Swing, pendulum

Is the education project caught up in a momentum away from itself? It seems that somewhat self-consciously, the university presses toward some rhetoricalised efficiency utopia where at its end point, it collapses: the education project itself is gone, subsumed into the morass of the shared political economy. Education: done.

But it is impossible to not also notice the increasing schism between the business of the university and the business of education. What is at risk is some deeply but tacitly understood sense of what is ‘right’ – let’s boldly call it an orientation to ‘human values of learning’. Everywhere, educators on the ground hold fast to their own version of this whilst bearing up under the strain and stretch of this ‘away’ motion.

Whatever this ‘left behind’ thing is that we are so care-fully holding fast to, I wonder if it can perhaps only be discerned for what it is when compromised by other-than-human orientations. Can we only see the human when the human is left behind? Does the away motion makes it possible for us to see human being standing in the wake of the educated human? ….Another way already inheres the space the movement away is opening up.

In any case, it is helpful to think of this ‘away’ motion not as a trajectory but as a pendulum swing. The pendulum is already in motion, and by its own momentum unable for now, to stop – but it has its own natural end. In some indeterminate future time the pendulum will reach its natural end, pause for a while, and then return, arcing back in a ‘toward’ motion; back toward to ‘human values of learning’.

Stranding firmly on a moving point of hope, I can already sense the pendulum gaining on its poise-point, stretching and straining, increasingly insubstantial, exhausting its sweep. I wait.

As I wait, I hear myself predicting the pendulum swing in every conversation, as if by saying it out loud, I can bring it more quickly into that return motion. I want to be there when it comes rolling back, compelling us to think again.

Swing, pendulum!

The three gazes of the eportfolio

I recently wrote that the eportfolio is like a house, or more accurately, a home. A private place to mooch quietly among the piles of projects, to sort, to reflect, to spend time with yourself:

The eportfolio has interiority, a ‘space’ to be in. Inside, it is like having the house to yourself, where you might wander through the rooms, at home with yourself and your story, simply enjoying the small piles of your projects-in-motion in each room. Each thing, each pile, and each room tells a story about you – what is meaningful to you, who you are. The eportfolio feels like this – a quiet space where you might be at home with what matters to you, in whatever jumbled-up or ordered way you choose; for being quietly yourself.

But I have come to realise that as I move about my house I am aware of three distinct and useful gazes: myself, selected respected peers, and what I am calling ‘soul’. Somewhat counter-intuitively, instead of acting to censor me, I find that I need these gazes to do my portfolio work.

Gaze one: myself

This is the ‘gaze’ of me upon me. In the privacy of my home I can see myself being myself, thrown into existential relief by the space I inhabit, experiencing what Gaston Bachelard calls a kind of intimate immensity. Wandering thriugh the rooms, I see myself wandering. To what do I attend? So it is with the eportfolio: I see myself as I decide what to include, and how I represent myself; each action that I take when I create or tweak or bundle a page says ‘yes, that’s me to a tee’. If it’s not, I don’t do it. And as I shift in always-becoming, I gaze again into the eportfolio and I can see myself anew. 

Gaze two: selected respected peers

I have given access to some parts of my eportfolio to others – my supervisors and three others whom I have chosen because I want their gaze to be mine. I really – truly – don’t care if they never follow the link I gave them and take a look; what I care about is that they might. I have brought their gaze into my work: I see them seeing me when I write, tweak, add to those pages. I hold myself up to their scrutiny because I respect the way they see things. With their gaze now part of my gaze, my gaze is qualitatively richer and more complex.

Gaze three: ‘soul’

…or whatever you choose to call the soul – but come with me: The gaze that sees both your wholeness and your human frailty; the gaze that cares when we forget to look or when we deliberately look away; the sacred eye that stays open through the night to see you safely home; the human eye that shares a horizon with all people; the eye of the past gazing forwards at you, and the eye of the future gazing back, and the moment of presence as the past and the future meet each other’s gaze in me now.

With the gaze of the soul in mind, my eportfolio-tending is a way to open myself – to myself, to my peers, and to the world. If I catch myself over-labouring the work, or trying too hard to be clever, or caring too much about its reception, this gaze reminds me to be real so we can see each other.


Bachelard, G. (1964). The poetics of space (Vol. 330): Beacon Press.

Are you content?

The trouble with content, in terms of its domination of the learning experience, is that it has lost its meaningful meaning. OK so this is a just a fancy… but imagine if we shifted our attentions instead on the idea of contentedness. When you think about it, content and contentedness both do the job of ‘filling you up’ but one stuffs you from the outside, and one from the inside.

When it comes to learning, though, uncontentedness is also important, and finding the rhythm between being content and uncontent is perhaps what learning design is all about, and it applies to teaching as well.

  • Are you content with your teaching? If not, change something.
  • Are you content with your learning? If so, change something.

Standing on a moving point

Deep breathing now, because while I ‘get’ rhizomatics in the abstract, in the real world, it disturbs me (I have to assume that’s “learning”). So I am thinking… what is important here for me (my subjective) is to get a sense of ‘being’ that is lucid, loose and yet stable. Where-ever I go, there I am.

So I can see myself as standing on moving point.. and moving on that point whichever way I want, following others down rabbitholes, bumping into nodes of supercomplexity, wallowing in lost spaces, imagining edges, throwing out the road before before me… and I feel somewhat calmer.

In this rhizomatic world, it is easy to imagine the roots running somewhat sideways, across the surface, or just under the soil, clinging to the zone of warmth and water, the zone of the knowable, the conditions for life. But this is just more of the same. What if I plunge my roots deeper into the earth? Paying attention to the depth dimension, travelling to the inner a little bit more, pulled mystically toward some profound underground aquifer?

…and by adding dimension after dimension… what if we bend time and space by rhizomatically being in five dimensions, or six, or ten? What kind of ‘being’ are we then? Or am I having a metaphysical breakdown?