwhelmed by the response from the #Rhizo15 community through comments on the blog, in the Facebook group, on Twitter and Google+ group.
I have to admit I felt elated with so much attention but what really excited me was when Terry suggested it would work as a radio play/podcast.
Hello there. My name is Tania Sheko. Thanks for responding so positively to this short piece of fiction/non-fiction. I’m taking up the suggestion to create something for #rhizoradio (suggested by Terry Elliott and seconded by Simon Ensor) and other suggestions to do a collaborative rewrite eg include a larger cast so we can actually (somehow) create a podcast for #rhizoradio (which is going to be a thing I think). Hope you can join me here!
With Maha‘s well earned influence the Google doc I shared was suddenly populated with #Rhizo15 people (and others?) working together across time zones to hack my ‘story’. So many creative people chatting in the margins of the document about what could work.
It was fun watching the little animal-head avatars popping up at the top as people joined in. Kevin Hodgson shared some an introduction on SoundCloud and then Simon Ensor did a brilliant reading of Mr X – who evolved into Mr Arborescent (or just Arborescent, as Laura Ritchie suggested). The ‘me’ character was named Rhizoka and the narrator became an inner voice (voices in the head). The ‘me’ character then exposed a muliplicity of identities and even spoke in more than one language.
I don’t think it’s finished but I sure hope it actually gets acted out as a podcast/radio play. Thank you so much to all who jumped in – it’s been amazing! It’s still open so come in and contribute. I saw Maha talking on Twitter about who might be able to create the podcast so I hope someone will because I’m not sure about how to do that.
Thank you, people! So far Maha Bali, Sarah Honeychurch, Angela Brown, Ronald Rudolf, Kevin Hodgson (@dogtrax), Laura Ritchie, Aras Bozkurt, Keith Hamon, Simon Ensor and Barry Dyck. Hope I haven’t left anyone out. Let me know if I have.
A tweet from Kevin Hodgson @dogtrax about a 15 second play (that day’s #dailyconnect for #ccourses (wow, that all looks a bit cryptic, maybe Freire would say exclusive?) made me think ‘why not? what’s 15 seconds’ and the example made it look like fun.
Kevin had introduced me to Notegraphy before and I liked the look of it and sharing options. Unashamedly I pulled a chunk out of Maha Bali’s post and pieced together a 15 second play using Maha’s quoted material from participants of yesterday’s #moocmooc chat about critical pedagogy and Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. If this isn’t making any sense to you, don’t worry. It’s just a 15 second play with quotes from real people. No more, no less.
I swear it was only minutes before Simon Ensor @sensor36 published a post with enough substance for a PhD – or at least a 3-part TV series. A cartoon program.
Then there was Tania suggesting in a tweet that tweeps such as @Bali_Maha, @dogtrax, @sensor63 et al in her PLN were ‘cartoon characters’ – if she had not met them F2F or should I say 3D?
So is that my friends what we are to one another – Cartoons – (on)line drawings?
Now Simon thinks in colour:
Like a canary to a black and white cat that was a red rag to a bull.
He also believes in getting straight down to (serious) business:
Existential questions 1) Are our online ‘friends’, ‘follows’ ‘followers’, akin to Loony Tunes?
2) Are our offline ‘friends’, ‘follows’, ‘followers’ not akin to Loony Tunes?
I will pause here before the ‘cartoon preamble’. Simon has muddied the waters (in my head) with his cartoon world/real world questions. I’m propelled back into my early childhood when I wished that my world was the cartoon world. We all knew it was much more fun. Cartoon worlds were more colourful, more exciting, funnier – and risk taking was never a problem because even if you ended up falling off a cliff and being squashed into a flat pancake upon landing, you would always, always be able to stretch yourself out and back into your normal body shape. And with a cool sound effect.
Simon is playing with my head. He should not tempt me into going down the rabbit hole into fantasy land. Mixing realities. Switching worlds.
So now, we’re up to Simon’s
I can quite accept that @dogtrax or should I say Mr Hodgson K. qualifies as an honorary cartoon character.
His lifetime achievement to cartooning in itself would merit such an accolade.
I am not sure that I am quite yet ready to take on the caricature mantle without a fight.
Simon, how can you resist the lure of the cartoon reality? You, whose prose is poetry, references labyrinthine, whose playfulness is akin to the Dadaists.
But, yes, I will play your game. I see it’s four rounds and then you’re out. Or so you think you are. You concede defeat and accept the cartoon character identity. You have chosen wisely. You have chosen the cartoon reality. No more ‘He he he’ as part of the Queen’s court which was as taken with Boy George’s superficial mask as the people who insisted they saw the king’s finery in ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes‘.
The strange case of Culture Club.
I can boast quite openly that I once met Boy George F2F (3D) outside the Mud Club in central London, while driving a London cab.
Boy George was undoubtedly a larger than life character, dressed to the nines, painted in broad strokes, armed with an infectious laugh.
He was surrounded by acolytes, disciples, hangers-on, groupies, and various fawning clubbers, similarly attired.
They appeared to be infected with George’s laugh.
“Ho ho ho ho.” (George)
Micro-second later “He he he he.” (Queen’s court)
I am quite sure the boy George had more depth than this vignette. There was no apparent desire among the performers to go beyond the make-up.
Well done. You have not been fooled into thinking the pantomime of school is real – surely you must choose the cartoon world again. You will never again be able to be that teacher operating the Cambridge textbook franchise. You will never again be the teacher conducting the masked chorus who played out the lesson scenario to the last letter. Surely your cartoon avatar had already escaped down the rabbit hole or up the Magic Faraway Tree into magical lands.
Many of the my 3D colleagues are unknown to me, they remain line-drawings.
Yes, you are losing control here; worlds are colliding and changing places. Can you feel it? You admit to have a more lifelike exchange with unseen friends online than in your 3D pantomime life. You/we all speak the same Cartoon language.
And in Round Four you have a strong inkling that brings you closer to your unreality. Your blog is the Tardis, and you are all the Doctors.
You have one voice, you have another voice. (Some voices have trouble throwing off the old voices to take their place). Time and place matter not. Your voice, your identity do not reside in one body, are not located in the 3D world.
I sometimes feel that a distinct voice, that is evidenced in this Touches of Sense blog, has become a distinct character.
There are times when I feel distanced from it’s mannerisms, its annoying ways with words.
You are ready for the new Doctor.
There are times when I feel that I shall introduce a new character to stem its irritating flow.
Do not despair of your identity breakdown. In your last hours as a 3D entity of the pantomime world, you are having brief flashes of revelation.
I am reminded of Maha’s reflections on how she feels at times as catalogued as an ‘exotic’.
I am reminded of Susan’s reflections on her various incarnations.
I wonder if despite ourselves we become characters in others’ performances.
And there it is:
You are reborn. You throw off the skin and step out of the world you’ve been taught to accept as the real one.
OK Tania, I accept defeat. I am a caricature.
Do not think for a second that you are accepting defeat. On the contrary, you have returned home. You are where you belong, in the Cartoon World, the colourful world, the exciting and funny world.
This comic metaphor has become too complex for the cartoon @sensor63.
He accepts the mask.
He is one of the Connected Comic Characters.
He must live with it.
Oh the tragedy!
And it’s a genuine tragedy you now inhabit. Your comic tragedy has a speaker and a chorus and everyone is in costume. Everything is brightly coloured. You have many lives and you live your fantasy life. We are all there too – Maha, Kevin, Susan and the others. Me. In our cartoon world.