Tuesday, June 30, 2009


"Yeats explained that the 'fundamental symbol' of A Vision is 'a double cone or vortex' (also called a gyre) that describes the 'Great Wheel' of history."

from 'Modernism and the ideology of history' by Louise Blakeney Williams (2002)

Thinking about vortices.

I know, I know... I probably just need lunch. But I've been thinking about vortices.

You know a vortex when you see one. They start little and start spinning until they get bigger and bigger and bigger. Then, expanding as far as they will allow themselves, they will begin to contract and get smaller and smaller and smaller.

Then they turn around and do it all again.

I've been thinking about 'em all day.

Sitting in the audience for a NECC session on 21st century tech and literacy with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Will Richardson. Here are some of the phrases that have been floating over the room:

Connecting and Community.

Learning from the Wisdom of the Crowd.

Picking your Mentors.

Exploring Virtual Learning Communities.

Developing Personal Learning Networks.

Merging local community and global community.

And here I am thinking about vortices.

And I'm thinking about this morning's debate over the future of bricks-and-mortar schools.

And I'm thinking about the school building not as a place to be taught, but as a homebase to return to to disseminate what you've learned.


I see the 'school year' of the future:

I see a school year where students will begin their learning experience in a small building filled with a caring local community. They will then plug in and become aware of the world. They will plug into networks and discover the breadth of humanity. They will meet strangers and develop teams and tribes with them. They will then leave the building and go out into the world. They will exist in the world and learn things. They will share those things with their teams and tribes. Their experiences will be shared among strangers and family alike. Their family back home in the local community will learn from their shared experiences and they will synthesize their community foundations with what they've found in the world. They will plug into and come to know themselves. They will return to the small building. And they will share their experience with everyone there.

And they will Grow Big. They will all Grow Big.

That's the vortex I'm talking about. That's the school year I want to see happen. Whether it's going out into a foreign country or into a neighboring community or into a different learning environment.

We're talking about rearranging the set-pieces of what we have too long held essential as the fundamentals of education: the enclosure of the school building and the nature of the school year.

And when I'm talking vorex, I'm not talking silly novelty metaphor. We're not talking novelty. We're talking necessity. We're talking a way of thinking about how we need to engage our students, engage the world, and make something happen in education that reflects the needs of the times we are living in.
Grow small. > Share. > Go big.

Grow big.

Go small. > Share. > Grow small.

Grow big.

Shared growth. A complex, but elegant vortextual/vortextural understanding of the flux between local and distant. A re-purposing of time and place. A breaking through the 'essentialist' mechanic and philosophy that tells us just exactly what THE PROGRAM is and HOW IT'S ALL SUPPOSED TO WORK.

I've been thinking about the change that's coming. I've been thinking about vortices.

1 comment:

  1. The program is that there is no program.

    Everything spirals, from DNA to the Milky Way.


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