Tuesday 21 July 2015

Taking up #blimage challenge: airports, legal papers, cultures and art

Two people full of creative inspiration, namely Amy Burvall (@amyburvall) and Simon Ensor (@sensor63), pushed Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth) reflective capacities while sending him the #blimage challenge. From Steve Wheeler the challenge leaped over to the inspirational David Hopkins who wrote up a bloppost and sent the #blimage challenge my way, and right about the same time an additional picture came for the same challenge, sent by Whitney Kilgore (@whitneykilgore)... action was needed!
Multiple people have taken up this new challenge and Simon Ensor has made a wonderful Pinterest Blimage board, providing an overview of most #blimage messages and posts. It is now turning into an informal relay challenge connecting educators from everywhere... nice.

To all: I gladly take up the #blimage challenge! And will send it on, up up up into connected space. Warning: I will go beyond rational, right into utopia.

What is the #blimage challenge?
“You send an image or photograph to a colleague with the challenge that they have to write a learning related blog post based on it. Just make sure the images aren’t too rude. The permutations are blimmin’ endless.” Steve Wheeler, 2015 and adding a remark from Amy Burvall: "push one’s metaphorical thinking". 

David Hopkins sent the following picture (taken at flight terminal and enhanced with his iPhone) to inspire me to write. At first informal, mobile learning arose as an idea, but then I read Whitney Kilgore's blogpost and it was so well written I decided to look at the picture from another angle.

Airports and Education: the money, the legal papers
I love learning on the move, whether it is on a train, a plane... anything that moves and allows me to reflect. It feels like staring into the abyss of my own mind, in search for wells of knowledge that seep up. Airports are strange places. It might look like a mixed set of people, but it isn't, a bit like education. People with enough money and legal papers and are able to travel gather in airports. Schools and universities are fairly similar.
Passengers check in (if all papers are in order; cfr diploma's, degrees, grades...), next they follow a route of their choosing, or chosen by their company (cfr school, sometimes chosen by parents), and finally head for a destination that might be within their country or right at the other side of any hemisphere (depending on the money and papers available).

Airports, like education are not inclusive. And I wished they would be. But maybe I am a utopian, a believer if you will. In my wildest dreams I fantasize about a world that is nomadic like the Crow. Every 20 to 30 years they need to search for new ground. In a wonderful book written by Jonathan Lear, called Radical Hope - and please buy it if you can, it was such a pleasure to go through - this quest for new ground is seen as a way to keep an open mind, to find new challenges that can be overcome and at the same time inspire us. There is something to be said about new challenges, both in life and in (lifelong) learning in particular. New challenges awaken new capacities, new insights, new meaning. And by creating new meaning, we - as a human race - might come closer together. As I said, I am a utopian.

Setting out new challenges also ignites the autotelic mind, as described in the Flow by Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi (a superb book on learning by means of goal setting to achieve a state of happiness), in which we can adapt our mind to find more meaning, and as such more happiness by learning in gradually more complex yet pleasurable ways.

Where was I? Ah yes, airports and the fantasized nomadic world. In my most positive minds eye, all of us are able to relocate ourselves to a different part of the world every let's say 20 years. All of us, entire families. In my minds eye we move and then we learn in that new environment, achieving a new understanding of all the different cultures - or residues of cultures, as a mix and blend is bound to happen. This results in global adaptations: no matter where we go, primary living conditions must be achievable for all at all locations: water, food, work or meaningful play, education. This means money or more specifically wealth is limited by a global rule that indicates that non of us need more money that what we need to fulfill out basic needs, plus achieve a personal objective of comfort (which is a democratically chosen definition).
  At that point education will be inclusive, airports will comprise of all types of people, and traveling will be the pursuit of meaningful change and illumination... but what becomes of culture then?

Culture to inspire us, to reflect and to find common meaning or opposition
Inspired by the picture sent by Whitney of Finding the Big Red Ball, my mind started wondering about what this global nomadic life would mean culture wise?

Anyone into research or management or seemingly serious other professions knows that any white paper, thesis, dissertation, speech... blog only comes to life if some kind of cultural pearl is added to it. In fact adding a cultural token provides whatever you write with an extra dimension, almost a self-chosen stamp of approval. Quite amazing, as culture is at the same time seen as something less important, or should I say something less serious then many serious profession?

Learning is value laden, just like culture. Therefor cultural artifacts are one of the most symbolic and easiest objects to use to make distinctions of any kind: what is good and what is bad, what is man and what is woman, what is North and what is South, what is advanced and what is past... endless dichotomies. Even the simple act of adding a Big Red Ball to a city, gets discussions going on art ("Is this Art?" <=> "This is a great metaphor!"), culture ("Should we spend money on this?!" <=> "I would love this in my city, I know just the right spot and it will inspire people!")... and at the same time the Big Red Ball emphasizes the fact that the city (in this case Mons, Belgium in 2015) is a cultural city, triggering reflection, hence happening.

Learning is culture, it moves use, starts discussions, pushes us forward to limits we might imagine for ourselves, or by others (like this challenge). And by learning we alter culture, we add to it, or in lesser times we subtract from it (censorship)... but it always moves us towards meaning, build upon ideas, information, propaganda, facts...

Passing the #Blimage baton to the next, with this picture, a drawing of the inspirational artist Yslaire .